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Saudi tourism chief applauds festive atmosphere at Souq Okaz

Performers display a traditional dance at Souq Okaz festival.

JEDDAH: Prince Sultan bin Salman, president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) and chairman of the Supreme Supervisory Committee for Souq Okaz, emphasized the great effort and work accomplished during the 11th edition of the festival.
The prince praised Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal for the attractive organization of the opening ceremony by embedding the country’s heritage and popular folklore, and, most significantly, employing the youth of Taif to personify all this.
Prince Sultan hailed the great efforts made by the security forces in Taif, the Ministry of Culture and Information and all those who participated in organizing this great event in such a short time.
“What we are witnessing today is only the beginning of what will be the new Okaz City which will include new tourist facilities and establishments that will have a significant role in revitalizing this historic event that lasted 250 years and witnessed the presence of the Prophet (pece be upon him),” said Prince Sultan.
He added that under the directives of King Salman, the SCTH would announce the beginning of a big development work on the programs of the Souq, especially in terms of the role of Souq Okaz in creating the original Arabic language of the Holy Qur’an.
The prince said an award would be allocated for the famous Muallaqat poems; this is an idea introduced by the Algerian Minister of Culture Izzzedin Mayhoubi. Other comprehensive development plans for the Souq and its events are bound to add economic value to the city, and to help the event in becoming an international event according to the directives of King Salman.
“Saudi Arabia today is the main focus of the whole world and Souq Okaz will be watched by more than 25 million people. SCTH has acquired all broadcasting rights and it will re-broadcast the opening ceremony on its websites,” he said.
Prince Saud bin Abdullah bin Thunayyan Al-Saud, chairman of the board of directors of SABIC, said: “The opening ceremony was a journey into the past that took us back to our glorious heritage and history and brought us to the present and the bright future.”
Prince Saud praised the supervisors of the great events and at the top of the list, he named Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, who has had a great role in revitalizing Souq Okaz, and Prince Sultan bin Salman, the organizer of this creative event.
He said SABIC had participated in the event since the founding of the Souq within the framework of its social responsibility and its duty toward the country and its people.
Culture and Information Minister Dr. Awwad bin Saleh Al-Awwad applauded the opening ceremony: “What we saw in the opening ceremony represents a creative, cultural and artistic work.”
This year Souq Okaz will hold an auction for a number of artifacts and antiques. Talal Bachet Al-Juaid, the head of the auction, said there had been a big turnout at the auction from visitors, from lovers of the Saudi heritage, and general customers who are eager to own heritage pieces such as silver coffee pots, plates, swords, mehbash (traditional coffee grinder) and other old items.
Ahmad Al-Kinani, a visitor, said the auction was a great step by SCTH for the preservation of such antique pieces.
In addition, artisans are competing in the 11th edition of Souq Okaz this year and there are creativity awards worth SR500,000 divided into six areas.
A number of European and other Western visitors were also impressed with what they saw at the festival. They expressed their admiration for the artistic and heritage pieces, the theatrical plays, and the Arabic coffee. They also bought antiques and paintings and took photos inside the tents.

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