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 T20 task force coordinators in action and thinking big

Updated 30 October 2020

Saudi T20 task force coordinators in action and thinking big

  • Saudi Arabia holds the presidency of the G20 this year, and the group’s annual summit is due to be held in Riyadh in November
  • Think 20 (T20) is one of its independent engagement groups

RIYADH: This year, 11 workers at two Saudi research centers, backed by an army of researchers, took on the daunting challenge of delivering results that meet the high expectations for the G20’s “ideas bank” — and their work is almost done.

Saudi Arabia holds the presidency of the G20 this year, and the group’s annual summit is due to be held in Riyadh in November.

The Think 20 (T20) is one of its independent engagement groups, led by organizations from the host country, which focus on different sections and sectors of society. Considered the G20’s intellectual backbone, it connects and collaborates with think tanks from around the world to develop fact-based policy briefs that contain recommendations for ways to tackle a number of important global issues.

This year’s T20 is jointly led by the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPSARC) and the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies (KFCRIS).

It has adopted some key policy recommendations developed last year, when Japan held the presidency, and developed new ones designed to address the latest global developments and issues.

The success of this year’s T20 can, to a large extent, be attributed to the months of dedication and hard work by 11 task force coordinators, and the army of colleagues who backed them up every step of the way.

PUBLICATIONS

The T20 published 146 policy recommendations this year, compared with 104 last year. All of them were produced by a team of researchers who worked for more than a year to develop concise and fact-based recommendations.

To achieve this, the T20 set up 11 task forces. Each of them was led by a researcher, affiliated with KAPSARC or KFCRIS, who coordinated the work of authors and co-authors and the lead co-chairs, among other tasks.

Many of the coordinators were handed responsibility for task forces covering issues that were initially unfamiliar to them, but showed great initiative and took control of the work flow in a highly professional manner. Adding to the challenge, many of the people they were working with were relatively young, with limited experience in their fields.

“It wasn’t easy for us, to have a team of juniors participate with us,” said Turki Al-Shuwaier, one of two T20 deputy sherpas. “But we believed in them. Our recruitment was very carefully done, based on character and attitude and the nature of their ambition, which helped a lot.”

Each member displayed the initiative that was needed to create change, he added, and worked very hard to achieve their goals, even when faced with initial problems due to lack of experience.

“Communication was done the right way and we were able to solve our problems quickly that way, building a strong link with them via continually updated tools, weekly communiques and so on,” said Al-Shuwaier.

“Maybe if we’d had a team of seniors we would not have had to put in so much effort, but it has been worth it because we loved to do it.”

SELECTION PROCESS

When speaking to the 11 task force coordinators about their work, it becomes clear that the emphasis placed on good communication was a key to the success of the endeavor. They worked across time zones to connect with hundreds of authors and co-authors of the proposed policy briefs, assembling a first-class team that not only investigated the issues, but provided cohesive, universal and adaptable recommendations.

The rigor and relevance of the research are important factors in the development of effective policy briefs, said the T20’s other deputy sherpa, Brian Efird. Coordinators, policy and research experts, action-team members and other participants from KAPSARC and KFCRIS collectively managed more than 700 researchers and more than 100 think tanks worldwide, he added.

The 11 coordinators have their own areas of specialist expertise, but the focus of the task force each was assigned to was unfamiliar to them. This did not hinder them, however. With the help of task force lead co-chairs, each coordinator rose to the occasion, overcoming communication problems, linguistic issues and other challenges along the way.

Emere Hatipoglu, a research fellow at KAPSARC and a member of the T20 action team, said that most of the hard work was done by the junior members. With help from the action team, he added, the coordinators reviewed many proposals to “up the quality of the peer reviews.”

COVID-19

When the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus outbreak had become a pandemic in March, the T20 coordinators rose to the additional challenges this created by working with their authors to ensure the effects and implications of the pandemic were reflected in the proposed policy briefs, so that they would fully meet the expectations of the T20 secretariat.

The coordinators described the rapidly evolving situation they found themselves in as challenging, hectic, dire and, ultimately, fruitful. Ensuring that their work took into account the effects of the COVID-19 crisis proved to be an invigorating experience that encouraged them to push their own limits and learn new skills to meet the demands placed upon them.

The number of proposals they came up with grew along the way, and a series of online meetings were organized while many nations, including Saudi Arabia, were in lockdown.

As one coordinator said: “Give a researcher a task and you can be sure they’ll get the job done in the most efficient way.”

Still, the coordinators often found themselves faced with problems they could never have imagined before the pandemic. Simply getting in touch with their authors was suddenly a challenge, as some were infected by the virus and others found themselves stuck in COVID-19 hotspots in Europe.

The coordinators were obligated to be sensitive and help their team members in whatever ways they could, while also trying to ensure the work continued to push forward.

“Transitioning from physical events to virtual ones was a sign of maturity,” said Efird. “To manage this huge process by rewriting the plan in the middle of (the pandemic was) nice to see.”

DELIVERABLES

With the help of their policy and research teams, the coordinators were able to arrange discussions covering a wide range of topics, coach authors throughout the process and ensure that the proposed policy briefs delivered long and short-term solutions. Eventually each task force settled on a final list of recommendations, ahead of the T20 Summit on Oct. 31 and Nov 1.

Because the coordinators are also researchers, they had the general skills they needed to select speakers for webinars, choose abstracts and carry out the other tasks required of them. As one coordinator put it: “I spoke the same language as the authors of the policy briefs.”

Faris Al-Sulayman, a KFCRIS research fellow and member of the T20’s Policy and Research Committee said: “A set of criteria was established from the very beginning. Each topic was relevant to the task force themes and went through a rigorous process.

“The team effort made it easier and more concise. Even as we became used to working remotely, it served as beneficial to the process.”

The coordinators were able to systematically address all problems that arose, thanks to the expertise they had developed working at KAPSARC and KFCRIS, according Anvita Arora and Axel Pierru, who are also members of the Policy and Research Committee. The coordinators were able to get the best out of the authors by ensuring that the process was as enriching as possible for all the researchers, they added.

“Five to 10 years down the road, you’ll see that the Saudi T20 served as a critical juncture in how the T20 works,” Hatipoğlu said.