The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, was selected for Time magazine's premier World's Greatest Places 2018, a compendium of “100 destinations to experience right now.” Featured in the August 24 issue, the list highlights 100 sites spanning six continents and 48 countries, selected across a range of categories and evaluated for quality, originality, innovation, sustainability and influence.
The King Abdulaziz Center was one of five sites in the Middle East that made the list. Also known as Ithra, the architectural marvel was built as a corporate social responsibility initiative by Saudi Aramco to serve as a national and regional catalyst for intellectual development, creativity and cross-cultural sharing. Its state-of-the-art, multi-disciplinary facilities attract thousands of visitors for initiatives and events from around the world.
The Center consists of a 1600-square-meter Great Hall; a museum with four galleries, each focusing on a specific range of cultural expression spanning Saudi identity and heritage, Islamic art and civilization, and the culture of the Arabian peninsula. A cinema is home to the Saudi Film Festival, and a library holds more than half a million items. The Performing Arts Theater is a 1,000-seat opera house, and the Knowledge Tower hosts 2,000 annual workshops including STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and reading programming for youth.
By showcasing the Kingdom's rich cultural heritage and hosting or collaborating on international projects, the King Abdulaziz Center encourages the understanding that flows from artistic expression into all aspects of life, at home and abroad. Organizations with which Ithra has partnered include the Smithsonian Institution, the National Geographic Foundation, the French Pompidou Center, and the Arab World Institute in Paris.
Hundreds of volunteers make up more than 20 percent of the King Abdulaziz Center's staffing.
Since its inauguration by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman ibn Abdulaziz in 2016, the Center has emerged as a pioneering force offering unprecedented access to unique arts, culture and knowledge programming.