Ithra: Curating the Future

King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture shares its unique place in the Middle East’s shifting landscape

The theme of the 20th Middle East Annual Conference in London was “Redefining the World Compass.

King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture shares its unique place in the Middle East’s shifting landscape

From growing the tourism sector to cultivating the venture capital and private equity scene, the Middle East is undergoing social and infrastructural changes to lay the foundation for a sustainable future. This was the main topic of discussion during the 20th Middle East Annual Conference in London earlier in May — one of Europe’s largest gatherings dedicated to exploring the region — under the theme of “Redefining the World Compass.” 


Abdullah K. Al-Rashid, director of the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra), joined in a panel discussion on the future of the cultural sector, together with three other key speakers from the region. 


Positive trend

Evident by the number of projects and people enrolling in and attending cultural activities, Al-Rashid commented that he sees a positive trend. Ithra, built as part of Aramco’s vision to be an ambitious initiative for the public, is a pioneer in this field, serving as a window to cross-cultural experiences, attracting over 1 million visitors every year. 


Al-Rashid noted a major transformation across the cultural sector following the Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030. Following the development of technology and its importance in creating relevant experiences for audiences, Ithra has successfully been able to tap into the demographic of the country that is under 35 years of age, with the number of repeat visitations for the cultural center three times that of those within the industry.


Al-Rashid also mentioned the great number of volunteering participates; Ithra is one of the largest of its kind, with most volunteers under the age of 25. 


Compared to other cultural institutions where most of the volunteers are seniors or retirees, it is indeed very promising to see this generation active in our sector. This gives rise to creating community centers which are accessible to all.
— Abdullah K. Al-Rashid


Future outlook

Al-Rashid noted authenticity is critical to both Aramco and Ithra, in the preservation of the Kingdom, while being global looking. Programs on the Arabic language are therefore part of the overall cultural center. 


Examples of such programs are the Pan-Arab Arabic reading competition that was held across 22 countries, and the content initiative that funds, commissions and produces films, music, podcasts, and other materials in the language.


Through the diverse agenda and key speakers, bringing together business leaders, politicians, social influencers, and members of royal families from across the Middle East, the conference was the perfect platform to exchange ideas, enhance cooperation and shape a framework for the future of the region together with experts, thought leaders, and relevant decision makers.


Caption for top photo: Ithra director Abdullah K. Al-Rashid, far left, highlighted Ithra as a pioneer in its field during a panel discussion on the future of the cultural sector.


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