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ASM Global expands Middle East venue portfolio

ASM Global is expanding its Middle East portfolio with the addition of two new venues in Jeddah, Saudia Arabia.

The global entertainment giant has been appointed as the managing operator of the 20,000-seat Jeddah Arena and the International Convention Centre Jeddah (ICC Jeddah), both set to open in December 2025.

The two new venues will be located adjacent to Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport, as part of the Jeddah Airport City project.

ASM’s Middle East portfolio already includes the Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai (cap. 17,000), the Oman Convention & Exhibition Centre and The Bahrain International Exhibition & Convention Centre.

“ASM Global is looking forward to being an integral part of the team to deliver this visionary project in Jeddah,” says ASM Global Asia Pacific chairman and chief executive, Harvey Lister.

“It was only fitting to appoint the global giants in the venue and entertainment industry to collaborate on this landmark project”

“We pride ourselves on joining forces with partners with whom we know we can make a difference to creating and delivering amazing experiences.”

SARH Real Estate and Development founder and chairman of SARH Real Estate Investments, Sultan Al-Harbi, added: “Upon analysing the significant importance of both the iconic arena and convention centre, it was only fitting to appoint the global giants in the venue and entertainment industry, ASM Global, to collaborate on this landmark project for Jeddah and Saudi Arabia.”

SARH Real Estate and Development recently announced the Airport City project, which will include three to five-star hotels, a shopping mall, ‘world-class’ parklands, a dedicated business centre and residential sector, as well as many other recreational amenities. The development is set to commence by the end of 2021.

Today’s news comes weeks after ASM was announced as the managing operator of The Bahrain International Exhibition & Convention Centre – the largest venue of its kind in the Middle East.


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Anghami to open venues in Middle East, UK, US

Anghami, the largest music streaming service in the Middle East and north Africa (Mena), has announced plans to open music venues in Dubai, Riyadh and several other Middle Eastern cities, as well as in the UK and North America.

Lebanon-based Anghami, which is preparing for a flotation on New York’s Nasdaq market, has partnered with hospitality company Addmind to launch Anghami Lab, an “innovative entertainment venue” concept which will debut in Dubai in early 2022. According to the companies, Anghami Lab will bridge the worlds of live and digital music, its live stage being joined by a studio where performers can create “music inspired by both Arabic and international cultures” which will then be made available to listen back exclusively on Anghami.

In addition, new features will be added to the Anghami app “complementing both experiences”, say the new partners.

“This is a great opportunity to further reinforce the value we provide digitally to be converged offline in a unique user-to-guest experience”

Eddy Maroun, co-founder and CEO of Anghami, says: “We are excited to partner with Addmind to create this unique, transformational experience for our users. Addmind is a leading expert in conceptualising and operating hospitality spaces, and this is a great opportunity to further reinforce the value we provide digitally to be converged offline in a unique user-to-guest experience.”

Following the opening of the Dubai venue, further Anghami Labs are planned for Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, then Jeddah (Saudi Arabia), Cairo (Egypt), Beirut (Lebanon), London, New York and Los Angeles.

“Anghami is more than just a streaming platform,” comments Tony Habre, CEO of Addmind. “They have elevated the value of the music industry in the Middle East as a whole. Anghami Lab is an amazing and unique concept that embodies our rich Arab culture with an international twist, which we are thrilled to bring to fruition and scale.”

 


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Saudi Arabia festival “turning point” for youth culture

Jeddah World Fest, the largest music festival to take place in Saudi Arabia, has been dubbed as “overwhelmingly successful” by organisers Roqu Media International.

The sold-out festival, which took place on 18 July, saw performances by 50 Cent, Janet Jackson, Chris Brown and Steve Aoki. Nicki Minaj, originally billed as a headliner for the event, pulled out a week before following pressure from human rights organisations.

The Ireland-based Roqu Media now has a contract to deliver the festival for the next three years. The media production company is also preparing similar events to take place in Russia, Georgia and South Africa.

Speaking to the Sunday Times, Roqu president Robert Quirke says the Saudi festival was “overwhelmingly successful [but] extremely challenging given the local circumstances.”

“[Jeddah World Fest is] a turning point for all youth culturally”

According to Quirke, Jeddah World Fest is helping to change perceptions of the country, serving as a “turning point for all youth culturally”. The event, like all those produced by Roqu, was broadcast live on television in countries across the world.

The international live entertainment market in Saudi Arabia is still in relatively early days. Many acts have faced criticism for adding the country to their touring schedule due to human rights’ concerns.

The kingdom hosted its first-ever mixed gender music festival in December last year. Korean pop stars BTS will become the first international group to play a solo stadium concert in the country in October.

Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority has said it plans to spend US$64 billion on the sector over the next decade.

 


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Nicki Minaj pulls out of Saudi music festival

Rapper Nick Minaj has cancelled her upcoming performance at Jeddah World Fest in Saudi Arabia, citing support for women’s rights, the LGBTQ community and freedom of expression.

Minaj was billed to perform alongside EDM artist Steve Aoki and former One Direction member Liam Payne at Saudi Arabia’s largest-ever music festival, which takes place on Thursday 18 July at the 63,241-capacity King Abdullah Sports Stadium in Jeddah.

“After careful reflection I have decided to no longer move forward with my scheduled concert at Jeddah World Fest,” the singer said in a statement.

“While I want nothing more than to bring my show to fans in Saudi Arabia, after better educating myself on the issues, I believe it is important for me to make clear my support for the rights of women, the LGBTQ community and freedom of expression.”

The decision comes after the president of US-based Human Rights Foundation (HRF) penned an open letter to Minaj asking her to cancel the appearance “as a symbol of solidarity with the ongoing suffering of the Saudi people.”

“After better educating myself on the issues, I believe it is important for me to make clear my support for the rights of women, the LGBTQ community and freedom of expression”

HRF president Thor Halvorssen detailed cases of human rights abuses in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which he describes as “one of the most repressive regimes on earth”.

Halvorssen has since praised Minaj’s decision to pull out of the festival, and urged Payne to do the same.

“We are grateful to Nicki Minaj for her inspiring and thoughtful decision to reject the Saudi regime’s transparent attempt at using her for a public relations stunt,” writes the HRF president.

After years of restrictions on entertainment, Jeddah World Fest signifies the next step in Saudi Arabia’s embrace of live music events.

A post on the festival’s Facebook page states that Minaj had cancelled “due to personal reasons”. A second wave performers will be announced later this week.

The kingdom hosted its first mixed gender music festival in December, featuring artists including Jason Derulo, Enrique Iglesias and David Guetta. A US$2.7 billion fund was established in 2017 to kickstart the entertainment sector.

 


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Nicki Minaj to headline Saudi Arabia’s first major music fest

After hosting its first-ever gender-integrated concert series at the Formula E ePrix last December, the rapidly liberalising kingdom of Saudi Arabia is preparing for its first major music festival, which debuts this month.

Part of the Jeddah Season festival, Jeddah World Fest, organised by Ireland-based Roqu Media International, will take place at King Abdullah Sports Stadium (63,241-cap.) in Jeddah on Thursday 18 July, and feature international performers including Nicki Minaj, Steve Aoki and former One Direction member Liam Payne.

It is the latest and most significant move by Saudi Arabia’s rulers to open up the conservative Islamic kingdom – which until recently considered secular music haram, or sinful – to touring live entertainment, and comes nearly two years after the General Authority for Entertainment (GEA), the body tasked with driving growth in the entertainment sector, announced a US$2.7 billion fund to attract international partners.

Commenting on the line-up, Roqu’s Robert Quirke says Minaj (pictured) is “an absolute global icon. She has 130 million followers on Instagram, she is considered one of the top 10 female performers of all time, she’s had multiple awards and she’ll have her new album come out this year.

“She is going to get a lot of attention for Jeddah in the most positive way you can imagine. She’s going to be actively on her social media, she’ll be posting right from the stage in Jeddah and at her hotel in Jeddah. Everyone is going to know that Nicki Minaj has landed in Saudi Arabia.”

“Everyone is going to know that Nicki Minaj has landed in Saudi Arabia”

Other performers include Ministry of Sound-signed DJs R3wire and Varski, who “will make sure that the crowd stays absolutely pumped” between artist sets, adds Quirke.

The event will also be streamed live internationally, according to Raed Abuzinadah, the director-general of Jeddah Season, who says Jeddah World Fest is set to be “the largest musical festival of its kind in the region, that will be broadcast to a global audience in more than 100 countries,” reports Gulf News.

“There is a stereotype of the kingdom all over the world, and today it is disappearing,” Abuzinadah told reporters recently. “In its place is a new picture of the kingdom that accepts everyone. “This is the first global music festival of this scale in [Saudi Arabia] and is sure to absolutely wow the lucky audience in Jeddah like never before.”

Tickets are being sold via the website of Sharek, Saudi Arabia’s new e-visa system.

 


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