Riyadh seeks Greek expertise in bid to develop archeological activity

Saudi Arabia is due to sign a cultural partnership agreement with Greece later this year.
Thursday 20/05/2021
Minister of Culture Prince Badr Bin Abdullah bin Farhan meets his Greek counterpart Lina Mendoni, May 19, 2021. (Saudi Gazette)
Minister of Culture Prince Badr Bin Abdullah bin Farhan meets his Greek counterpart Lina Mendoni, May 19, 2021. (Saudi Gazette)

RIYADH - Saudi Arabia is seeking Greek expertise in archaeological excavation for its nascent cultural sector as it tries to diversify the economy beyond oil and enhance quality of life in the Gulf Arab state.

The Saudi culture ministry, established three years ago under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s modernisation plan, aims to contribute 3% or more to the kingdom’s gross domestic product by 2030 and create 100,000 jobs for young Saudis.

Saudi Arabia is due to sign a cultural partnership agreement with Greece later this year that would include joint cultural weeks and focus on archaeological development of the historic Al Fao region, in the southern part of the kingdom.

Rakan al Touq, General Supervisor of Cultural Affairs and International Relations, said  he and the Saudi Culture Minister Prince Badr Bin Abdullah bin Farhan paid a two-day visit to Greece this week.

“We had very good discussions around building a programme of cultural exchange that will focus on exchange of cultural goods, services and personnel between the two countries” said Touq.

“Our international programme, which is part of our strategic aspiration for cultural growth, was delayed because of the pandemic, but we are excited to start to engage in person with partners around the world” he added.

Under Prince Mohammed’s reform drive, the conservative kingdom has opened up, allowing live concerts and sporting events, as well as cinemas in a bid to attract foreign talent and business.

Improving quality of life is also important in the country of some 20 million citizens who have no vote and where state oil revenues remain the main driver of the economy.

Saudi Arabia has also opened up to foreign tourism and is upgrading its hospitality infrastructure towards this end.

The Saudi minister of culture met on Wednesday at the Acropolis Museum in the Greek capital Athens his counterpart Minister of Culture and Sports of the Hellenic Republic Lina Mendoni, reported the Saudi Gazette.

The prince presented a cooperation proposal which includes “establishing cultural weeks between the two countries, loaning of antiquities from both sides and strengthening cooperation in the field of excavation, ” added the newspaper.