Salalah: Dhofar Tourism Festival, the 28-day-long cultural extravaganza commonly known as Khareef Festival, came to a conclusion late Friday amidst much fanfare and a spirit of joie de vivre at the amphitheatre of the Municipality Recreational Centre in Salalah.
Sayyid Mohammed bin Sultan Al Busaidi, Minister of State and Governor of Dhofar, who was also the general supervisor of the festival, presided over the closing ceremony which was also attended by members of the State and Shura Councils, directors-general, officials and sheikhs of the Dhofar governorate.
The closing ceremony was a riot of colours, customs, traditions, story-telling and a superb display of folk dances performed by hundreds of artists. A spectacular fireworks display capped the closing ceremony, offering a sparkling visual treat to people who had come from not just Salalah but all over Oman, other Gulf countries and elsewhere from the world.
The highlight of the ceremony was the inter-wilayat competition, which included 12 traditional folklore shows performed by troupes showcasing the rich heritage of Oman. The performances included Al Zamel, Al Madima, Al Nan, Al Mahid, Al Tanborah, Al Madar, Al Azi and Al Shibaniyah, that presented the values and traditions of different wilayats of the Sultanate.
The festival was a mix of several recreational events, competitions and plays, appealing to different age groups.
The wilayat of Mirbat was declared as winner of the inter-wilayat competition, while Wadi bani Khalid secured the second place. Thumrait clinched the third position.
The festival attracted the attention of people from all over the world, thanks to a brilliant display of Oman's arts and crafts, culture, social values, and heritage.
It emerged as a platform for cultural understanding and rapprochement among people from different cultures.
This year's edition of the Khareef Festival also saw a close collaboration of public and private sector, which was reflected at different venues including the Global Village where hundreds of stalls were set up by both Omani and foreign entrepreneurs.
More than 1,000 craftpersons showcased their skills and products, souvenirs and other objects at the Khareef Festival, reflecting the richness of their native towns and wilayats. The handicrafts and souvenirs were also part of an exhibition titled 'Oman, the Land of Friendship and Peace' which showcased the festival's significance as a platform for grassroots development over the years, and efforts to promote Omani culture and diversity.
This year's Khareef Festival received a total number of 407,767 visitors from June 21 up till September 1, compared to 332,159 visitors last year, registering an increase of 22.8 per cent, figures provided by National Centre for Statistics and Information, in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism and Royal Oman Police, suggested.
Abdullah Ali Al Muqaddam, in-charge of the Khareef Festival, attributed this year's successful festival to good weather conditions and improved arrangements in terms of services and facilities.
"The timing suited the visitors, as we chose to start the event from the second day of Eid. The mood of the residents remained festive till the very end," he said.
Lots of interactive events were held as part of this year's edition including stage shows, games, competitions, weekly talent shows as well as studio events and live public interviews with TV networks, which garnered maximum visitor participation.
"Global Village 2013 attracted healthy participation of visitors. The exhibitors we spoke to gave positive feedback about purchases made at various stalls including perfumes, cosmetics, watches and accessories, jewellery, clothing and garments, footwear, bags, honey, spices, furniture and household items," the senior manager of Global Village 2013 said.
The theme of this year's festival was centred on 'Oman — Giving and Loyalty' where aspects related to the Sultanate's culture of hospitality and generosity were highlighted through various folklore performances, tableaux, and stage dramas.