(MENAFN - Arab News) Jeddah will play host to the first ever heritage tourism festival on its soil from Jan. 15 on the sidelines of the Jeddah spring festival entitled "Hayya Jeddah."
The 10-day heritage festival gains significance in the backdrop of the Kingdom's continued efforts to secure UNESCO world heritage status for Jeddah's old downtown area. A UNESCO team is expected to visit the site during the festival.
The festival will take place under the patronage of Makkah Governor Prince Mishaal bin Abdullah.
Revealing details of the festival at a press conference on Sunday at Jeddah's historic center in downtown Jeddah, Abdullah Dhawi, president of an organizing committee comprising the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities and the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, named Jeddah Governor Prince Mishaal bin Majid as the chairman of the supreme committee of the festival.
He said such a festival would mark
a milestone in the city's tourism sector and would greatly contribute to boosting the economy.
A total of 46 programs will be held across various sites based on the historic importance of the location.
He further explained that 90 percent of activities at the festival will based on Hijazi heritage, which dates back 2,600 years, and will be centered in the historic downtown area, known in Arabic as the "balad."
The festival aims to raise awareness among new generations about the city's former glory, he said, adding that exclusive entertainment programs had been planned for children. The contract for the festival's planning and organization has been awarded to Benchmark Event Management.
Benchmark Representative Zaki Hassanein said a series of comedy shows will be held by a Jeddah-based comedy club during the festival.
Mazen Batterjee, vice-president of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, pointed out Jeddah is the only city along the Red Sea trying to preserve heritage along the coastline. Jeddah Municipality's Mohammed Khoja said that a smartphone application would be made available on smart phones on IOS and Android applications.
Smart phone applications will contain complete information, including pictures of 70 historic sites of Jeddah and festival information, he said, adding that the festival committee is launching social media sites.
Videos of historic sites containing a 15-second clip will also be made available.
"The Kingdom spends about SR50 million through the Ministry of Municipal Affairs every year toward the preservation of sites. Its impact will be felt during the heritage festival in Jeddah," said Mohammed Abdullah Al-Omari of the Commission of Tourism and Antiques in the Makkah region.
Police, civil defense, municipal authorities and the business community participated in the conference.
"This festival will make Jeddah join the list of historical heritage sites in the world," he said.
Sami Nawar, supervisor of heritage sites and a spokesman at the Jeddah Municipality, said that interest in preserving the architecture and heritage of Jeddah goes far back as 1980. "There is now a plan in place to renovate 34 historical buildings out of a total of 557 sites," he explained.
More than 5,000 visitors are expected to attend the festival.