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Traditional neighborhood at Saudi Arabia’s Souq Okaz takes Arab culture back to the future

        • The Saudi Wildlife Authority has offered visitors the opportunity to be introduced to the Kingdom’s diverse wildlife and the resettlement of endangered species in reserves
        • The countries taking part in the souq’s Arab neighborhood are Oman, the UAE and Egypt

JEDDAH: The Arab neighborhood at the 12th edition of Souq Okaz features contributions from three guest nations of authentic examples of Arab culture and heritage.
The diverse events and activities include crafts, traditional industries and folk shows, all of which help highlight the importance of Arab culture and tradition, and encourage visitors to learn more.
Souq Okaz is a unique tourism destination in Taif, and is considered one of the most important in the Kingdom. It has become a go-to annual event for those wishing to discover Saudi Arabia’s roots.

The countries taking part in the souq’s Arab neighborhood are Oman, the UAE and Egypt.
This year’s edition, which will end on July 13, was opened under the patronage of King Salman, with Egypt the honorary guest.
Its supervisor, Nasser Al-Abdullah, said that it has three sections. The crafts section features five craftsmen from the three countries, including: Silverware, textile and candy craftsmen from Oman; sadu (a traditional form of Bedouin weaving), millstone and sewing from the UAE; and embroidery, silverware and copper carving from Egypt.
He said that shows from Egypt, the UAE and Oman are held every 30 minutes on the stage at the International Crafts and Folk Arts section in the Arab neighborhood.
The souq is also presenting three culturally significant plays on its stages. Director Khalil Kareem said they feature more than 250 actors and performers, 90 percent of whom are Saudis.

The first play is about the Mu’allaqat poets, including Al-Nabigha Al-Dhubyani, Imru’ Al-Qais, Zuhayr bin Abi Sulma, Al-A’sha, Labid bin Rabi’ah and Antarah bin Shaddad. The second tells the stories of important historic events in the region, and the third explores the history of Souq Okaz through stories set there.

In addition, there are exhibitions featuring input from eight private museums, including one that showcases the heritage and tools of Bedouins, including coffee equipment and incense burners.
There is also a live show about the hospitality and traditions of Hail.

Another exhibition includes old tools and equipment traditionally used in education, along with information about school nutrition, homework, school-seating etiquette and uniforms, as well as the wooden boards on which students wrote with coal rather than chalk.

A third exhibition is a treat for coffee lovers who can sample different varieties while learning about the history and development of the drink, along with information about growing the beans, the trade in them and the role the drink plays in traditions and customs.

There is another display featuring historical documents and photographs that were used to record important events in the Kingdom’s history, especially in newspapers, and an exhibition of traditional weapons from different eras, including rifles, swords, spears, daggers, knives, darts, a silver sword and ammunition.

Many tourists from around the world visit the souq, which has provided a unique historical and artistic forum gathering intellectuals and people interested in literature and culture.
The souq represents an important chapter in the history of the Arabs before Islam. It was more than a trade fair, serving as a cultural, social, economic and political gathering of Arabs.
The Saudi Wildlife Authority (SWA) has offered visitors the opportunity to be introduced to the Kingdom’s diverse wildlife and the resettlement of endangered species in reserves.

The Taif Industrial Secondary Institute is also participating in the festival with a pavilion displaying models designed and produced by the institute’s students.
The pavilion features a section dedicated to carpentry and welding, where visitors are introduced to furniture, windows, doors and bedrooms made from the finest wood.

One of the main attractions during the 12th edition of the event is the Sadu and traditional carpets pavilion. Visitors can see hand-embroidered clothes for children, face covers for women, as well as tassels for horses, and special items for weddings and religious events.
Mutlaq Al-Jahid, one of the organizers of the horse march and knights in Okaz Avenue, said the marches organized by a number of knights who represent all Arabian tribes strongly confirm the harmony between all tribes.

Raja Al-Otaibi, organizer of the cultural activities and events at Souq Okaz, said:

“We have worked this year on utilizing modern technology and using interactive systems such as light, sound and décor, and all the requirements that concern the seminars and lectures of the Souq Okaz festival.”

He added: “Souq Okaz’s activities are more special in content and organization this year.” He expected a large audience for Souq Okaz this year; it has become a big Saudi event everyone should be proud of.
Each year, the souq hands out 12 pan-Arab awards, including for poetry, handicrafts, creativity, photography, folkloric art, theatrics and creativity, fine arts and entrepreneurship. The value of the prizes totals SR2.2 million ($586,510) annually.

Source: Arab News


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