World’s biggest camel festival helps make Saudi city top tourist destination

Around 12,000 camels from throughout Saudi Arabia and other Gulf and Arab countries are competing in 439 categories for prizes worth $11.2 million. (SPA)
Updated 01 September 2019

World’s biggest camel festival helps make Saudi city top tourist destination

  • The Taif region makes a big contribution to generating Kingdom’s economic growth

TAIF: The world’s biggest camel sports event has helped to turn a Saudi city into one of the Kingdom’s top tourist destinations.

Taif, which will continue to play host to the Crown Prince Camel Festival until Sept. 14, is helping to lead the country’s drive to develop domestic and international tourism.

Around 12,000 camels from throughout Saudi Arabia and other Gulf and Arab countries are competing in 439 categories for prizes worth SR42 million ($11.2 million).




Taif is home to the ancient Okaz market located at the crossroads of historical trade and Hajj routes. (SPA)

Camel markets in Taif governorate have witnessed a marked increase in prices for the animals in recent months, with many camel owners benefiting from participating in races to promote their stock and buy or sell camels and related products.

And the boom in business has had a knock-on effect on commercial activities elsewhere in Taif.




Taif is home to the ancient Okaz market located at the crossroads of historical trade and Hajj routes. (SPA)

Backed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the festival aims to celebrate and promote the cultural importance of camels, while its growing success also provides a major economic boost to the Kingdom.

Combined with the Taif Season of activities, the region has witnessed a huge increase in visitor numbers, stimulating the local and national economy.




Taif is home to the ancient Okaz market located at the crossroads of historical trade and Hajj routes. (SPA)

One of the reasons the General Sports Authority (GSA), represented by the Saudi Camel Racing Federation (SCRF), selected Taif to stage the camel festival was because it had one of the oldest camel fields in the Arab world.

But the area is also famous for its unique natural sites, moderate climate, adventure sports, culture and heritage.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Taif, which will continue to play host to the Crown Prince Camel Festival until Sept. 14, is helping to lead the country’s drive to develop domestic and international tourism.

• The festival aims to celebrate and promote the cultural importance of camels, while its growing success also provides a major economic boost to the Kingdom.

• Combined with the Taif Season of activities, the region has witnessed a huge increase in visitor numbers, stimulating the local and national economy.

More than 400 mountain peaks, extending from west to southeast Taif, dominate the landscape which, along with numerous historical sites, help make it the primary destination for Arabs during the summer.

Taif is home to the ancient Okaz market located at the crossroads of historical trade and Hajj routes, and the old camel road linking it to Makkah through Al-Hada mountains is also an attraction.

The SCRF has adopted the famous Taif rose as the symbol of the Crown Prince Camel Festival. One of the most important agricultural products in Taif, 470 million roses are grown every year on around 3,000 farms in the area. These are processed in 36 factories to produce traditional Arab perfumes, and the sector is predicting major growth over the coming years.

By drawing tourists from all over the world with its varied attractions and events, Taif has made a big contribution to driving tourism in the Kingdom and generating local economic growth.


Young Saudi’s opera singing journey leads him to Italy

Mohammed Al-Zahrani’s adventure started in school, where a classmate encouraged him to refine his talent. (Supplied)
Updated 17 min 24 sec ago

Young Saudi’s opera singing journey leads him to Italy

  • Performer wants to be as famous as Pavarotti

JEDDAH: Mohammed Al-Zahrani has faced down many challenges while pursuing his dream to be an opera singer and represent Saudi Arabia on the world stage, and his journey has led him to Italy, where he is living in Rome and learning the language.

“I have encountered many social and traditional barriers but I luckily managed to overcome those obstacles,” the 23-year-old performing artist told Arab News.
“The objection of my family, relatives and friends was a result of their unawareness about other cultures. They are very strict and conservative people who adhere to customs and traditions.” But their stance has softened since he landed in Europe. “At such a young age, I am living far away from my own country and family just to represent my country the best way I can.”
His adventure started in school, where a classmate heard him sing and encouraged him to refine his talent. It was then that he believed he could be an international opera singer. “That was a dream and I am now working on that dream.”
The Italians were friendly and welcoming, he said, and his cultural and religious background has never proved to be an issue. They were polite and nice, regarding him as an ambitious and talented person who shared their love of art.
“I want to help spread this beautiful art in Saudi Arabia and change our people’s perception about all kinds of Western arts. Also, I would like to open an opera house in my country and lend a hand to those willing to learn classical arts.”
Al-Zahrani has joined the Coro Polifonico Musica Creator choir. He said that the story began when he was waiting for a train in Rome and saw a man playing piano at the station.

I have encountered many social and traditional barriers but I luckily managed to overcome those obstacles.

Mohammed Al-Zahrani, Performer

“I noticed that the music he was playing was familiar. I approached him and began to sing. I was just trying to pass time until the train arrived. It turned out that one of the passengers was a member of the choir. She asked for my phone number and arranged a meeting with the director of the choir.”
The director listened to Al-Zahrani sing a few days later and expressed her interest in his voice.
“She immediately chose me as a solo singer in the choir and insisted I take part in an upcoming concert. I remember I was playing an assisting role to the famous singer Francesco Sartori.”
Al-Zahrani is a fan of famous opera singers and wants to become as great as they are one day, listing Pavarotti and Andrea Bocelli as his favorites.
But some Saudis have disagreed with Al-Zahrani’s decision to drop out of college — he spent one year at King Abdul Aziz University — saying he has put his future at risk.
“Wherever you go, there are always people with you and those who are against you. Personally, I will do what I am convinced with no matter what their opinions are,” he said.
Al-Zahrani performed at Riyadh Season and has been invited to perform in other Saudi festivals, including the coming Jeddah Season. “No matter what support I receive or individual successes I make, I will always be in need of my country’s encouragement
and support.”
Saudi Arabia’s first opera house is set to open in Jeddah, the General Entertainment Authority announced last February. It is scheduled for completion in 2022.