Preparations for Souq Okaz almost finished as opening day approaches

Preparations for Souq Okaz almost finished as opening day approaches. (SPA)
Updated 14 June 2018

Preparations for Souq Okaz almost finished as opening day approaches

JEDDAH/RIYADH: The intensive preparations for the 12th edition of Souq Okaz are almost over and the finishing touches are being put to the event, which takes place in Taif from June 27 to July 13 under the patronage of King Salman.
The site has been a hive of activity as workers build and prepare the Souq’s attractions, including a theater, Souq Okaz Avenue, Culture Avenue, venues for shows and events, and areas for support services.
The souq is organized by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) in cooperation with a number of governmental bodies in Taif, including the municipality, secretariat, the transport, health and civil defense ministries, and many others dealing with the Souq’s services and infrastructure.
There are more than 30 facilities equipped to host the shows and events, in addition to the Prince Khaled Al-Faisal Theater, the open stadium for popular art, auctions and souvenir shops. The souq will also feature shops for craftsmen, restaurants, a media center and a mini horse-racing track. The organizing committee has decorated the site with flags and a lighting in keeping with its nature.
Okaz Avenue for Culture, organized by SCTH, is one of the souq’s most important features, which this year will host more than 150 attractions, including heritage and cultural events, theater performances, and arts and crafts.
New events this year include presentations of stories from the life of poets such as Amr bin Kalthoum, Antra bin Shaddad, Zuhair bin Abi Salma, Emreo Al-Qais, Tarafa bin Al-Abd, Al-Asha and Qais Saeda, along with many other shows.
There will also be Arabian camel and horse convoys, an equestrian school for children, camel races, interactive children’s events, poetry and historical photography displays, craftsmen, cultural tents and much more.
Bari to promote local art and craft
The National Handicraft Development Program “Bari,” a flagship program of the SCTH to promote handicrafts in the Kingdom by supporting local artisans, will organize a crafts competition during the festival.
“The Saudi Crafts Program will participate in the activities of the 12th Souq Okaz with a number of male and female craftsmen,” Majed Alshadeed, a spokesman at the SCTH, told Arab News.
The program will oversee the crafts competition with the participation of 24 craftsmen competing for prizes of up to SR300,000 ($80,000), he said.
He said that the Saudi Crafts Program will be involved in the activities of the Souq Okaz market, with 116 tents and 70 craftsmen from throughout the Kingdom, in fields including weaving, handmade carpets, crochet, embroidery, traditional costumes, manufacture, carving and carpentering of wooden products, as well as handmade palm products, painting, sculpture or manual decoration on any natural material — and other craft products of an innovative nature.
The tent will feature the participation of National Handicraft Development Program partners including Herfah Organization, Princess Noura Social Center, Fatat — Al-Ihsa Charity Association, Art of Heritage Company, Sleysla Center, Herafia Society, Agaa Training Society, the Taiba Association, the Atta Al Khair Center, and the Creativity Handicrafts Centers — as well as the contribution of 15 male and female craftsmen, master craftsmen and a tent for a fashion show.
The National Handicrafts Program recently signed an agreement with Prince Charles of Britain’s Turquoise Mountain Foundation to expand handicraft production as well as improve artisans’ ability to manage local products.
Bari is working on the design of a feasibility study for a Saudi Academy for Crafts that will integrate Saudi heritage designs with technical training.
The main objectives of the program are to build a skilled professional group that can produce products at local and global economic level, expand product diversity and quality as well as economic and tourism diversification of a sustainable economic industry, in addition to the expansion of operating craft creativity centers in the Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia lifts ban on women driving

Updated 24 June 2018

Saudi Arabia lifts ban on women driving

  • They start their engines and hit the roads throughout the Kingdom
  • End of driving ban is crowning achievement so far of Saudi Vision 2030

Women throughout Saudi Arabia waited for the stroke of midnight, turned the keys in the ignition, fired up their engines — and hit the road to a bright new future.

It was the moment they had waited for since King Salman issued the royal decree on September 26, 2017, to lift the driving ban on women. 

Just after midnight on Saturday and in the first minutes of Sunday, Samah Algosaibi grabbed the keys to her family’s 1959 Corvette C1 and drove out of the driveway of her beach house in Khobar.
“We are witnessing history in the making as we look toward the dawn of a promising future,” said Algosaibi, the first female board member of Ahmad Hamad Algosaibi & Bros.

“As a businesswoman in Saudi Arabia, I am grateful for the women’s empowerment movement taking place. Today, I am honored to be sitting behind the wheel of change.”

Another woman to hit the road after midnight was Lina Almaeena, a member of the Saudi Shoura Council. “It feels very liberating,” she said about driving her mother’s Lexus.
Almaeena, also the co-founder and director of Jeddah United Sports Co, had exchanged her UAE license for a Saudi one. 

“I am thrilled!” Sarah Alwassia, 35, a nutritionist in Jeddah, told Arab News. “I learnt how to drive 18 years ago in the States where I got my driving license. I can’t believe that the day to drive in my own home town has come.”

Alwassia obtained her first American license when she was 18 years old in 2000, and had it exchanged for a Saudi license on June 6 in Jeddah. She explained that she is a mother, and this change provided comfort for her and her family. It also comes with various benefits, such as taking quick action in emergencies, and economic benefits such as saving money instead of paying for a driver when she needs to run errands. 

“I will be driving my kids to school and picking them up in comfort and privacy,” she said.

Women in the Kingdom commented on how this event is changing the course of their lives. “Independence is a huge thing for me,” Alwassia said. “Driving is one small part of it. I am very optimistic of the change that our loving country has made.”  

Alwassia applauds the efforts the country has made to support women. “I am confident that driving in the beginning will be pleasant, since our country has made all of the effort to support women and to protect them.
“I think our society was looking forward for this change, and I am sure the majority will adapt fast.

“I feel safe, our country did everything to make this transition pleasant and safe for every woman behind the wheel. I am really thankful to witness this historic moment and I am so happy for all the women in Saudi Arabia, especially my daughters.”
Sahar Nasief, 64, a retired lecturer from the European languages and Literature Department at King Abdulaziz University, said: “Nothing could describe my feelings. I can't wait to get on the road.”
Nasief received a very special gift from Ford for this occasion.

“They gave me a 2018 Expedition to drive for three days, a Mustang California Special,” she told Arab News.

Nasief obtained her Saudi license on June 7. She also holds a British license and two American licenses. “Now, I have my national license too,” she said. 

She also said the lifting of the ban provided a sense of relief. “I feel that I can practice one of my rights, and I don't have to live at the mercy of my driver any more.”
Society has been demanding such a change for years, “as it will take the physical and economic burden off most men.”
Pointing to the anti-harassment law, Nasief said: “I feel very confident especially after announcing the strict harassment law.”
Joumana Mattar, 36, a Jordanian interior designer, exchanged her Jordanian driver’s license and obtained a Saudi one on June 11. 

“I had my Jordanian license since I was 18 years old, and the moment I heard about the opening of exchanging foreign licenses, I immediately booked an appointment,” she said.
Mattar said she looks forward to the change in so many ways. “I'm finally in control of my time, schedule and privacy.” 

Mattar said she is both confident and anxious about the event. “I'm anxious only for feeling that I'm part of a huge first step for women driving in the Kingdom, but I'm confident also because of the support that I'm getting from my husband and family.
“Every first step is the hardest. Society is facing a huge change, but I'm positive because this change is done and supported by the government and Vision 2030.”

Mattar said she feels secure now. “I'm in control of any case I'm facing.”

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