Numerous entertainment programs are scheduled to cater to children, families and youths, according to Ahmed Al-Khatib Chairman of the General Authority for Entertainment (GAE) implementing the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 to provide a quality life, and build a happy, healthy environment for the Saudi family and all citizens of the country.
The Chairman said: “Our goal is that every Saudi family will have at least three options in their hometown, which will be available during the weekend. These activities will be within the scope of their income and needs.”
There is nationwide excitement in the air, with various entertainment activities scheduled across the Kingdom. Entertainment plans for 2017 include performances by Cirque Du Soleil, Universe Science, the Light Festival, the Lion King, and it is expected that they will draw an estimated two million visitors in 15 cities.
An optimistic public rejoiced at the new era of entertainment activities with the celebrated Egyptian musician Omar Khairat delivering a stunning performance at King Abdullah Economic city (KAEC) north of Jeddah on March 3. The audience was mesmerized by his distinctive style of music bridging the gap between Eastern and Western approaches to music.
The first concert of the famous composer and pianist in Saudi Arabia took place in an atmosphere of grandeur and style. It was sponsored by the GAE and organized by Benchmark event management company. According to the organizers this is one of many entertainment activities planned for this season.
People are beyond themselves, feeling invigorated by the happy and joyous atmosphere. Everywhere you go, you hear people asking one another: Is this really happening? Is this really Saudi Arabia?Samar Fatany
Music lovers, young and old
Meanwhile, Saudi singers who performed abroad are now entertaining their fans at home. Popular singer Mohammed Abdo held a concert accompanied by two other famous singers, Rabeh Sager and Majid Al-Muhandis, at King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah. Around 6,000 fans attended the show cheering and singing along with the stars. Many others are waiting their turn. Music lovers, young and old, are hoping for many more.
Entertainment programs began last September when the theatrical group “iLuminate” performed at Princess Noura University in Riyadh. In an unsegregated family atmosphere, the world-class entertainers regaled their audience with their illuminated performance in the dark. The live show was also held in Jeddah at the King Abdullah Sports City.
The first Comic-Con event created a great buzz in Jeddah on February 16. Superheroes from Hollywood’s Marvel studios entertained thousands at a three-day festival of animations, pop art and video gaming. Earlier, 3,300 music lovers attended a jazz performance at King Fahd Cultural Center in Riyadh.
A carnival dubbed Wonderland Riyadh was launched at Princess Noura University. There were over 100 booths of live cooking, art stations, food trucks, games for children and many local entrepreneurs selling their arts and crafts.
Spending on entertainment
People are beyond themselves, feeling invigorated by the happy and joyous atmosphere. Everywhere you go, you hear people asking one another: Is this really happening? Is this really Saudi Arabia? The beautiful weather has also encouraged many to join the unprecedented activities.
Although the country is facing an economic transformation and citizens have suffered salary cuts, the public is eager to spend on entertainment to relieve themselves of tension and worries. They are enjoying the happy atmosphere and staying optimistic for a better future.
Having said that, there is also a sense of apprehension among the youth who worry that the hardliners who continue to criticize and condemn the activities and deem them un-Islamic, could put a stop to the entertainment program or exclude the popular global entertainment shows, killing their joy and happy moments. Or they could bring pressure to limit the activities to local mediocre entertainment.
So far the GAE is doing a great job and working diligently to implement Saudi Vision 2030 to transform the Kingdom into a knowledge-based economy and establish a moderate Islamic state. The transformation process in Saudi Arabia is on the right track.
This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on March 11, 2016.
Samar Fatany is a Chief Broadcaster in the English section at Jeddah Broadcasting Station. Over the past 28 years, she has introduced many news, cultural, and religious programs and has conducted several interviews with official delegations and prominent political personalities visiting the kingdom. Fatany has made significant contributions in the fields of public relations and social awareness in Saudi Arabia and has been involved in activities aiming at fighting extremism and enhancing women’s role in serving society. She has published three books: “Saudi Perceptions & Western Misconceptions,” “Saudi Women towards a new era” and “Saudi Challenges & Reforms.”