Preparations for Souq Okaz almost finished as opening day approaches

Preparations for Souq Okaz almost finished as opening day approaches. (SPA)
Updated 14 June 2018

Preparations for Souq Okaz almost finished as opening day approaches

JEDDAH/RIYADH: The intensive preparations for the 12th edition of Souq Okaz are almost over and the finishing touches are being put to the event, which takes place in Taif from June 27 to July 13 under the patronage of King Salman.
The site has been a hive of activity as workers build and prepare the Souq’s attractions, including a theater, Souq Okaz Avenue, Culture Avenue, venues for shows and events, and areas for support services.
The souq is organized by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) in cooperation with a number of governmental bodies in Taif, including the municipality, secretariat, the transport, health and civil defense ministries, and many others dealing with the Souq’s services and infrastructure.
There are more than 30 facilities equipped to host the shows and events, in addition to the Prince Khaled Al-Faisal Theater, the open stadium for popular art, auctions and souvenir shops. The souq will also feature shops for craftsmen, restaurants, a media center and a mini horse-racing track. The organizing committee has decorated the site with flags and a lighting in keeping with its nature.
Okaz Avenue for Culture, organized by SCTH, is one of the souq’s most important features, which this year will host more than 150 attractions, including heritage and cultural events, theater performances, and arts and crafts.
New events this year include presentations of stories from the life of poets such as Amr bin Kalthoum, Antra bin Shaddad, Zuhair bin Abi Salma, Emreo Al-Qais, Tarafa bin Al-Abd, Al-Asha and Qais Saeda, along with many other shows.
There will also be Arabian camel and horse convoys, an equestrian school for children, camel races, interactive children’s events, poetry and historical photography displays, craftsmen, cultural tents and much more.
Bari to promote local art and craft
The National Handicraft Development Program “Bari,” a flagship program of the SCTH to promote handicrafts in the Kingdom by supporting local artisans, will organize a crafts competition during the festival.
“The Saudi Crafts Program will participate in the activities of the 12th Souq Okaz with a number of male and female craftsmen,” Majed Alshadeed, a spokesman at the SCTH, told Arab News.
The program will oversee the crafts competition with the participation of 24 craftsmen competing for prizes of up to SR300,000 ($80,000), he said.
He said that the Saudi Crafts Program will be involved in the activities of the Souq Okaz market, with 116 tents and 70 craftsmen from throughout the Kingdom, in fields including weaving, handmade carpets, crochet, embroidery, traditional costumes, manufacture, carving and carpentering of wooden products, as well as handmade palm products, painting, sculpture or manual decoration on any natural material — and other craft products of an innovative nature.
The tent will feature the participation of National Handicraft Development Program partners including Herfah Organization, Princess Noura Social Center, Fatat — Al-Ihsa Charity Association, Art of Heritage Company, Sleysla Center, Herafia Society, Agaa Training Society, the Taiba Association, the Atta Al Khair Center, and the Creativity Handicrafts Centers — as well as the contribution of 15 male and female craftsmen, master craftsmen and a tent for a fashion show.
The National Handicrafts Program recently signed an agreement with Prince Charles of Britain’s Turquoise Mountain Foundation to expand handicraft production as well as improve artisans’ ability to manage local products.
Bari is working on the design of a feasibility study for a Saudi Academy for Crafts that will integrate Saudi heritage designs with technical training.
The main objectives of the program are to build a skilled professional group that can produce products at local and global economic level, expand product diversity and quality as well as economic and tourism diversification of a sustainable economic industry, in addition to the expansion of operating craft creativity centers in the Kingdom.

Saudi Cabinet gives go-ahead for businesses to open 24/7 in Kingdom

Updated 17 July 2019

Saudi Cabinet gives go-ahead for businesses to open 24/7 in Kingdom

  • Regulations and procedures will be developed and put in place to govern 24-hour opening
  • It is expected that a fee will be payable by businesses that wish to take advantage of the opportunity

RIYADH: The Saudi Cabinet on Tuesday announced that businesses in Saudi Arabia are to be given the option to remain open 24 hours a day.

Minister of Commerce and Investment Dr. Majid Al-Qassabi thanked King Salman and the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the decision, which he said would improve the quality of life in the Kingdom by raising levels of satisfaction among residents and creating new opportunities for the business sector.

He added that it has been shown that 24-hour trading can have a positive effect on the macroeconomy of a country by increasing demand for goods and services, stimulating consumer spending and attracting capital investment. In addition, he said, it can help boost sectors such as leisure, tourism, transport and communications, and it is expected to create new job opportunities.

The decision reflects moves being made by the Kingdom to support the private sector and entrepreneurs by providing the best possible environment in which to operate through the amendment of regulations and legislation, and the continuing process of economic reforms.

Saudi Arabia is also committed to reducing the unemployment rate from 11.6 percent to 7 percent by providing more job opportunities for young people in particular, supporting entrepreneurs, establishing large enterprises, and increasing the role of the private sector and creating partnerships with it.

Talat Zaki Hafiz, secretary-general of the committee on  information and banking awareness,  believes the decision to allow 24-hour opening is a positive move for the country.

“I think this is a smart move that will benefit the economy and reduce the unemployment rate, which is considered now to be high at 11.6 percent, but also to serve the needs of the public who are living in the country, tourists and people who are visiting for Hajj and Umrah,” he said.

Iyad Ghulam of NCB Capital, an investment banking and asset management firm, also welcomed the announcement.

“We believe it will have a positive impact on the economy by creating employment, increasing disposable income, and boosting small and medium enterprises and the private sector’s contribution to the gross domestic product. For listed companies, we expect restaurants to be the key beneficiaries.

“In line with Vision 2030 targets, we expect the relaxing of regulations governing business hours to have a positive impact on the overall economy by supporting GDP growth, reducing unemployment, potentially increasing consumer spending, and meeting the needs of a larger consumer base.”

Regulations and procedures will be developed and put in place to govern 24-hour opening, and it is expected that a fee will be payable by businesses that wish to take advantage of the opportunity. The decision of whether or not to open all hours will remain with individual business owners.

Khalid Abdulrahman, the owner of a large coffee shop in Riyadh, said that the decision could benefit certain businesses, including his, but a lot will depend on the yet to be revealed details of how the process will operate.

“It might affect us positively to open 24 hours during the weekend only, because most of the Saudi people stay up all night,” he said. “This depends on whether we get to choose the days to open around the clock.”

Ahmed Mushtaq who runs Sohoby, a business-technology provider in Jeddah, said that it could give his employees more flexibility in choosing preferable working hours.

“As all of them are hard workers, some do prefer working during night hours as they can be focused and achieve more,” he said. “With this decision, employees’ working hours will be more flexible, especially for those who wish to work during late hours and spend more time with their families during the day.”

The Cabinet said that its decision takes into account the security and social needs of the community, particularly at night, and also weather requirements, especially those designed to cope with high temperatures during the summer.