Saudi Arabia’s first jazz festival opens in Riyadh

Opera made its debut in Riyadh at the weekend with a classic Arabian love story, as bands from Beirut to New Orleans performed at the kingdom's first-ever jazz festival, AFP reported Sunday (February 25th).

Music lovers had their first taste of jazz when a three-day festival opened on Thursday at the Riyadh Intercontinental hotel, showcasing performers such as Chady Nashef of Lebanon.

The opera "Antar and Abla" -- a legendary story of love between an Arab warrior and his cousin -- also drew crowds on Friday and Saturday in Riyadh's Princess Noura University.

Since the appointment in June of Prince Mohammed bin Salman as heir to the throne, Saudi Arabia has lifted bans on entertainment, including cinemas and public music festivals, and scaled back restrictions on women.

The reforms are largely motivated by economics and are part of a strategy to diversify the economy away from oil and create jobs for young Saudis.

Saudi Arabia's General Entertainment Authority (GEA) last week announced it will stage more than 5,000 festivals and concerts in 2018, double the number of last year, and pump $64 billion in the sector in the coming decade.

Saudi Arabia's first opera house is set to open in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah, the GEA said, without giving a date.

Some Saudis took to social media at the weekend to criticise what they saw as wasteful spending, as the kingdom reels from high inflation, unemployment and subsidy cuts.

Saudi Arabia has posted budget shortfalls since the 2014 crash in oil prices, and has since withdrawn some $250 billion from its financial reserves to finance the deficit.

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The first jazz music festival opens in Saudi Arabia's Riyadh. What a loss that this great country should turn from a sacred country to which the hearts of Muslims from all over the world long to in order to witness good things and mention God's names in certain days to a country of entertainment and dissipation?! What will the person responsible for this say when he meets his God on a day when no money or children can help except those who came to God with a good heart?!