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).
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.
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.
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.
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.