Saudi Arabia to welcome more than 100 equestrians for the Diriyah Equestrian Festival

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More than 100 female and male equestrian riders are expected to compete in Saudi Arabia’s second year of the Diriyah Equestrian Festival (DEF), according to the Kingdom’s General Sports Authority.

The six-day event, hosted in the historic town of Diriyah from December 12-14 and 19-21, will allow equestrians to compete with riders from the Saudi National Team, as well as garner points towards their qualification as individual riders in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“We are proud to be part of this historical journey and changes in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia … Our past, our history, our future and our abilities will be reflected and represented through the DEF festival. This is a dream to be building the future generations of Equestrian athletes and I am looking forward to many more events that will come in the future,” Olympic equestrian medalist and host of Diriyah Equestrian Festival Ramzy Al Duhami said.

Saudi Arabia Diriyah Season (Supplied)
Saudi Arabia Diriyah Season (Supplied)

Al Duhami also praised the future of the sport in the Kingdom, saying that “organizing an international World Cup Event in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for our future generations is a privilege and riding and performing on home ground is an honor. I am looking forward to the future of our sport at this standard.”

This will be the first time that female jockeys are allowed to compete in an international equestrian event in the Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia will host the Saudi Cup– the world’s richest horse race – in February 2020, where female equestrians are also expected to participate.

Prince Bandar bin Khalid Al Faisal, chairman of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia, told BBC Sport in September that women are “most welcome” to participate in the Saudi Cup.

“Men and women will be treated equally,” said Prince Bandar, whose comments come as part of reforms taking place in the Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia is known for its high interest in equestrianism, and equestrians from the country have won several world championships with Arabian horses, including the Platinum World Champion title three times in a row, in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Saudi Arabia Diriyah Season (Supplied)
Saudi Arabia Diriyah Season (Supplied)

Diriyah Season

The DEF is one of four sporting events that will be held during the Diriyah Season, a month-long festival set in town of Diriyah – declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Formula E racing, boxing, and tennis make up the remaining three.

The Formula E race, coming to the Kingdom for the second consecutive year, will be held on November 22 and 23.

“The Clash of the Dunes,” a boxing event that will see Mexican Andy Ruiz Jr. take on British boxer Anthony Joshua for the unified world heavyweight title, will be held on 7 December.

For the final event of the season, the Diriyah Tennis Cup will welcome eight of the world’s top tennis players to compete for the title.

The Diriyah Season is one of the Kingdom’s 11 festival seasons occurring throughout the year.

Riyadh Season, which began on Friday, is taking place alongside Diriyah Season. On Friday, K-pop boyband BTS performed a sold out show and were the first international artists to hold a solo stadium concert in Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi season program is intended to transform the Kingdom into a tourist destination in line with the Vision 2030 economic reform plan. Each season features a different theme with different experiences of Saudi Arabia’s heritage and culture throughout the year.

In September, Saudi Arabia announced it would be opening its doors to international visitors by offering tourist visas for the first time. Citizens of 49 countries will be able to obtain an electronic visa by applying online or upon arrival in the Kingdom.

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