Saudi Arabia's Souq Okaz festival deemed a 'cultural incubator'

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Improvements in Souq Okaz festival did not happen overnight but were the result of the reflection and constructive criticism of what was offered every year. (AN photos by Ziyad Alarfaj)
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Updated 21 August 2019
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Saudi Arabia's Souq Okaz festival deemed a 'cultural incubator'

  • Taif has always been a hub for thought, culture and literature, says Dr. Ayed Al-Zahrani

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.”

FASTFACT

The poetry contest in Okaz has evolved from popular circles to international ones that include direct competition between poets.

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.”


Dr. Iman bint Habas Al-Mutairi, new CEO of Saudi National Competitiveness Center

Updated 49 min 20 sec ago

Dr. Iman bint Habas Al-Mutairi, new CEO of Saudi National Competitiveness Center

Dr. Iman bint Habas Al-Mutairi is the newly appointed CEO of the National Competitiveness Center (NCC).

Al-Mutairi received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from King Faisal University in 1992. In 1997, she obtained a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Bristol, UK.

She began her career as a lecturer in the chemistry department of King Faisal University, from 1993 to 1994, before lecturing at the University of Bristol for three years.

In 1998, she became an assistant professor of human genetics at Harvard University, and two years later she joined Perkin Elmer as a scientific research consultant in biological sciences in the US until 2002.

A year later, she joined Hospital Aramco as a preventive medicine consultant. She then headed the department of public medical relations, and served as an acting director of the department of medical technical support services, and the head of quality and patient safety from 2007 to 2010.

With Saudi Aramco, she headed the manpower planning and analysis department for a year, before she became the project manager of the Aramco Accelerated Strategic Transformation Program from 2011 to 2012.

Al-Mutairi ran her company, Heemah for Business Services between 2014 and 2017.

She also helped with the establishment of the National Competitiveness Center, and coordinated the partnership between Johns Hopkins Hospital and Aramco Healthcare.

In 2017, Al-Mutairi served as an adviser to the minister of commerce and investment.