TAIF: Souq Okaz is the cultural heartbeat of Taif, intertwined with Arab countries since the birth of Islamic culture. Several intellectuals say that this year’s Souq Okaz festival, now in its 13th edition, has been unique, and the best manifestation of the event so far.
Dr. Ayed Al-Zahrani, director of the Taif Civilization History Center, told Arab News: “Okaz has become a cultural and literary manifestation created by both history and geography.”
He highlighted that 70 events have been carefully designed for the event, meandering from philosophy to poetry.
Al-Zahrani added that Okaz this year is a leap for Arab culture, and that Arabs from across the world look forward to the event. He pointed out that Taif has always been a hub for thought, culture and literature.
He said: “Knowledge, culture and literature are an integral legacy, and the language of Okaz has become intertwined in an era when we are most in need of the strength of our language, literature and tradition. Okaz restored the ‘Wheel of Time’ to form an Arab mosaic that is brought together by the homogeneous Arabism.”
Dr. Ahmed Al-Hilali, president of the creative Farqad team of the Taif Literary Club, said that the Souq Okaz festival, like any cultural project, started with a small idea and then grew and developed with care, supervision and reconsideration until it reached its current state.
He told Arab News that the current stage of Souq Okaz is the stage of blending literary and cultural creativity and breaking constraints to reach broader horizons for all segments of society.
Al-Hilali added: “Whoever visits Okaz speaks of the vision of Prince Khalid Al-Faisal on authenticity and modernity. The poetry contest in Okaz has evolved from popular circles to international ones that include direct competition between poets. With this, Okaz attracts all segments of society. Our ambition has changed from hosting one Arab country to hosting ten at once, all of which participate in the arts, theater and cultural events.”
He highlighted that these improvements in Okaz did not happen overnight but were the result of the reflection and constructive criticism on what was offered every year. “Okaz is a home for successful, dynamic and flexible cultural projects that are capable of evolving, expanding and renewing.”
Dramatist Turkiya Al-Thubaiti said: “Souq Okaz is important for Arab heritage and played a vital role during a certain era. It is also well known that it is now more important after a number of decades have passed.
“Souq Okaz is a beating heart in our Saudi history; its role is to revive the past. For years it has improved,” she added.
Al-Thubaiti pointed out that opinions on how Souq Okaz should be in order to meet modern needs varied. “Souq Okaz this year has attracted the public’s attention as well as that of the elite,” she continued. “It has also become a gateway for promoting the cultures of several countries.
We truly hope that it expands to host more countries and that countries become responsible for their participation. This way, they will have a right to collect their revenues in a manner consistent with their expenses during their participation in the festival.”