- Title: SAUDI ARABIA-SOUQ OKAZ Souq Okaz annual festival revives pre-Islamic culture
- Date: 19th August 2015
- Summary: TAIF, SAUDI ARABIA (AUGUST 17,2015) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF AN ACTOR PERFORMING AUDIENCE WATCHING VARIOUS OF ACTORS PERFORMING
- Embargoed: 3rd September 2015 13:00
- Location: Saudi Arabia
- Country: Saudi Arabia
- Topics: General
- Reuters ID: LVA56S4OZK4ZM6QHZX1EIG1FRZNZ
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: The Souq Okaz Cultural Festival is underway in Taif in western Saudi Arabia bringing together hundreds of artists and actors from across the Kingdom and abroad.
The two-week festival, which kicked off on Wednesday (August 12), aims to replicate a pre-Islamic fair which used to draw artists and artisans from around the region to display their crafts or perform.
Some of the Arab world's most famous poems, still taught in schools today, were originally recited at the Souq Okaz fair many centuries ago.
Every year, the festival focuses on one personality from pre-Islamic history.
This year's personality, was the famous poet Labid Ibn Rabia Al-Amiri, whose poetry are still taught today in school text books across the Arab world.
"I play the role of the character of this year, the character of the poet of Labid Ibn Rabia Al-Amiri. He is an experienced character, a well-known poet and knight who lived in the pre-Islamic era and converted to Islam during the time of the prophet. He was a glorious companion of the prophet," said actor, Ahmed al-Qattabi.
The festival is held for the ninth year and has become an annual summer attraction for tourists mainly from across the Gulf.
"The large attendance confirms that the festival is strong and effective and that it has become one of the best festivals in the Arab world in terms of the embodiment of history, originality, and in terms of connecting the past with the present," said one of the organisers, Saleh Al-Eryani.
"I'm from Kuwait and I heard about the market (Souk Okaz). To be honest, I liked the shows and the beautiful thing in the festival is that it connects the past with the present," said Saud al-Salem, a visitor from Kuwait.
Actors participating in the festival recite not only pre-Islamic history but also re-enact battle scenes performed on a large stage with horses and camels.
"The total number of actors participating is more than 200 actors, the number of technician participating is 50 people, in addition to 200 uniforms, each uniform contain more than three to four pieces, in addition to 250 pieces of accessories between swords and spears, also with the participation of 17 horses and 40 camels," said Mamdouh Al-Salem, a play director.
Souq Okaz, which harks back to pre-Islamic days, is now an annual event, having been revived in 2008 by King Abdullah.
Modern-day Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam, and the festival is taking place only 50 kilometres from Mecca, Islam's holiest city.
Since before the spread of Islam in the Arabian peninsula, traders and bedouins would set up markets to sell a range of goods like rugs and perfumes.
Some travelled from distant regions on camels to arrive at the fair, which included poetry, singing and dancing contests.
The festival runs until Tuesday (August 25).
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