For many of the 11,000 visitors to the opening of the Saudi Aramco Cultural Program, it was like a trip to the future when the half-meter tall robot welcomed company president and CEO Khalid A. Al-Falih, inviting him to touch an electronic tablet that unleashed a dazzling display of laser lights filling the sky. The interaction kicked off the exciting event that will continue through the summer.
Street performers in colorful costumes on stilts, juggling or riding unicycles interact with visitors to the program grounds, which are across from the Industrial Training Center in Dhahran. With its dancers aglow in electronic suits, the LED Tron Show gives people an idea of the futuristic adventures that await them inside the Generation Oasis Tent.
Inside, the young and old can learn not only about the future but can help create it through a series of interactive displays highlighting everything from alternative energy and future automobile design to home design and urban planning for tomorrow. Youngsters can take it a step further and take a short class that enables them to create their own robots that then compete on a miniature game field.
The youngsters also get a chance to take a traffic safety course, and, if they pass their “tests” and earn their “licenses,” they get to drive kid-sized cars around a kid-sized grid of kid-sized-streets in a make-believe kid-sized town — no kidding.
Future soccer stars may be excited by the Valencia Football Academy, where 7- to 11-year-olds can learn from professional coaches and improve their skills. And iSpark may appeal to young inventors ages 12-17 who can design iPhone games, animation, documentary films and much more.
For those a little more interested in the past and present than the future, the offering at the Live Performance Tent might be just the free ticket. The tent opened with “Aramco TV,” a live show produced in-house by the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture. The show documented the beginnings of Aramco Television and evoked a sense of nostalgia for the audience as they saw glimpses of past black-and-white television shows that used to air on Aramco TV in the 1960s and 1970s.
The ever-changing performances will also feature a variety of regional and international shows such as Barney and Friends, Fareej and Georgian Legend, a high-energy traditional dance troupe from the Georgian Caucasus.
Turning the clock back a little further, Heritage Village gives visitors the chance to stroll through a traditional Arabian town and see the Kingdom’s early architecture and experience the four environments within its borders. Visitors can learn about the tools of the desert, the trade of the sea, the hardship of the harvesters and the work of craftsmanship, such as toy making, pottery making, and carving wood into beautiful artwork.
Those wishing to delve into ancient times may do so at the 1001 Inventions Exhibit where visitors meet and interact with scientists and inventors from the Muslim civilization — a golden period in history that lasted from the 7th to the 17th century. Visitors can interact with characters on screens, and they can also interact with actors in costumes portraying early inventors, who respond to visitors questions, such as Fatima Al-Fihri, who founded the world’s first university Al-Qarawiyin in 859 CE, and Al-Jazari a 13th century engineer, who created the ingenious elephant clock and invented groundbreaking machines that changed the way we harness technology.
Al-Falih expressed his gratitude and support of the Saudi Aramco Cultural Program, and noted that Saudi Aramco acts as a link between the mission of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques to develop Saudi Society through economic progress, and sharing knowledge through activities in partnerships with other institutions — especially during the summertime through activities such as the Saudi Aramco Cultural Program.
For more information on the Saudi Aramco Summer Cultural Program, visit the website at www.saudiaramco-cp.com.