Saudi Arabia’s historic Souk Okaz comes alive

Manama: A campaign to publicise and boost Saudi Arabia’s tourism sector will be launched at Souk Okaz festival today in the city of Taif.

The campaign, by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH), includes 17 days of arts and craft exhibits and literary readings.

The event is expected to draw in more than two million touritsts.

“Souk Okaz is a significant national event, where we showcase the historical significance of this country,” SCTH Chairman Prince Sultan Bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz said.

“This event is one of the important moments in this country’s history as well as the history of Islam, and one of the vital aspects that has attracted economic prosperity to the region.”

The programme for this year includes presentations of stories from the lives of ancient Arabia’s legendary poets such as Tarafa Bin Al Abd, Amr Bin Kalthoum, Al Aasha, Qais Bin Sa’eda, and Zuhair Bin Abi Salma.

Souk Okaz will also host 15 competitions for poets and writers with the aim of nurturing literary creativity and talent

Among the competitions are the Okaz International Poetry Award for Standard Arabic language poetry (Okaz Poet), Okaz International Handicraft Award, Okaz Creativity Award, Okaz Photography Award, Young Okaz Poet Award, Okaz Folklore Art Award, Okaz Children Folk Art Award, Okaz Theatrics and Creativity Award, Okaz Fine Arts Award, and Okaz Entrepreneurship Award.

Last year, Souk Okaz introduced a programme called Narrator’s Tent which featured six narrators from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and four from Saudi Arabia recounting important historical events around the Arabian Peninsula. The Tent attracted more than 500,000 visitors.

According to the Centre for International Communication (CIC), SCTH’s research into the history of Souk Okaz triggered valuable archaeological discoveries that indicated that the souk had been an event as far back as the Stone Age and that it was an important forum in the history of Arabs before the advent of Islam.

Rich history of Souk Okaz

Souk Okaz has historically been a meeting place discussion, storytelling and trade dating as far back as the Stone Age.

In ancient times, it was more than a cultural and trade fair, serving as a point of social and political gatherings for the people of the region.

The ancient souk was also a cultural platform where shaikhs met their tribes, initiated agreements and exchanged prisoners. It provided opportunities for reconciliation, declaration of alliances and ending of hostilities.

It was also known for horse racing and fencing and was a large commercial market visited by traders coming from Syria and Yemen, among other countries, and a forum where titles were given to poets and tribes.

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