Saudi Souq Okaz festival set to become major tourist attraction

There are more than 30 facilities equipped to host the shows and events at the festival. (File/AFP)
Updated 17 June 2018

Saudi Souq Okaz festival set to become major tourist attraction

  • It is organized by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) in cooperation with various government bodies
  • Okaz Avenue for Culture, organized by the SCTH, is one of the souq’s most important features

Saudi Arabia is all set to organize yet another mega cultural event, Souq Okaz, which has all the potential of becoming a major tourist attraction. 

The 12th edition of the festival will begin in Taif on June 27 and continue until July 13 under the patronage of King Salman.

It is organized by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) in cooperation with various government bodies. 

The SCTH is working overtime to transform Saudi Arabia into a major global tourism hub. Commenting on the SCTH efforts, Taif University President Husam Zaman said the addition of new activities to the 12th edition of Souq Okaz will give a huge boost to the Kingdom’s tourism sector.

The academic said the SCTH is building a unique tourism and cultural ecosystem in Souq Okaz. The success of the SCTH’s efforts will transform this annual festival into a modern event, he added. 

He was of the view that the repackaging of Souq Okaz was in line with the Kingdom’s policies aimed at diversifying its economy and reforming all sectors. 

There are more than 30 facilities equipped to host the shows and events at the festival, 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 horseracing track. 

Okaz Avenue for Culture, organized by the 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.

“The project will be the first all-inclusive tourist attraction in Saudi Arabia and is expected to attract more than 2 million tourists every year and will help boost the gross domestic product by SR9 billion, and create 12,000 new job opportunities,” Zaman said.

He also believes Souq Okaz will provide a good environment for investors.

The president of Taif University said the completion of the Souq Okaz city is one of Vision 2030’s targets, which include rapidly establishing and developing tourist attractions and encouraging the private sector to invest in them.

He said: “Through our contribution to the preparation and implementation of the cultural program of Souq Okaz, Taif University aims to link the project’s activities with the objectives of Vision 2030 and the National Transformation Program 2020 by supporting the arts, cultural, and tourism sectors.

“The efforts of Taif University and its partners in this project will have a significant impact on refining the skills of local artists, improving domestic products, and strengthening the Kingdom’s international tourism status.”

According to Zaman, Taif University is keen through its role in the cultural committee to present an interactive cultural program during the festival.

“The program will be full of cultural seminars, poetry and literary and creative competitions,” he added.

The academic said the cultural program of Souq Okaz is renewed every year, and among development efforts, the cultural committee decided to restructure the contests of the festival’s 12th edition.

“This year’s contests include the Souq Okaz Film Contest,” he said, “It targets the Kingdom’s filmmakers who managed to turn their creative ideas into films and aims to encourage competition among them and promote creative thinking that contributes to supporting the economy.”

“The cultural program’s development initiatives also include an international calligraphy award and a graffiti award,” he said. 

“The committee has also decided to expand the theatrical performance contest to accept participants from other Gulf Cooperation Council countries.”

Sharqiah Season: What to expect this weekend?

Updated 21 March 2019

Sharqiah Season: What to expect this weekend?

RIYADH: A bumper program of entertainment is being lined up in the Eastern Province for the biggest weekend yet of Sharqiah Season.

Concerts, a film festival, and a spectacular air race are just some of the events due to take place in the region as part of attractions for both Saudis and visitors to the Kingdom.

The action gets underway with the fifth annual Saudi Film Festival taking place from March 21 to 26 at the King Abdul Aziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) in Dhahran.

Organized by the Saudi Arabian Society for Culture and Arts (SASCA) in Dammam, in partnership with Ithra, the movie fest will honor Saudi and Gulf cinema figures and include 10 training workshops and 10 seminars.

The festival aims to promote opportunities for Saudi talent in the film industry and flicks from the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman will be included among screenings.

All participating films will be shown during the event, and there will be a Golden Palm award for best documentary about a Saudi city and best poster (based on audience voting). A winners’ presentation will take place at the closing ceremony, after which the films will be screened at the Ithra center.

Tickets can be purchased via Ithra’s website, with options for single-day, four-day, and VIP passes.

Meanwhile, the long-awaited Red Bull Air Race demo comes to Dammam from March 21 to 23. The event, organized along with the General Sports Authority, will provide spectators with a warm-up taster for the Red Bull Air Race World Championship 2019 season finale, to be held in Saudi Arabia in November.

The air-racing competition, developed in 2003 and accredited by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI), is billed as “the most advanced aerial challenge in existence.”

Using the fastest, most agile, high-performance race planes, pilots fly just meters from the ground and against the clock to complete an obstacle course full of twists and turns. The air spectacular takes off at Dammam Corniche between 1 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Saturday will also see the highly anticipated Color Run come to the South Alkhobar Corniche. The 5-km dash involves participants being doused with colored powder at the end of every kilometer. Runners start dressed all in white and emerge at the end of the run covered in the colors of the General Entertainment Authority’s logo.

The untimed run takes place between 5 a.m. and noon and rest areas offering refreshments and entertainment will be available between stops.

For concert fans the Asharqiah Music Festival will feature performances by major names at Dammam’s Life Park. US rapper Pitbull and Canadian DJ Deadmau5 will take to the stage on March 21, and March 22 will witness performances by Egyptian vocalist Amr Diab, US-Moroccan rapper French Montana, and American singer Akon.

Lovers of regional music are not left out, with appearances by Assala Nasri and Mutrif Al-Mutrif on March 22, and Nabil Shuail and Hatem Al-Iraqi on March 23, all at the Prince Faisal Bin Fahd Center in Al-Qatif.

Sharqiah Season, the first of 11 Saudi seasons of entertainment planned for 2019, will run until the end of the month with more than 83 different events scheduled across nine cities in the region.