Souq Okaz: The largest cultural and commercial gathering held on the Arabian Peninsula

Actors at Souq Okaz re-enact events of the pre-Islamic era in the Arabian Peninsula.
Updated 18 July 2017
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Souq Okaz: The largest cultural and commercial gathering held on the Arabian Peninsula

JEDDAH: Souq Okaz, in its 11th edition this year, claimed that it is the largest cultural and commercial gathering on the Arabian Peninsula.
Located 45 kilometers northeast of Taif on a flat plain surrounded by a number of valleys and mountains, the souq’s revival was initiated by Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal.
The first edition of the revived souq was held in 1428 H. It is now supervised by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) to preserve and maintain it as an event that is not limited to poetry because it also represents a tribal event with a great political and social role.
This was a cultural platform where sheikhs met their tribes, initiated agreements and exchanged prisoners.
This event would provide opportunities for reconciliation, declaration of alliances and ending hostilities. It was also known for horse racing and fencing. It was a large commercial market visited by traders coming from Syria, Persia and Yemen, among other countries, and a forum where titles were given to poets, knights and tribes.
On the side lines of the market, speeches and lectures were delivered to visitors and the souq became a wisdom council, in which guidance and conclusions were memorized and shared by the people.
Souq Okaz was one of the most famous markets in ancient times; Arabs headed to the souq during the first 20 days of Dhu Al-Qa’dah.
It was a place where goods were sold and literary works were circulated. The souq continued in the era of the last Prophet (peace be upon him), during the days of the Rashidun and Umayyad caliphates, until year 129 AH, when the Kharijites revolted and looted the market.
The Souq Okaz Awards became some of the most prestigious prizes in the Arab world because of their moral and material values.
They include 13 prizes worth SR2,470,000 ($658,622), and cover a wide range of creativity in terms of literature, arts, and social and human sciences.
The market is characterized by a diversity that suits all age groups. It offers a variety of cultural entertainment programs that reflect the past, keeps up with the present and looks forward to the future.
Souq Okaz offers visitors and guests rich cultural programs ranging from lectures and conferences, as well as cultural, literary, poetry and science nights, with the participation of Saudi and Arab intellectuals, writers, thinkers, and poets.


World applauds as Saudi women take the wheel

A Saudi woman and her friends celebrate her first time driving on a main street of Alkhobar city in eastern Saudi Arabia on her way to Bahrain on June 24, 2018. (AFP / HUSSAIN RADWAN)
Updated 25 June 2018
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World applauds as Saudi women take the wheel

  • As the de facto ban on women driving ended after more than 60 years, women across the Kingdom flooded social media with videos of their first car trips
  • The celebrations even reached as far as France, where Aseel Al-Hamad, the first female member of the Saudi national motorsport federation, drove a Formula 1 racing car in a special parade before the French Grand Prix at Le Castellet 

JEDDAH: The world awoke on Sunday to images and video footage many thought they would never see — newly empowered Saudi women taking the wheel and driving their cars.

As the de facto ban on women driving ended after more than 60 years, women across the Kingdom flooded social media with videos of their first car trips, while some police officers among the large number out on the streets distributed roses to the first-time drivers.

The celebrations even reached as far as France, where Aseel Al-Hamad, the first female member of the Saudi national motorsport federation, drove a Formula 1 racing car in a special parade before the French Grand Prix at Le Castellet.

“I hope doing so on the day when women can drive on the roads in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia shows what you can do if you have the passion and the spirit to dream,” she said.

In a tribute to Saudi female drivers, the Lebanese soprano Hiba Tawaji released a special video of a song she performed live in Riyadh at a concert last December “Today women in Saudi Arabia can legally drive their cars,” she said. “Congratulations on this achievement, this one’s for you!”

Back home in Saudi Arabia, the atmosphere was euphoric. “It’s a beautiful day,” businesswoman Samah Algosaibi said as she cruised around the city of Alkhobar. 

“Today we are here,” she said from the driver’s seat. “Yesterday we sat there,” she said, pointing to the back.

“I feel proud, I feel dignified and I feel liberated,” said Saudi Shoura Council member Lina Almaeena, one of the first women to drive in the Kingdom.

She told Arab News that the event was changing her life by “facilitating it, making it more comfortable, making it more pleasant, and making it more stress-free.”

Almaeena urged all drivers to follow the traffic and road safety rules. “What’s making me anxious is the misconduct of a lot of the drivers, the male drivers. Unfortunately they’re not as disciplined as they should be. Simple things such as changing lanes and using your signals — this is making me anxious.

“But I’m confident: I’ve driven all around the world when I travel, especially when I’m familiar with the area. It’s really mainly how to be a defensive driver because you have to be.”