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Saudi Arabia ‘to host 5,000 live events’ in 2018

"Some of the biggest names in global music" are set to play in the reclusive kingdom this year, according to an optimistic General Authority for Entertainment (GEA)

By Jon Chapple on 26 Feb 2018

Ahmed Al Khatib, GEA

image © General Entertainment Authority

Saudi Arabia will play host to more than 5,000 live events this year, including “live music performances, theatre shows, musicals, circus performances, community festivals and much more”, according to its General Authority for Entertainment (GEA), as the reclusive kingdom continues to focus on growing its live entertainment sector.

GEA says Saudi Arabia is ready to become a “global entertainment hub”, with a 2018 events calendar set to feature performances from “some of the world’s most celebrated artists”.

Under the banner Vision 2030, the Sunni theocracy is seeking to reduce its dependence on oil by developing its service sector, including a domestic entertainment market. GEA, created by royal decree in May 2016, is spearheading the entertainment drive, and has so far been responsible for bringing shows including Cirque du Soleil and the Lion King musical to the kingdom, as well as the first Saudi Comic Con.

The authority organised 52 events in 2016, which grew to more than 2,200, attended by 8.2m people, in 2017.

“A world-class entertainment industry will put Saudi Arabia on the global tourism and entertainment map”

In March 2017, Saudi capital Riyadh hosted its first concert since 1988 – music is generally considered sinful (haram) by Saudi religious authorities – marking the start of a “major social shift in the conservative kingdom”, according to The New Arab.

In September, meanwhile, the Saudi government announced a US$2.7bn fund aimed at assisting event promoters with growing the local entertainment industry.

“GEA is proud to be one of the drivers of transformation in the kingdom,” says GEA chairman Ahmed Al Khatib (pictured), “through its clear purpose to build a world-class entertainment industry that will put the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on the global tourism and entertainment map.”

However, just one music event has been announced for 2018 so far – Egyptian singer Tamer Hosny in Jeddah on 30 March – indicating the kingdom is still some way off catching up to other regional live music hubs such as Israel, the UAE and Qatar.


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