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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.
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.

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