TAIF: Souq Okaz is thought to have originally appeared in pre-Islamic times in the city of Taif as a yearly gathering before the Hajj season. It was attended by lovers of poetry and literature in addition to the traders of the Arabian Peninsula.
Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, the governor of Makkah province, officially opened the 12th edition of Souq Okaz on Wednesday, which is supervised by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) under the patronage of King Salman.
Prince Sultan bin Salman, chairman of SCTH and of the Supreme Supervisory Committee of Souq Okaz, welcomed Prince Khaled to the historic market. Both princes delivered speeches — shown on a big screen — highlighting the historical importance of the souq and the keen interest of the country’s leaders in such events.
The opening ceremony also featured theatrical and cultural performances showcasing the rich cultural traditions of the region, including poetry and music, prepared by Prince Badr bin Abdul Muhsin and featuring experienced Saudi actors and singers.
There will be another chance to catch the entertainment at the Okaz Theater on Thursday and Friday.
This is the second edition of Souq Okaz since King Salman gave SCTH the responsibility of organizing the event in coordination with executive bodies in Makkah region and Taif.
Saudi Arabia has been commemorating this market for the past 12 years, aiming to turn it into an international cultural festival.
The 12th edition of Souq Okaz was opened in the presence of Egypt as the honorary guest of this year’s edition. The Festival’s activities will end on July 13.
The cultural program of the festival will include 10 seminars, eight workshops, three poetry evenings and a theatrical performance competition. Okaz Avenue will have exhibitions of Arabic calligraphy, visual arts, traditional crafts and handicrafts.
King Abdul Aziz Arabian Horses Center, the Saudi Camel Federation and King Abdul Aziz Darah Foundation, represented by the National Center for Saudi Ardah, will be taking part in this year’s Souq Okaz.
They will be participating through a number of activities that include an Arabian horse show, a camel marathon and a photo gallery that celebrates the Saudi Ardeh dance throughout the years, in addition to the accessories used, such as the costume and the sword.
The General Authority for Culture of Souq Okaz will be organizing various activities related to art, literature and culture. These activities will be hosted in four main pavilions in addition to the main stage’s activities.
A group of people created accounts on Twitter under the names of the most prominent poets of the pre-Islamic era. Officials of the Souq Okaz denied any ties to the accounts.
These accounts offered an important boost to this year’s festival thanks to the amount of interaction they received on social media.
The Okaz International Award for Literature was won by Nasser bin Saad Al-Rasheed, and the Okaz International Prize for Arabic poetry went to Jassem Mohammed Al-Saheeh from Saudi Arabia. Both awards came with a prize of SR300,000 ($80,000).
The award for writing an Arabic script for a narrative work was given to Mohammed Ahmed Mohamed Naghi from Egypt, who also received a SR100,000 prize.
In the artistic category of the Okaz International Arabic Calligraphy Award, first place went to Abdul Majid Mohammed Al-Ahdal from Yemen, who received SR40,000, second place to Saud Shaker Khan from Saudi Arabia (SR25,000), and third to Mohammed Abdullah Abu Naji from Jordan (SR15,000). In the authenticity category of the calligraphy awards, Bilal Mokhtar Attiya from Egypt won first prize, with fellow Egyptian Ahmed Adel Mohamed Amin second.
First place in the Okaz Fine Art Award was awarded to Tamer Mohammad Ibrahim Ribat from Saudi Arabia, who received SR50,000, with Saleh Salih Al-Shehri, also from the Kingdom, second (SR30,000), and Rasha Mohammed Siddiq from Myanmar third (SR20,000).
Dr. Fares Bin Dabbas Al-Swailem from Saudi Arabia received the Okaz Innovation Award and its prize of SR100,000. The Okaz Business Leadership Award, also SR100,000, was given to Majid Mohammad Fayez from Saudi Arabia. To support the task of media delegations in the festival, the Ministry of Media has set up a comprehensive, fully-equipped media center on the festival grounds.
The media center has state-of-the-art technology to make the job of media representatives easier while they cover festival activities.
The center also allows media delegations to carry out their press coverage using sophisticated modern equipment that help air events and performances taking place in the festival.
In addition to that, the media center provides a dedicated area for press conferences and for conducting interviews with the festival’s visitors.
This media center reflects the support the Media Ministry provides to national events.