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Souk Okaz Festival: Inviting Tourists Into Cultural Extravaganza of Arabia

In pre-Islamic times, Arabs organized three major festivals to celebrate the commercial and social richness of the Arabian Peninsula. These included Majana, Dhi Majaz, and Souk Okaz, of which Souk Okaz dates back to 501 AD. Today, the Souk Okaz festival is an ideal blend of Arab heritage and modern culture. The contemporary version of the festival brings together arts and literature of different types. It also offers a common platform for leading poets, songwriters, researchers, scholars, and thinkers of Islam. Tourists can enjoy the latest work of writers, actors, artists, and other intellectuals from Saudi Arabia as well as other countries.

Souk Okaz festival is planned and organized by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) in partnership with different government bodies to ensure smooth execution. The festival is under the benefice of King Salman bin Abdulaziz, the custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. Further, It draws an average of two million-plus tourists annually.

Souk Okaz Festival

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The Souk Okaz Festival is a historical and artistic platform for Arabs and people around the world. At the festival, intellectuals and scholars from the literary and cultural milieu spread knowledge about its values through seminars and lectures. The festival also helps propagate the glory associated with Arab heritage through interactive poems known as Al Mo’alagat. Further, tourists get to enjoy camel racing, horse racing, military display, open theater performances, and more.

Location and how to reach

The Souk Okaz festival is organized in Taif, Makkah Province. The easiest way to reach the location is to hire a private taxi from Jeddah. The journey takes approximately two hours via Route 80 from Jeddah.

Souk Okaz Festival’s top attractions

The top attractions of the Souk Okaz festival include the arts and crafts exhibition and the poetry recital competitions. They reflect the distinctive culture and history of the country. Tourists can also visit the camel and horse racing events organized at the festival, along with the traditional art forms. Further, the market and military expo are also notable attractions of the festival.

1. Camel races and events

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Camel racing is a common sport in Saudi Arabia, but at the Souk Okaz, the sport finds vibrant colors. The camels in the festival are judged for the grace of their movement. The lengths of their necks and the shapes of their noses are also crucial aspects in determining their beauty. The most gorgeous camels with good runway etiquette can fetch prizes of up to a million Saudi riyals. The festival features thousands of camels participating in hundreds of different events and races, competing for a total prize of over 50 million Saudi Riyals.

2. Horse races and events

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Horse racing is a Souk Okaz event that evokes immense interest and following among Arabs and foreign visitors. The horses are judged on five key criteria: the head and neck, the back, the legs, and the grace of their movements. The breed of the horse is also considered in its rankings. Hundreds of horses participate in the contest, which takes place at the Souk Okaz racing track. The contest is managed and rated by the European Conference of Arab Horse Organizations. The events fill in enthusiasm in tourists while the horse races for glory on the tracks.

Location: The contest is organized by the King Abdul Aziz Arabian Horses Center (KAAHC) and held at the Souk Okaz racing track.

3. Souk Okaz marketplace

The historic market at the Souk Okaz extends to a whopping 41,000 square meters. The market has over 200 shops selling a host of items, including pottery, glassware, silverware, artwork to be put on walls, textiles, leather goods, and handicrafts. In addition, shoppers can find historical manuscripts of immense value and other historical literature. The market also houses many restaurants and cafes. The Souk Okaz market is an excellent place to shop for local goods and homemade items. Local products like honey and incense in the market remain in huge demand among tourists. Other famous items sold in the market are rosewater and different types of perfumes.

Top things to purchase: The products in huge demand in the Souk Okaz market, besides the locally-produced honey and incense, include spices and dates. In addition, Saudi rugs and camel milk products are also in demand in the market among locals and foreign visitors.

Performances at the open theater

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Open theater performance is one of the highlights of the Souk Okaz festival. The events attract a large audience every year. Theatrical and cultural performances are held in the main theater. Plays, poetry readings, and songs by the leading artists of the country and international stars are also among the highlights of the open theater performance at the Souk Okaz. There is a huge demand for reviving the musical concerts after the runaway success of the concert by Mohammad Abdo, a famous Arabic singer.

Top performances: There are theatrical performances held regularly during the festival. The top-rated performances include plays, songs, and poetry readings by the artists such as Prince Badr bin Abdulmohsen.

4. Art and Music Plaza

The Art and Music Plaza at Souk Okaz offers a unique and vibrant visual and audio experience. Teams from different countries register themselves to present their creative art and soulful music to the world through this platform. The art creations displayed at the Souk Okaz Festival include wood carvings, wood paintings, and pottery. They reflect the various phases of the civilization of the Kingdom. In addition, visitors can enjoy the expressive forms of art through painting, writing, and calligraphy.

5. Saudi Military Court

Tourists visiting Souk Okaz Festival remain highly enthusiastic about watching and touching modern-day weapons and military equipment. The Military Court features tanks, weapons, and equipment used in modern combat. Further, the tourists can also enjoy the various parades and events organized by the Saudi Military at the court to show the Military prowess of the Kingdom.

Top displays: Antique weapons, new-tech weaponry, and a military parade.

Things to remember

souk-okaz-festival-guidelines

  • Tourists should inquire beforehand about the events and various attractions of Souk Okaz for a better experience
  • Tourists may have to purchase tickets and passes for various events at the Souk Okaz Festival
  • Foreign tourists should keep the cultural sentiments of Saudi Arabia in mind while visiting the festival and be respectful to the Kingdom and its people
  • Tourists should not conduct public displays of affection and dress moderately while at the festival or in Saudi Arabia in general

Stay tuned

Instagram: @soukokaz

Souk Okaz is one of the biggest and most popular festivals in Saudi Arabia. It is a diverse representation of cultural and artistic activities from various Arab countries. The events at in the festival primarily showcase the cultural and social heritage of the country. It also provides a platform for many intellectuals and thinkers from Saudi Arabia and nearby regions. It attracts people from all over the country and internationally as well. The Souk Okaz festival reflects the Kingdom’s past, represents the present and aims to serve as a platform to showcase the future.

Suggest Read: 10 Tourist Places To Visit In Taif, The City Of Roses In Saudi Arabia

Souk Okaz Festival FAQs

What is the Souk Okaz Festival?

The authorities organize Souk Okaz Festival every year in Taif to celebrate the culture and heritage of Saudi Arabia.

What are the top racing events organized at Souk Okaz Festival?

Horse and camel racing are top racing events at Souk Okaz Festival.

Are there restaurants at Souk Okaz?

Yes, there are many cafes and restaurants at Souk Okaz.

Why is the Souk Okaz festival famous?

Souk Okaz festival is popular for notable poetry and art events along with other cultural displays.

What are the top attractions at Military Court in Souk Okaz Festival?

Tourists get to hold modern day weapons along with watching military parades at the Military Court at Souk Okaz.

Pratyush Srivastava

I think, every human is a beautifully concealed epoch in the making with God to unravel it at the perfect time. Hence, synergizing with distinctive individuals in search of an interesting story is my favorite work as a writer and creator.

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