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

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.”


Arab coalition: Iran provided weapons used to attack Saudi Aramco sites

Updated 5 min 22 sec ago

Arab coalition: Iran provided weapons used to attack Saudi Aramco sites

  • US official says all options, including a military response, are on the table
  • Washington blames Iran for the attack on an oil processing plant and an oil field

RIYADH: Iran provided the weapons used to strike two Saudi Aramco facilities in the Kingdom, the Arab coalition fighting in Yemen said Tuesday.

“The investigation is continuing and all indications are that weapons used in both attacks came from Iran,” coalition spokesman Turki Al-Maliki told reporters in Riyadh, adding they were now probing “from where they were fired.”

The coalition supports the Yemen government in the war against the Iran-backed Houthi militants, which claimed they had carried out the attack on Saturday.

US officials have said Iran was behind the attack on an oil processing plant and an oil field, and that the raid did not come from Yemen, but from the other direction.

“This strike didn't come from Yemen territory as the Houthi militia are pretending,” Maliki said, adding that an investigation was ongoing into the attacks and their origins.

The Houthis have carried out scores of attacks against Saudi Arabia using drones and ballistic missiles.

Al-Maliki labelled the Houthis “a tool in the hands of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the terrorist regime of Iran.”

The attacks against Abqaiq, the world's largest oil processing facility, and the Khurais oil field in eastern Saudi Arabia knocked out nearly half of Saudi Arabia’s oil production.

Oil prices rocketed on Monday after the strikes.

Iran has denied involvement, something Trump questioned Sunday in a tweet saying “we'll see?”

On Sunday, the US president raised the possibility of military retaliation after the strikes, saying Washington was “locked and loaded” to respond.

The US has offered a firm response in support of its ally, and is considering increasing its intelligence sharing with Saudi Arabia as a result of the attack, Reuters reported.

A US official told AP that all options, including a military response, were on the table, but added that no decisions had been made.

The US government late Monday produced satellite photos showing what officials said were at least 19 points of impact at the oil processing plant at Abqaiq and the Khurais oil field. Officials said the photos show impacts consistent with the attack coming from the direction of Iran or Iraq, rather than from Yemen to the south.

Iraq said the attacks were not launched from its territory and on Sunday Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had told him that Washington possesses information that backs up the Iraqi government’s denial.

Condemnation of the attacks continued from both within Saudi Arabia and from around the world.

Saudi Arabia’s Shura Council called Tuesday for concerted efforts to hold those behind the attacks accountable.

Meanwhile, the UN’s special envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths said the attack on Abqaiq had consequences well beyond the region and risked dragging Yemen into a “regional conflagration.”