Taif Season to transform Saudi Arabia into major global tourist hub

Time: August 18, 2019  

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  • Taif Season aims to highlight Saudi Arabia as an international tourist destination, Taif’s historical status, its cultural and artistic diversity, and its moderate climate
  • Souq Okaz offers opportunity to experience the rich culture of 11 Arab countries

TAIF: Taif Season is one of 11 festivals aimed at transforming the Kingdom into an important global tourist destination. Dozens of events have been taking place this month in the southwestern city, which is famous for its heritage and beautiful landscapes.
But visitors have less than two weeks to enjoy this particular cultural celebration, which includes a camel festival, a vibrant souq, a rose village, a circus show, and a poetry competition with prizes of up to SR1 million ($266,667).
One of the highlights of Taif Season is Souq Okaz, where people can experience the culture of 11 different Arab nations by visiting pavilions showcasing the food, art and goods from the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and Tunisia. There is also, of course, a pavilion for the host nation.
More than 2,000 actors, dressed in traditional clothes, greet people in Arabic and create stories based on their exchanges with visitors.
Performers also recreate scenes from the past that help visitors to know more about Taif’s life in a different, pre-Islamic era.
The souq also plays host to some of the region’s biggest musical stars such as the UAE’s Ahlam and Hussein El Jasmi, and Syria’s Assala.
There are also performances from Saudi Arabia’s Abadi Al-Johar and Dalia Mubarak. These concerts will take place between Aug. 23 and Aug. 30.
Okaz Avenue conjures up the past through artistic events featuring the work of famous Arab poets and intellectuals such as Annabigha Al-Dhubyani, Imru Al-Qais, Amr bin Kalthoum, Tarafa bin Al-Abd and Antara bin Shaddad. There are duels with swords and spears, horse and camel convoys, and re-enactments of ancient auctions.
Historians believe that Souq Okaz may date back more than 1,500 years. It was popular with a diverse audience, with Arabs flocking there for all kinds of reasons. It attracted tribes and poets. It was a place for everything from deal-making to war reconciliation sessions. Valuable items from overseas were exhibited there, transported by convoys from Damascus and Yemen. This hubbub has disappeared over the years, but the souq’s former vibrancy is being brought back to life, with its latest reincarnation in the form of Taif Season.
Elsewhere in the city, Ruddaf Park highlights the history of the rose perfume industry that Taif has long been known for.
Taif sits in the Sarawat Mountains and is one of the few places in the Kingdom where people can enjoy pleasant temperatures throughout the year. It has the perfect conditions for growing the Taif Rose. This perfume has a special role in the ceremonial washing of the Holy Kaaba covering, known as the kiswat.
Taif is also known for its agricultural products and visitors to the city’s fruit market can enjoy the taste of locally grown grapes, pomegranates and figs.
Thrill-seekers can take part in more vigorous events such as free jumping, parachuting and mountain jogging, while also getting unique views of the city’s landmarks.
Families can head to the camel festival, where there are acrobats, clowns and educational activities.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The festival includes a camel festival, a vibrant souq, a rose village, a circus show, and a poetry competition with prizes of up to $266,667.

• The souq attracted tribes and poets. It was a place for everything from deal-making to war reconciliation sessions.

There are events in the city’s main malls as well as tours to Taif’s historical landmarks and mosques.
Most attractions run between 5 p.m. and 11 p.m, although some finish later.
Taif Season aims to highlight Saudi Arabia as an international tourist destination, Taif’s historical status, its cultural and artistic diversity, and its moderate climate.
It also seeks to contribute to achieving goals within the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan, which aims to improve the quality of life, raise living standards, and create career and investment opportunities in Saudi Arabia.
Ahmed Al-Khateeb, president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, said last month that the season depended on positive engagement with Taif’s residents, and was providing seasonal job opportunities for young men and women, as well as investment opportunities for regional entrepreneurs and small and medium enterprises.
“We’ll celebrate a successful season,” the Saudi Press Agency reported him as saying, as he urged the private sector to contribute to enriching future ones.
Taif Season has its own social media account — https://twitter.com/taifseason?lang=en and information can also be found on the Saudi Seasons website here https://www.saudiseasons.sa/en. Taif Season runs until Aug. 31.

This article was first published in Arab News

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General Entertainment Authority launches website ahead of Riyadh Season

Time: August 18, 2019  

  • Saudi Arabia is organizing 11 festivals, or seasons, to boost domestic and international tourism in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: The General Entertainment Authority (GEA) on Saturday launched a website dedicated to receiving applications from companies and individuals wishing to participate in Riyadh Season, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
The website aims to give everyone a chance to take part in the season, which runs from Oct. 15 until Dec. 15 this year.
The authority also said that organizers of recreational events, volunteers, sponsors, photo enthusiasts, caterers and young talent were among those would could apply.
Application forms are available online and a confirmation email will be sent once forms have been received. A committee will evaluate and validate applications.
The GEA said people had until the end of August to submit their applications, and that they would be notified about their status no later than mid-September. It said only applications submitted through the website would be considered.
The Kingdom is organizing 11 festivals, or seasons, to boost domestic and international tourism in Saudi Arabia.
The seasons are also in line with the goals of the Vision 2030 reform plan.

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ThePlace: King Fahd’s Fountain in Jeddah, the tallest in the world

Time: August 17, 2019  

The photo was taken by Qasim Al-Harby as part of the Colors of Saudi competition.
  • King Fahd’s Fountain is the tallest in the world

At 312 meters high, King Fahd’s Fountain is the tallest in the world, according to Guinness World Records. It ejects an 18-ton plume of water into the
air from its location off Al-Hamra Corniche and is visible from all over Jeddah.

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KAEC launches summer residential offering

10/08/19

In line with the strategy to enhance the quality of life on its beaches, King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) has announced the launch of its summer residential offering under the slogan “Own a Turquoise View and Get a Car Free.”

The offer is valid until Aug. 31. The live-by-the-sea campaign, launched for the first time ever, offers a free car upon purchasing a residential unit, with flexible payment plan over the course of five years with zero interest, and only 20 percent down payment.

“The residential communities in KAEC offer a collection of lifestyle elements and amenities which is unprecedented for any developer in Saudi Arabia, especially for those seeking entertainment, relaxation and rejuvenation with a direct view of the Red Sea and within a progressive, private and safe environment supported by technologically advanced infrastructure and world-class amenities,” said Charles Biele, CEO of KAEC’S Real Estate Development Company.

The campaign offers families and investors a wide range of housing solutions, making homeownership possible for all Saudi citizens, as well as an enriching lifestyle in KAEC and helping realize Saudi Vision 2030.

Residents enjoy a variety of exclusive and luxurious lifestyle experiences and benefit from KAEC’s numerous facilities, which include waterfront dining options, retail outlets, health care, security, mosques, the highest quality schools, world-class universities and a number of luxury sporting and recreational facilities.

The KAEC is the largest privately funded new city in the world. Situated on the west coast of the Kingdom, KAEC covers an area, approximately the size of Washington, DC. KAEC comprises King Abdullah Port, the Coastal Communities residential districts, the Haramain Railway district and the Industrial Valley. The city is under development by Emaar, The Economic City.

This article was first published in Arab News

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ThePlace: Al-Hada and Al-Shafa, two must-see Saudi summer resorts

10/08/19

Photo/Colors of Saudi

Al-Hada and Al-Shafa These two beautiful summer resorts both lie close to Taif, and are linked to neighboring cities through scenic mountain routes. Both are popular tourist destinations in the Kingdom, and provide visitors with a wealth of entertainment — including theme parks — and the natural beauty of the agricultural region of Al-Hada. Both resorts boast a number of high-quality hotels and many parks and gardens.

This article was first published in Arab News

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ThePlace: The Haddaj well of Tayma in Saudi Arabia

Time: August 03, 2019  

Haddaj well Built in about 1000 BCE by the Babylonian King Nabonidus, the Haddaj well of Tayma is one of the most important wells in the Kingdom. The spring-fed well is 12 meters deep, and its stone mouth 13 meters in diameter.
This photo was taken by Salim Areby as part of the Colors of Saudi competition.

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AlUla: A wonder of Arabia

Time: July 30, 2019  

The AlUla: Wonder of Arabia exhibition introduces visitors to this dual natural and human heritage. (Supplied/Royal Commission for Al-Ula)
  • The exhibition is a tribute to the most important archaeological work carried out over the past 20 years
  • The exhibition recreates an AlUla garden in which visitors can stroll around and soak up local essences

ALULA: The region of AlUla is an exquisite sight, from the deep green of the oasis and the ochre of the sand, to the red of the sandstone canyons and the black tones of the volcanic rocks. This enchanting setting is home to one of the most fertile valleys in the Arabian Peninsula.
In AlUla, numerous societies and civilizations have followed one another: Neolithic, Nabataean, Roman, Umayyad, Abbasid and Ottoman, among others. Their remains have been exceptionally preserved.
The AlUla: Wonder of Arabia exhibition introduces visitors to this dual natural and human heritage.
It includes rare archaeological objects and artefacts, as well as digital, sound and sensory devices, all supported by exclusive videos by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, an environmentalist, activist, journalist and photographer.
The exhibition is a tribute to the most important archaeological work carried out over the past 20 years, led by its two curators: French archaeologist and epigraphist Laila Nehme, and Saudi archaeologist Abdulrahman Al-Suhaibani.
Their research has brought to light exceptional remains, some of which will be exhibited for the first time.
Arthus-Bertrand’s monumental images project visitors into the majesty of AlUla’s reliefs and colors.
There is a Nabataean funeral ceremony in a replica of one of Hegra’s famous tombs. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is comparable in scale and importance to Petra in Jordan.
Monumental statues and numerous archaeological objects punctuate the exhibition and illustrate the richness of AlUla’s past.
An inscription dated 280 AD, a real missing link between the Nabataean and Arabic alphabets, is on display for the first time, demonstrating how AlUla offers a unique testimony to the birth of the Arabic language.
The exhibition ends with a guided tour of the old town of AlUla, which was inhabited for 800 years by indigenous communities and by pilgrims journeying to Makkah.
AlUla remains a vibrant place. Visitors to the exhibition will learn about the daily life of people who have occupied the valley over the centuries and up to the present day, via activities, archaeological specimens, plants, traditional tools, photographs and contemporary testimonies.
The exhibition recreates an AlUla garden in which visitors can stroll around and soak up local essences — such as moringa, date and fig — through olfactory installations.
“We are delighted that the first international exhibition dedicated to the inhabitants, heritage and history of AlUla is being launched at the Arab World Institute,” said Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan Al-Saud, governor of the Royal Commission for AlUla.
“A true crossroads between three continents and the former gateway from Arabia to the Mediterranean, AlUla is home to some of Saudi Arabia’s most important cultural and historical sites,” he added.
“This exhibition expands the global understanding of Nabataean, Dadanite and ancient Islamic civilizations, and supports our mission to conserve the important heritage of AlUla for future generations.”
Jack Lang, president of the Arab World Institute, said it is “delighted to introduce civilizations that have flourished in the amazing lunar landscape of AlUla — a landscape composed of mountains, hills and rivers, adorned with colors that change from morning to evening, where calm, silence, tranquility and mystery are intertwined.”
He added: “The exhibition we are preparing must be grandiose, in line with AlUla’s greatness. It will give you the opportunity to dream, and will invite you to participate in a journey between heaven and earth in an exceptional place.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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The Flower Men of Saudi Arabia — a beacon of history and culture

27/07/19

 

From mountainous and beautiful Asir come the Flower Men — a people descended from ancient tribes whose traditions date back for centuries. They reside in Rijal Almaa, an ancient village in Saudi Arabia’s southwestern region, and are an integral feature of this cultural hotspot, which will now become the focus of its own cultural festival.
The Flower Men use tourism, and the culture of their region, to their advantage — tours and ceremony demonstrations are the bedrock for multiple businesses.
Their name comes from their unique colorful floral headpieces. Some wear them in celebration, particularly on public or religious holidays, or for festivals and at other special occasions, while some do so for medicinal purposes, choosing herbs and greens to stave off headaches and sinusitis.
They are an essential part of Saudi Arabia’s rich and diverse cultural history. This is why the Ministry of Culture is organizing a festival centering on them and their region.
It will start on August 12 as part of Al-Souda Season, and will provide visitors with a vivid experience of the history of the Flower Men through live folk performances, art and poetry nights, and a heritage market.
As we continuously promote the unique cultures across our beautiful land, an opportunity arises for anyone and everyone to explore, engage, learn from one another, and be inspired from every region in the Kingdom and across the globe.
The festival also presents great opportunities for the Kingdom. Festivals like the Flower Men’s will attract visitors and tourists from across the country, region and the world, to one of Saudi Arabia’s most treasured heritage sites. The cultural sector represents a powerful engine for economic growth — and the ministry is capitalizing on this, to help contribute to the realization of Vision 2030’s diversification objective.
Under the leadership of Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al- Saud, the ministry will showcase and highlight the best of Saudi culture — unlocking hidden treasures and encouraging cultural enrichment.
This festival is another step in our nation’s cultural journey — a journey that promises to enrich lives and showcase our beautiful and rich culture to the world. We should be proud of our people for their extraordinary efforts in utilizing platforms such as these festivals to creatively express themselves, and continue to support and encourage cultural exploration and exchange.

Abdulkarim Alhumaid is a public relations manager and spokesman at the Ministry of Culture.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News’ point-of-view

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ThePlace: Saudi Arabia’s Zabal Castle

26/07/19

Built on the ruins of a Nabataean castle on a 50-meter rocky outcrop in the city of Sakaka in northwest Saudi Arabia, Zabal Castle consists of a reservoir and four towers that are connected by a single wall.

The castle is believed to have been built 300 years ago, and is open to anyone fascinated by the rich Arab history this region has to offer.

This photo was taken by Ziyad Allahim as part of the Colors of Saudi competition.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Al-Wajh Governorate .. A global destination for diving enthusiasts

17/07/19

Saudi governorate of Al-Wajh is the first destination for diving enthusiasts due to its marine environment, which allows free and natural contact between man and nature.
The chief diving instructor in Tabuk Region, Captain Mohammed Al-Smaili, told SPA that the deep sea in the governorate includes many natural treasures, coral reefs, marine creatures and important fish resources due to the diversity of its terrain.

(Photo courtesy: SPA)

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