Opinion

A day unique to our country and every Saudi

February 22, 2023
A day unique to our country and every Saudi

Dr. Ghadeer Talal Melibari



In a modern world where we are developing ever-closer ties with other countries for business, education and leisure, many of us spend an increasing amount of time looking outward.

Founding Day is the one time we can look inward and consider what Saudi Arabia means to us both individually and collectively, and think about how our past is helping to shape our future.

There are many great expressions of our national identity, occasions where we celebrate who we are.

Right around the country, we do this on Sept. 23 each year.

Dressed in our national colors of green and white, we wave flags, sing and watch traditional folk dancing and take part in festivities.

Then throughout the year, the 11 Saudi Seasons, in cities including Riyadh and Jeddah, are powerful and awe-inspiring displays of our ambition.

There are outpourings of nationhood on other occasions, such as cheering on our footballers at the World Cup or athletes at the Olympics.

But only on one occasion are we able to reflect on what we are — what makes us uniquely Saudi?

Dates are incredibly important for our country, with Vision 2030 a statement of our aspirations.

But Founding Day helps anchor us in a past that forever guides us and keeps us grounded, with the year 1727 always the most significant.

All modern countries draw strength from their histories — such as the Greek philosophers, the Egyptian pyramid-builders and Italy, standing on the shoulders of the Romans.

Our country is no different, and everything Saudi is today is a result of each generation building on the legacies of our forefathers.

We can look back at everything that has been achieved from the first Saudi state to the unification of the kingdoms of Najd and Hijaz in 1932, and beyond.

While Riyadh is our confident, cosmopolitan, modern day capital, Diriyah also holds huge significance as part of the soul and fabric of our nation.

It is true that a country’s buildings and monuments are as great an expression of a people’s identity as their customs and traditions.

This is recognized through Diriyah being a UNESCO world heritage site, and some of the great foundation stones of our state can be found here.

But while everything around us provides reference points, no one person can give a definitive view on what it means to be Saudi.

It is something deeply personal and completely different for each and every one of us.

A national identity is a complex thing and something unique to each country of the earth, with every citizen interpreting it differently.

Founding Day gives young children their first moment to contemplate their identity and our society, as they start to understand our place on the earth.

For students, whose sense of belonging is far more developed, they can consider the part they can play in making Saudi a better place now and in the future.

Older people can look back with pride, over their whole lifetime, contemplating how things have changed and how their love of their nation has guided them to where they are now.

Perhaps this is the greatest thing about Founding Day.

It’s not just for the young or the old, it is for every one of us.

In fact, it’s about celebrating every Saudi that has ever lived, which makes it the greatest shared experience that is unique to our country.

— Dr. Ghadeer Talal Melibari, holder of PhD in English from University of Hertfordshire, UK, is currently working as Assistant Professor of English teaching at Umm Al-Qura University, Makkah


February 22, 2023
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