Balad festival likely to draw 1m visitors in holy month

People walk at Jeddah's historical area Al-Balad during the holy fasting month of Ramadan, Saudi Arabia, in this June 9, 2016 photo. (REUTERS)
Updated 12 June 2016

Balad festival likely to draw 1m visitors in holy month

JEDDAH: The Ramadan festival in the historic Balad district of Jeddah has started on a very successful note, with more than 20,000 people turning up on the opening day of the event itself.

The organizers of the event, entitled “Our Ramadan was like this,” said they are expecting more than one million guests and visitors this year.
The “Friday market” was a special treat for visitors, with more than 300 shops selling homemade products by Saudi families at north of Jufali mosque and Arbaeen lake.
This market is expecting to continue throughout the year to help the productive families and to sustain the historical Jeddah Festival.
Aysha Anzi, a visitor, said she visited the festival every year as it presented a totally different experience during the holy month of Ramadan.
Abdullah Al-Dawi, director of the organizing committee, said that this year they have arranged several religious, cultural and traditional platforms with more than 50 activities across all of the historical area.
“The events include folk dances, cultural performances, folk art, popular cuisines, old home photo exhibition and much more.
It is a special place for those with a taste for architecture because they can learn a lot about ancient art and structures.”
The festival has been organized at two different locations in a 700-meter of the historic area — from the Jeddah gate (the south allegiance field) to the Shafi historic mosque.
The entire area and walkways have been decorated with lanterns, special lighting effects and Ramadan decorations.
This has been done to create an atmosphere of Ramadan that prevailed in the region in the era before the demolition of the old walls of the city in 1947.
Al Dawi said this year the committee is strictly focusing on the Kingdom’s culture, literature, Arabian and Islamic history.
The festival opens after the Taraweeh prayers until 2 a.m. to give, and there are activities for all age groups and all segments of society.

Saudi sources deny ‘unsubstantiated’ reports of permitting alcohol

Updated 16 June 2019

Saudi sources deny ‘unsubstantiated’ reports of permitting alcohol

  • “The leadership has made it clear from day one; it is simply not happening,”SCTH source tells Arab News
  • The SCTH is responsible for licensing and rating hotels and restaurants

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has no plans to allow the sale or public consumption of alcohol, a senior government source has told Arab News.

The official with access to relevant decision-makers categorically denied “unsubstantiated” media reports in some international and regional news outlets.

“If you read the fake news, you will notice it is all based on hearsay and tweets by accounts known to have a questionable agenda when talking about the Kingdom,” he said.

“As the country moves forward with its reform plans, we expect much speculation and attempts by critics to hold us back. And while people are allowed to speculate and criticize, their speculation should not be treated as the truth.”

A second source at the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) also denied such reports. “The leadership has made it clear from day one; it is simply not happening,” he told Arab News. “I have not heard of any plans to allow alcohol in major cities, free zones or new projects.”

The SCTH is responsible for licensing and rating hotels and restaurants. Any plans for the sale or consumption of alcohol would have to go through the commission for implementation. 

Saudi Arabia has witnessed substantial social reforms over the past three years, such as the curbing of the previously unchecked power of the religious police, reopening cinemas and allowing women to drive.

There has also been a major shift on previously prohibited public entertainment and gender mixing. International artists including Mariah Carey, Yanni, Andrea Bocelli, Enrique Iglesias and Black Eyed Peas have all performed.

Tourism projects have included pop-up versions of international restaurants such as Signor Sassi, Nusr-Et and Nobu. None has served alcohol.

“Officials have repeatedly said all changes were and will always be in line with Islamic teachings and traditions,” the senior source told Arab News.