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Saudi Arabia’s 93rd National Day: History, celebrations, everything you need to know

Home to the two holiest cities in Islam and amid a modern-day revolution, Saudi Arabia celebrates its 93rd birthday on September 23.

Saudi National Day, also known as Al-Yaom-ul-Watany, is an occasion deeply entrenched in the heart and history of Saudi Arabia when nationals and expatriates who call the Kingdom home celebrate the transformative journey the country has embarked on over the past 93 years.

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As the nation prepares to commemorate its 93rd National Day in 2023, under the slogan “We Dream and We Achieve,” the Kingdom marks its rich history, its milestones and accomplishments over the past nine decades and the visionaries that have made the present-day a reality.

Children wave flags as people celebrate Saudi Arabia's 90th annual National Day. (File photo: Reuters)

Children wave flags as people celebrate Saudi Arabia's 90th annual National Day. (File photo: Reuters)

1932: A Kingdom is born

On September 23, 1932, the late Abdulaziz bin Abdul Rahman, also known as Ibn Saud, the visionary leader and founder of modern Saudi Arabia, issued a decree that united the Kingdom of Najd and the Hejaz under a new name: the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with Arabic as its national language and the Quran as its constitution. This unification marked the birth of the nation known today.

A tradition takes root

Over the decades, Saudi National Day has evolved into a celebrated tradition where the spirit of patriotism and belongingness is embraced far and wide. Folk dances, songs, and traditional festivals have become integral to the celebrations, while every year, Saudi flags adorn roads and buildings and citizens proudly display their love for their homeland.

Saudi aircrafts perform as part of Saudi Arabia's 90th National Day celebrations, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, September 23, 2020. Picture taken September 23, 2020. (Reuters)

Saudi aircrafts perform as part of Saudi Arabia's 90th National Day celebrations, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, September 23, 2020. Picture taken September 23, 2020. (Reuters)

In 2005, a significant milestone was reached when September 23 was declared National Day as an annual national holiday starting from the 75th National Day.

Saudi National Day 2023: “This is Our Home”

The 93rd Saudi National Day in 2023 promises to be another day of celebrations and festivities.

Under the theme of “This is Our Home,” the nation is set to inspire a renewed sense of patriotism and unity.

“Our dreams have not stopped since the foundation of this Kingdom, and we will work to achieve them as long as we live. Let’s celebrate our accomplishments,” the official National Day website reads.

The new identity “honor[s] the endeavors and efforts that came together to achieve successful initiatives that benefit the citizen and the resident,” the General Entertainment Authority (GEA) said on the website.

Saudi Arabia's new identity for the 93rd National Day. (GEA)

Saudi Arabia's new identity for the 93rd National Day. (GEA)

“Here in the Kingdom, we recognize that much progress has already been made, and we are proud to share this progress with the world. Communicating the Kingdom’s tangible achievements is a collective effort that involves each entity within the nation.”

“Every member of the ecosystem has a role to play in highlighting the progress that has been made and sharing the Kingdom’s story of transformation.”

The core elements of the identity were derived from Saudi Vision 2030’s most notable projects, which place improving the quality of human life at the forefront of its mission.

The new design places a man and a woman at the center – representing the Kingdom’s youth – who are surrounded by symbols of different Saudi projects.

The celebrations also offer a glimpse into Saudi Arabia’s ambitious Vision 2030. Key projects, including Diriyah Gate, NEOM’s The LINE, and the Amaala project, are highlighted on the website, illustrating the nation’s commitment to progress and development.

Dazzling fireworks

No Saudi National Day is complete without the mega fireworks displays that light up the night sky. In 2023, several Saudi-themed fireworks exhibitions are expected across prominent locations.

Firework displays lit up the sky of the Kingdom to mark the 92nd National Day. (SPA)

Firework displays lit up the sky of the Kingdom to mark the 92nd National Day. (SPA)

The Jeddah Promenade will host one of the most extensive fireworks displays in the area. The show, set to begin at 9 p.m., will provide a mesmerizing spectacle visible from various parts of the Red Sea city.

A National Day experience

Apart from the grand fireworks, the Jeddah Promenade will also host the Royal Guard March, and the group will show off its skills in a parade featuring marches, music, cavalry shows and processions.

A large variety of Royal Saudi Air Force planes, including the Typhoon, F-15S, Tornado and the F-15 are expected to perform on Saturday, according to reports from the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

The air shows will be held in 13 cities, including Riyadh, Jeddah, Dhahran, Damman, Al-Jawf, Al-Ahsa, Taif, Al-Baha, Tabuk, Abha, Khamis Mushait, and Al-Khobar, SPA reported.

The Saudi Falcons Aerobatic Team will put on an aerial display across several cities to mark the National Day celebrations.

Families can also partake in festivities like henna stations, face painting booths, and play areas for children, while light shows, cultural exhibits, and special deals in malls, hotels, and restaurants add to the festive atmosphere.

Historical inaugurations and announcements have often marked the National Day. For instance, in 2009, King Abdullah University of Technology was formally inaugurated, while 2014 saw the unveiling of the world’s tallest flagpole in Jeddah.

From nomadic tribes to a united nation

The historical significance of Saudi National Day extends beyond the modern era.

In pre-Islamic times, the Arabian Peninsula was home to nomadic tribes until the arrival of Prophet Mohammed, who united these tribes into a single Islamic religious state.

The rise and fall of various sultanates in the region eventually paved the way for the emergence of modern Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi national anthem: A symbol of pride

Saudi Arabia’s national anthem, “Aash Al Maleek,” is a source of immense pride and patriotism for the citizens and will be heard across the Kingdom on National Day.

The current Saudi national anthem, in its instrumental form, was initially embraced in 1950 by King Abdulaziz. It was introduced as the official royal salute to be performed during Saudi official ceremonies, paying homage to royal families and diplomats.

This musical composition was originally presented as a gift by Egypt’s King Farouq to King Abdul Aziz in 1947 during the latter’s visit to Egypt. The composer, Abdul Rahman Khateeb, personally performed this music on the trumpet during the official welcoming ceremony held in honor of King Abdulaziz at that time.

In the 1980s, Saudi poet Ibrahim Khafaja was commissioned to add lyrics to the royal salute piece, transforming it into the official royal anthem of the Kingdom.

The anthem calls for the nation to strive for greatness while honoring God and blessing the Saudi Arabian King with a long life.

The symbolic Saudi flag

On Saudi Arabia National Day, the nation’s flag also takes center stage. The green flag with bold white calligraphy carrying the Shahada, the Islamic declaration of faith, holds deep significance across the country.

Throughout the years, the Saudi Arabian flag has remained a symbol of national unity and pride. It has seen the country through significant historical events, including the discovery of oil and the modernization efforts that have transformed Saudi Arabia into a global economic and political player.

Today, the flag continues to fly high across the Kingdom, embodying the values, history, and aspirations of Saudi Arabia.

Read more:

Where to watch National Day fireworks in Saudi Arabia, UAE

Saudi Arabia to hold air, marine shows to celebrate 93rd National Day

‘We Dream and We Achieve’: Saudi Arabia unveils new identity for 93rd National Day

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