By Yahia Hatim
Rabat – Visitors and inhabitants of the city of Taif, 90 kilometers to the east of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, will be able to discover and enjoy Moroccan cuisine, crafts, and traditions in the Moroccan pavilion at Souk Okaz. The historical market dates to pre-Islamic times and has been recreated into a popular tourist destination.
Souk Okaz is one of the highlights of the Taif Season, lasting through the month of August, hosting shops that promote authentic local products from more than a dozen Arab countries.
The Moroccan pavilion offers a range of cultural activities, including live music concerts every day from August 19 to 31.
There are 31 stores and stands offering Moroccan products, such as traditional clothing, ceramics, leather goods, sculptures, jewels, henna, olive oil, and argan oil. About 80 Moroccans are working the shops, said Al-Haj Abdul Ilah Al Rayes, who is in charge of the Moroccan pavilion in Souk Okaz.
The Moroccan pavilion also hosts a museum and a library with books written by famous Moroccan authors.
As soon as visitors set foot in the Moroccan pavilion, a “guerrab,” a person who serves water in traditional metal cups from a special water container, welcomes them and offers them fresh water. Then, they can enjoy the talents of a calligrapher who writes words and sentences on demand, or listen to a “hakawati,” a storyteller, who narrates traditional legends and myths.
The pavilion also offers Moroccan cuisine. Restaurants serve traditional Moroccan dishes, including tajines in many forms—lamb and prunes, seafood with lemon, couscous or chicken with olives, pastilla, and harira soup. Visitors can also savor Moroccan mint tea, served with a collection of traditional Moroccan sweets.
Visitors had different reactions after their visit to the Moroccan pavilion. An Egyptian visitor tweeted: “Moroccan pavilion is one of the best pavilions, especially the calligrapher who makes calligraphy for free and offers gifts. This man was very heartwarming.” Another visitor tweeted: “Moroccan pavilion is the worst, I prefer Tunisian and Jordanian ones” but refrained from explaining the strong view.
Taif Season is one of eleven Saudi seasons, organized in different locations around Saudi Arabia, where cultural and entertaining events are held for a period of time. These Saudi seasons aim to transform Saudi Arabia into a popular tourist destination and to promote the heritage of Saudi Arabia and its culture.