The 11th Saudi cultural festivity Souq Okaz opens with diverse folk programs

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The 11th Souq Okaz festival gets underway. More than 60,000 people attended the opening ceremony in Taif on Wednesday. (SPA)
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Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal and SCTH President Prince Sultan bin Salman patronize the opening ceremony of the 11th Souq Okaz festival in Taif on Wednesday. (SPA)
Updated 14 July 2017

The 11th Saudi cultural festivity Souq Okaz opens with diverse folk programs

TAIF: Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, along with Prince Sultan bin Salman — president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH), and head of the supervisory committee of Souq Okaz — on Wednesday opened the 11th edition of the festival in Taif under the theme “Renewable Creativity.”
Held under the patronage of King Salman, the opening ceremony was attended by statesmen, intellectuals, poets, academics and artists from the Kingdom and the Arab world.
Prince Khaled and Prince Sultan watched a documentary about the revival of the ancient Okaz market over the last 10 years. They hailed each other’s efforts in developing the festival.
Prince Khaled expressed hope that the “quantum leap in the march” of the souq “continues because our people deserve the best of everything and our Saudi citizens should hold their heads high in pride.”
Prince Sultan said the festival “will host many cultural and economic activities. We move forward in accordance with a vision set by King Salman and the late King Abdullah, who saw Souq Okaz as an international occasion in light of the Kingdom’s international importance.”
The festival saw Makkah’s governor hand out various awards. The classical Arabic poetry prize of SR300,000 ($79,994) was given to Mohammed Abdullah Al-Turki from Saudi Arabia.
The Arabic narration prize of SR100,000 went to Mohammed Saeed Al-Rashdi from Saudi Arabia.
The SR100,000 prize for Arabic calligraphy was distributed to three winners: Masoud Hafiz Mohammed from Bangladesh received SR50,000, Ahmad Rafat from Egypt received SR30,000, and third-place Yaser Mahmoud Ibrahim received SR20,000.
The Okaz innovation award went to Iman Saad Al-Zahrani of Saudi Arabia, who received SR100,000.
The entrepreneurship award of SR200,000 went to Noha Anwar Al-Yousif from the Kingdom.
The Okaz young poet prize was given to Tariq Mohammed Sumaili from Saudi Arabia.
The opening ceremony saw new poems by Prince Badr bin Abdulmohsen, and a poem written specifically for the festival titled “Dahshat Al-Ward,” (Roses are Surprised), composed by Yasser Abu Ali and sung by Abdulmajeed Abdullah.
Prince Badr also wrote a poem titled “Ya Dar” (Oh Home), which was performed by Hussein Al-Yami and his orchestra.
Prince Sultan said the high number of people who attended the opening ceremony reflects the confidence of citizens in the programs offered by the SCTH.
He said he expects the festival to receive an unprecedented number of visitors this year.
More than 1,000 media representatives from 116 Saudi, Gulf and foreign media outlets broadcast the opening ceremony, in addition to 218 social networking celebrities on Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat.
The general secretariat for Souq Okaz estimated that 60,000 people attended the opening ceremony, with around 2,500 VIPs attending the opening events at the Okaz theater.
This year’s edition will witness more than 100 functions, including contests and tourist journeys, which will provide a unique experience for visitors.
The cultural programs and their events will be held in different locations in the souq and Taif city.
This year, five Arab countries — Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Jordan and Algeria — are participating in Souq Okaz Avenue.

Two Holy Mosques in Saudi Arabia ready to confront health epidemics

Updated 27 min 33 sec ago

Two Holy Mosques in Saudi Arabia ready to confront health epidemics

  • The Kingdom has gained experience in dealing with millions of peoples, says crowd expert

MAKKAH: The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques has announced its readiness to deal with any epidemic cases. It said that it will provide all necessary information to pilgrims and has doubled cleaning times of the courtyards and corridors of the Grand Mosque in Makkah.

The presidency said that it is raising media awareness in all languages and through informative screens to distribute the latest medical instructions and emergency developments.

Abdulhamid Al-Maliki, assistant undersecretary for services affairs at the presidency, told Arab News that the Two Holy Mosques are collaborating with public health authorities to face all possible situations.

Al-Maliki said that he has been working hand-in-hand with governmental and private agencies to distribute masks and hand sanitizer.

He added that coordination has been made with public health-related bodies to mobilize the necessary media coverage to inform all pilgrims of different nationalities wherever they may be.

The assistant undersecretary said that responding to all instructions and advice is necessary for the best handling of health issues.

Crowd expert Akram Jan said that Saudi Arabia has gained experience in dealing with crowds and millions of people, and that it was prepared to handle several sudden scenarios as well as the most difficult situations with success.

Jan said that the difficulties that accompany the presence of viruses — such as the new coronavirus — are their ability to spread and infect through contact or sneezing. He added that the Kingdom is taking precautionary measures to prevent a disaster from happening.



The floors of Makkah’s Grand Mosque are washed and disinfected four times daily as part of measures to ensure the safety of pilgrims and visitors.

Highly qualified cadres use the best technology and cleaning and sanitizing tools, said Jaber Widaani, director of the mosque’s department of disinfection and carpets. 

There are 13,500 prayer rugs at the mosque, all of which are swept and fragranced on a daily basis, he added.

Since the new coronavirus emerged in December 2019 in central China, it has sickened 82,000 people globally, with more than 2,700 deaths. The illness it causes was named COVID-19, a reference to its origin late last year.

Middle East countries have been implementing measures to protect their citizens and residents from the rising coronavirus cases.

On Thursday, Dubai’s Emirates announced a temporary ban on carrying Umrah pilgrims and tourists from nearly two dozen countries to Saudi Arabia.

The announcement came after the Kingdom placed a temporary ban on pilgrims from entering the country to perform Umrah, in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Nearly 7 million Umrah pilgrims visit the Kingdom each year, the majority of whom arrive at airports in Jeddah and Madinah.