Saudi is singing to a different tune and everyone is listening

November 28, 2017 3:21 pm

Did you ever imagine that one day you will be able to watch a concert for the Lebanese soprano Hiba Tawaji in Saudi Arabia?

You can do that if you want on Dec. 6 at the King Fahad Cultural Center in Riyadh.

But wait! The show is for women only.

That’s an achievement all by itself, but why?

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A Saudi in harmony 

This move, the first of its kind, is a very big improvement in Saudi Arabia which is trying to open up by implementing 2030 Vision aimed at creating new sources of revenues to diversify its economy.

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has promised a return to a more moderate Islam, as the Kingdom continues to push ahead with cultural and economic reforms.

Recently, the Lebanese soprano star tweeted on her page: “Happy to be among the very 1st female artists to ever perform publicly in KSA, under the patronage of the Entertainment authority. This is a huge step forward & I’m proud to be part of this cultural progress.”

A concert was also planned for Iraqi Singer Kazim El Saher but it was cancelled for reasons yet unknown.

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The kingdom has also witnessed a concert in May 2017 for the American country singer Toby Keith in Riyadh, on the sidelines of President Donald Trump’s first overseas visit. The concert was free and open to men only.

Why is Saudi on this path?

In tune with plans

The Vision’s economic reforms aim to lift total tourism spending in the country to $46.6bn in 2020 from $27.9bn in 2015. It’s aiming for 30 million visitors a year by 2030, up from 18 million in 2016.

Those numbers include a portion of what Saudis would normally spend abroad, $20bn annually abroad, according to Sultan, and who now would need to be convinced somehow to keep their Riyals within the Kingdom’s tourism offerings.

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Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Head of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Natural Heritage, told CNN recently that tourist visa would be issued for the first time ever and that the government would use online technology to make applying for visas easy.

“…(we want) people to come and literally experience this country, and really the grandness of this country,” Abdulaziz said.

Where will your visa take you?

Entertainment destination

Saudi Arabia is investing $2.7bn into new entertainment projects. But even before that, in April, the Kingdom announced the launch of a 334 sqkm sports and entertainment city in Riyadh to open by 2022 and include a Six Flags theme park for kids and adults.

The tourism map includes trips to King Fahd’s Fountain, also known as the Jeddah Fountain, is the tallest of its type in the world with seawater ejecting approximately 200m above the ground and can be seen from around the city.

Also, there is an enriching experience at the National Museum of Saudi Arabia in Riyadh showcasing the history of people, religion and government in the kingdom.

While on a tourist visa, a must is a visit to what UNESCO has labelled the first World Heritage property to be inscribed in Saudi Arabia, the Archaeological Site of Al-Hijr (Madâin Sâlih).


Dana Halawi
By Dana Halawi
Senior Journalist
Dana Halawi has over seven years of experience in Journalism with articles published in multiple magazines and a newspaper in Lebanon. She specialized in Banking and Finance at the Lebanese American University and has a Master’s degree in International Affairs.