On behalf of King Salman, Makkah Governor Prince Khaled Al-Faisal launched Souk Okaz — which is part of Taif Season — Tuesday night.
Prince Khaled was received at Souk Okaz by President of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) Ahmed Al-Khateeb and Taif Governor Saad Al-Maimouni. Ambassadors, diplomats and others from inside and outside Saudi Arabia also attended the event.
The launch ceremony started with the Saudi national anthem followed by a video presentation about the history of Souk Okaz, which — according to Taif Season spokesman Naif Al-Osaimi — opened in 501 CE. It was reopened 12 years ago and has since been an annual international culture festival.
The presentation was followed by an operetta — “Arab 501” — based on the Mu’allaqat, the seven poems from the pre-Islamic era traditionally believed to hang in the Kaaba at Makkah. “Arab 501” starred some of the best talent from around the Arab world, including Mohammed Abdu of Saudi Arabia, Kadim Al-Saher of Iraq, and the Lebanese singer Carole Samaha.
Prince Khaled then presented the Poet of Okaz award — and the attendant SR1 million ($266,640)cash prize — to Saudi poet Mohammed Ibrahim Yaqoub. Yemeni poet Abdullah Obaid was awarded SR500,000 for second place, while SR250,000 went to Saudi poet Azzam Al-Ghaithi for coming third.
Prince Khaled was briefed on recent developments at Souk Okaz, including the amphitheater on Okaz Boulevard, which can accommodate 5,000 spectators for its theatrical equestrian shows.
Prince Khaled pointed out that the Souk will see further development in the near future, adding that the Kingdom’s security, stability, culture and economy are a result of several factors, chief among which is, he said, the country’s adherence to Islam.
“Souk Okaz has added a lot to Taif Season, although every event has its own taste,” SCTH’s director general in the Makkah region, Mohammed Abdullah Al-Amri, told Arab News.
“Our main target is to bring Taif back to the frontline of Arab tourism,” said Al-Osaimi. “Today’s operetta may help put Taif again on top of Arab tourism as a meeting place and a resort for Arabs. We have 11 Arab countries participating in this edition of Souk Okaz and we are determined to introduce new events and activities at Souk Okaz to meet the needs our audience.”
Taif Season is one of 11 festivals aimed at transforming the Kingdom into an important global tourist destination. Dozens of events have been taking place this month in the southwestern city, which is famous for its heritage and beautiful landscapes.
Souq Okaz is one of the main attractions of the event. At the Souq, people can experience the culture of 11 different Arab nations by visiting pavilions showcasing the food, art and commerce of the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia. There is also, of course, a pavilion for the host nation.
The Souk will also play host to some of the region’s biggest music stars between August 23 and 30, including the UAE’s Ahlam and Hussein Al-Jassmi, Assala Nasri of Syria, and the Kingdom’s Abadi Al-Johar and Dalia Mubarak.
This is the third edition of Souq Okaz since King Salman gave SCTH the responsibility of organizing the event in coordination with executive bodies in Makkah region.