Known for its scenic mountain view and cold climate, a city located over in the mountain of Al-Hada lies the city of Taif. At approximately 5,600 feet above sea level, the elevated location of this place makes it having a colder climate. No wonder, it is tagged as “the summer capital destination in Saudi Arabia.”
On the other hand, Taif is not just popular for its spectacular mountain view and a greener landscape. Annually, the famous Souk Okaz festival is celebrated in this city where the ancient original geographic location was located. It is like a magnet that attracts thousands of visitors from all over the world every year.
Souk Okaz Brief Historical Background:
The Souk Okaz Festival is the revival of the antediluvian Arabian fete way back to Pre-Islamic times. Historically, Okaz dates back 3-4 centuries B.C. Over a long decade, it was stopped due to several reasons. The festival was revived and celebrated once again way back last 2006. For this year 2017, it is the 11th year of celebrating the festival with a theme “Renewable Creativity.”
In addition, it is considered as one of the most important tourism tributaries in the Kingdom. It is a social and tribal seasonal event that is recreated and held in the same place of the ancient historic location. In the said gathering, it has served several purposes like political, social and commercial.
Interestingly, as part of the gathering, different Arab tribes would compete for the best poet. It was done in a way that the Arab poet will exalt and praise its own tribe while deprecating the other tribes. Also, different Arab trade caravan and Merchandisers would bring their different commodities to sell or bargain at the market. It was their own version of dealing and doing business way back during ancient times.
For more detailed information about the Souk Okaz Festival:
Visit: http://sooqokaz.com/(It’s in Arabic, but my google translates setting automatically and manage to translate it to English.)
Gps coordinate: Somewhere in 21.473667, 40.646177
How to get there?
Generally, Souq Okaz is located about 40 km north from Taif City center on the right side of Taif-Riyadh Road.
-If you don’t have a car and really want to visit Souk Okaz. This is my suggestion:
From any major cities in the Kingdom with Saptco bus station, You book a trip via Saptco Bus. It’s an alternative and cheaper way but it will take you a long time of travel. It will stop at Taif Saptco Bus Station in Taif city. After that, find a way to reach Souq Okaz Location by looking for some Taxi or negotiate some vehicle to take you to the location. It is approximately 40 km north of Taif City center on the right side of Taif-Riyadh Road.
(Anyone with better and easier alternatives and suggestions, kindly comment and share the info. )
What to expect in the event?
Last 2016, I was able to attend the festival. Souk Okaz Festival is a free event and no entrance fee is collected. So, expect a numerous number of the crowds.
Furthermore, several shops displaying and selling different products varying from Bedouin handicrafts, various perfume products, souvenir items, collectible and antique items and a lot of more. So it is the perfect venue for buying something unique Arabian products on a fair price.
( I bought a Bedouin handicraft rock sculpture of Frankincense burner for 60 Sar. It’s kinda expensive tho I did a lot of bargaining for this one but it’s worth it. hehe)
During the caravan parade, expect a mob of a crowd wearing attractively colorful and sophisticated traditional costumes. Some of them were riding a horse and camel which adds to a traditional and ancient ambiance of the event.
For me, my favorite part of the event was the re-enactment about Souk Okaz. Although I didn’t fully understand the narration of the play due to the language.The historical play was very entertaining, the beats and rhythms were super intense and lively, superb rendition performances by the actors.
(It was my first time to see an Arab’s cultural play. So, I really enjoyed every part of it. Here is a short video of the play.)
Usual expected activities and programs on yearly Souk Okaz Festival :
(as listed in www.sooqokaz.com):
- Opening Ceremony,
- Forums, seminars and poetry recitals
- Historical plays about Souk Okaz
- Horse parade and Camel caravans
- Shops selling local and imported handicrafts
- Sword fighting performances
One of the main highlights of the event is the different category of competitions. Among of them are : 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.
And mind you, the total amount of prizes for all competitions reach more or less 2 million Saudi riyals every year!!!!!! (Wow!!!How I wish I can join.)
In addition to visiting Taif, when we visited the festival, we learned that there was another event that was happening not too far from Souq Okaz event location. It was a Camel race which is one of its kind. I’m not so sure on the frequency of the race event but it is something really worth to see!!!
So better check that one also.
Souk Okaz Festival is simply an entertainingly educational cultural event. It is a glimpse of the Arabs Heritage and cultural background way back in the ancient times. Interestingly how a historic event was expressed with some mix and application of modern technologies.to Also, It’s a perfect opportunity take advantage to explore the city of Taif. From its scenic mountain view in Al-Hada, alluring wind-carved rocks, green landscape, a colder climate, mountain baboons and wide options of local products. Truly, Souk Okaz Festival & Taif is a must on anyone’s list whenever exploring the Wanderfull country of Saudi Arabia.
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