Tens of thousands of Saudis and expatriates from neighboring cities and regions have been flocking to Yanbu over the weekends to visit the 9th annual Flowers and Gardens Festival.
The sudden change in weather on Friday with sandstorm blowing did not deter the huge crowd from visiting the festival, organized by the Royal Commission for Yanbu at the Events Garden in the Industrial City.
Speaking to Saudi Gazette, some of them described the amazing experience of visiting "a mammoth garden in the heart of a desert."
The commission announced on Feb. 16 extending the festival for 10 days until Feb. 28 in response to thousands of requests from people through the social networking sites.
“It is a marvelous event and I am very fortunate to visit the festival all these nine years, but it is the best this year,” said Khalid Aldabbagh, a Saudi from Jeddah.
Aldabbagh, who worked as catering coordinator at the Royal Commission in Yanbu for several years, described the arrangements for the festival as superb.
“The arrangements in terms of safety and security as well as in entertaining the visitors are the best in 2015,” he said, while suggesting some rare variety of flowers from the global market could be brought in for the next festivals. He also suggested a complaint box be set up for visitors to register their suggestions and complaints if any.
Yousuf Zahrani, another citizen from Jeddah who came with his family, also appreciated the well-planned arrangements at the festival. “The festival is very nice and wonderful,” he said while suggesting more activities for families and children in coming years.
Echoing the same view, Bashir Abdul Ghafour Birr, a citizen from Madinah and regular visitor of the festival, said this year’s arrangements are much better than the previous years.
Yasir Mohayyawi, a Saudi teacher from a Madinah public school, came with dozens of family members and relatives in a convoy of six cars.
“The arrangements of pavilions are exquisite and the flower portrait of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman is captivating,” he said.
Iman Umm Saud, a female member of Mohayyawi’s team, was fascinated with the nice design of flowers and the overall arrangements of the festival.
She appreciated the kind-heartedness and gentle behavior of the Yanbu people, especially the event organizers and security officers.
Jasmin Abdurahman, an Indian housewife and social worker from Jeddah, said it is a novel experience and unique opportunity to visit a vast garden with hundreds of kinds of flowers from across the world.
“As people coming from the land of flowers, the festival evoked intense nostalgic feelings in us while living in a desert country,” said Jasmin, who came with her husband Abdurahman Wandoor as part of a picnic trip organized by Jeddah Indian Media Forum.
Abdullah Mukkanni, a writer and vice president of Jeddah Social Media Forum, congratulated the Royal Commission authorities for arranging such a wonderful show of flowers and gardens.
Ziaul Haque, president of Yanbu Youth India and secretary of Yanbu Media Forum, said the Royal Commission authorities have eased crowd control mechanism and traffic regulations significantly this year to attract maximum number of foreigners.
“For the same purpose, the welcome board was designed in 63 languages representing major expatriate communities. This year’s new additions included front yard landscaping designs for homes and more pavilions,” he said, adding that cultural activities for children and families are less compared with 2014.
Last year, the flower carpet entered the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s largest carpet of flowers made with 15 million flowers spread over an area of 10,712 square meters. This year, the carpet area has been expanded further to 12,000 square meters. Also, the second part of Yanbu’s waterfront is now open to the public after being renovated.
Saleh Al-Zahrani, chairman of the executive committees for the festival, said this year’s festival marked the 40th anniversary of the creation of the Royal Commission.
He said 1.2 million flowers were used for the flower portrait of King Salman, a major attraction of this year’s event.
There is an exclusive section for children to draw pictures and make models using flowers, in addition to awareness programs on how to preserve flowers and gardens in the best manner.
“We also enlighten visitors on different kinds of flowers and their use as well as home gardens, their cost and requirements,” he said, adding that design engineers are available at the festival grounds to help visitors designing home gardens.
This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on Feb. 22, 2015.