The 12th edition of the Souk Okaz Festival is finally wrapping up. This year, the event took place front and center, focusing on the history and traditions of the region, and was an opportunity to broaden the public’s horizons and to reinforce the links between other Arab countries.
The Souk Okaz Festival is a major event in Saudi Arabia, as well as in the region. Becoming more and more open to Arabic culture and history, the festival allowed visitors to re-live important events in the region, across a variety of exhibitions, as well as literary, cultural, and artisan competitions.
A modernized cultural offering, more open to the Arab world
The festival began their 12th edition on June 27th. This year, poets, writers, artists, calligraphers, and even photographers came from all over the Arab world. They were invited to participate in the 15 competitions, trying to win one of the numerous prizes which recognized the creativity of these young talents, in a variety of subjects, such as arts, human and social sciences, innovation, and artisanship. Thus, prizes such as Arabic poetry and even calligraphy have been awarded to Egyptians, Jordanians, and even Yemenis.
A festival to make history and Arab traditions come alive
It’s through the prism of literature and history, notably, that this festival has decided to re-live the history of the country and the region, as well as Islam. The legendary poets of old Arabia, such as Tarafa Bin Al Abd, Amr Bin Kalthoum, Al Aasha, Qais Bin Sa’eda, and Zuhair Bin Abi Salma were honored this year with diverse recitals and shows, showcasing their lives.
This festival is a revival of an ancestral annual fair which had always taken place in the same spot, in the village of Taif. Recent archaeological discoveries have revealed that the oldest remains of the fair date back to the Stone Age. Thus, in the past the fair was, to a great extent, at once commercial, political, and social, where tribes and chiefs came from all across the region to meet, exchange, and take decisions.
A major touristic and diplomatic event for the Kingdom
While giving a feeling of pan-arabism at the event, Saudi Arabia is looking to make it a major touristic attraction as well. It is estimated that two million visitors came during the festival’s 17-day run. While organizing such an event, the Kingdom appeared to be a major actor in the transmission of regional heritage, and to support the development of contemporary Arabic culture.
It seemed equally to be an actor in the reinforcement of links between the Arab states. Many official representatives came to the place of festivities, such as the Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates and the Egyptian Minister of Culture, in which the country was also the guest of honor at this year’s festival.