Souq Okaz to become integrated cultural tourist city

:: Souq Okaz, the iconic landmark in Taif with a unique model of cultural and heritage tourism, is being transformed into a leading cultural tourist destination to be visited throughout the year.

The 11th edition of the Souq Okaz festival, which is held every year during the summer break on the outskirts of the city, opens Wednesday under the patronage of King Salman.

The Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH), which is organizing this year’s edition for the first time, said it has begun preparing development projects for the souq to become a leading cultural tourist destination throughout the year.

The projects will be implemented in partnership with several government departments in the Taif municipality, the SCTH said Wednesday.

Its President Prince Sultan bin Salman, who is also head of the supervisory committee of Souq Okaz, complemented the efforts of Makkah Gov. Prince Khalid Al-Faisal, who advises King Salman and has been leading the souq’s development for the last 10 years.

Projects to be implemented by the public sector include halls, museums, centers, an Arabic poetry academy, an open theater and a national park, which will be built in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment, Agriculture and Water.

Projects to be implemented by the private sector include an amusement park, markets, accommodation, offices, a social club, international schools, health and sports facilities, and a hospital.

The SCTH said the souq is expected to attract more than 266,000 tourists annually, earning SR377 million ($100.5 million) and creating more than 4,400 additional jobs.

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