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.”


Preventive protocols issued as Saudi Arabia moves to relax curfew further

Updated 30 May 2020

Preventive protocols issued as Saudi Arabia moves to relax curfew further

RIYADH: As Saudi Arabia moved closer to Phase 2 of the gradual relaxation of coronavirus lockdown rules, the Ministry of Interior announced precautionary measures and preventive protocols for several sectors to follow.

The preventive protocols, prepared by the Ministry of Health,  covers the period from 8 Shawwal to 28 Shawwal 1441 in the Hijri calendar, corresponding to May 31 to June 20, 2020 in the Gregorian calendar.

A ministry official said the protocols are provided for mosques;  the public; petroleum, petrochemical and gas and other industries; malls and retail centers, home delivery service, among others.

The preventive protocols can be found at: https://covid19awareness.sa/archives/5460.

The MOI urged all citizens, expatriates and concerned authorities "to implement these procedures and abide by their provisions in order to preserve the safety of all".

Also on Saturday, the acting minister of economy and planning, Mohammad bin Abdullah Al-Jadaan, said the gradual lifting of the curfew "represents a new stage in the face of the global pandemic crisis and towards a gradual return to economic activities in the Kingdom to its normal levels."
 
"The decisions were taken after continuous coordination between the Ministry of Health and the concerned authorities, relying on a focused plan that seeks to balance between procedures for reopening economic activities and maintaining the stability of health and social conditions," said Jadaan, who is also the Kingdom's minister of finance.

Al-Jadaan highlighted that the government has increased – during the last period through the state’s general budget – spending on urgent and necessary requirements to face the crisis.

It has significantly strengthened the financial allocations for the Health and related services sector.

The government also launched urgent support initiatives to mitigate the impact on the private sector, supporting the economy and to preserve the jobs of citizens in economic establishments, he said in a statement carried by the SPA.