Official Participant Interview : 4.Saudi Arabia

Many Japanese think of Islam as the culture of a distant desert and have very little understanding of the relationship between one of the world's great religions with the natural environment. With that in mind, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia is planning an exciting pavilion at EXPO 2005.

Japan and Saudi Arabia this year mark the 50th anniversary of relations, and next year's EXPO will build on that relationship, says Abdullah Abdullrahman Al-Hamoudi, the deputy minister for foreign trade in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, who is chairman of the organizing committee for the Saudi pavilion at EXPO 2005.

Abdullah Abdullrahman Al-Hamoudi
The Deputy Minister for Foreign Trade in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry

“At the EXPO, we wish to promote ourselves, our industries and give visitors from around the world a chance to learn more about us. In addition, we intend to show how Islam calls for the protection of the environment and the rational use of natural resources.”

Besides promoting cooperation in the economic, trade and investment fields, the Saudi pavilion will revolve around the sub-theme of the “Art of Life.” It will show the Saudi heritage and its evolution accompanied by an account of the fast and harmonized progress achieved in the kingdom through using state-of-the-art technology while preserving its values and morals within an ambitious future vision.

According to Al-Hamoudi, the 972-square-meter pavilion, which will be near the main gate of the site earmarked for Asian countries, will be divided into three exhibitions: “the past and wisdom,” “the present and harmony,” and “the future and hope.” The architectural style will make use of natural materials. “One of the highlights in the first display will be an exhibition on house designs,” said Al-Hamoudi. “Saudi Arabia has many zones and each has its own style of housing that reflects the wisdom that has been learned from nature in the past.”

In “the present and harmony,” an introduction will be made of the history of the creation of the kingdom and industrial development based on petrochemicals. Visitors will be able to see how the people of Saudi Arabia live in a unique environment characterized by desert, petrochemicals and water, and how they have created a prosperous nation.

“The third display — 'the future and hope' -- will show where we are going,” said Al-Hamoudi. “The results of technical cooperation with Japan will also be shown here as well as the future outlook for those projects. As you know, most of Saudi Arabia is desert and water resources are scarce. We have established giant water desalinization projects with Japan's cooperation and we hope to invite more investment.”

Al-Hamoudi is confident the exhibits will serve cross cultural communication, especially at the grassroots level. “There will be cultural exchange programs and theater presentations,” he said. “And on Sept 9, which has been designated Saudi Arabia's national day during the EXPO, we hope to have 100 Japanese children participate, dressed in Saudi national dress, and hopefully bring Saudi children to Japan, too.”

High-level visitors, including possibly royalty, are also expected to come from Saudi Arabia. Al-Hamoudi said an awareness campaign is underway in the kingdom to heighten awareness of Japan and the EXPO. “Saudis do know a lot about Japan,” he said. “The image they have of Japan is of a country which built a civilization into one of the major industrial countries.”

Islam, of course, will be central to the Saudi exhibit in the form of a large and visually striking image of Macca/Medina to serve as a symbolic reminder that the past, present and future have been, are and will be molded by the teachings and guidance of Islam. A large circle vision will provide the backdrop for a dramatic display of the magnificent natural heritage of the Arabian Peninsula stretching back to the prehistoric era.

In these troubled times, Al-Hamoudi believes the EXPO can be a venue for promoting peace, especially by highlighting the genuine image of Islam, which calls for love, peace and the appreciation of humanity. “It is going to be an excellent occasion for people to meet and understand each other,” he said. “There are more than 120 countries and organizations attending in an event that has nothing to do with politics. All participants will have national days and lots of social gatherings day and night. For us, it will be a chance to show who we are as Muslims.”

Public Relations Producer
for EXPO2005 Aichi, Japan