Saudi singer Mohammed Abdu, also known as ‘The Artist of the Arabs’ performs at a concert in Riyadh in March 2017. The performance was the first major concert staged in the kingdom’s capital. Fayez Nureldine / AFP
Saudi singer Mohammed Abdu, also known as ‘The Artist of the Arabs’ performs at a concert in Riyadh in March 2017. The performance was the first major concert staged in the kingdom’s capital. Fayez NuShow more

Saudi Arabia will have cinemas and opera in Vision 2030 reforms



RIYADH // Saudi Arabia will one day open cinemas and build a world-class opera house, says the man spearheading the kingdom’s entertainment reforms, downplaying opposition by powerful religious authorities to changes they see as sinful.

Cinemas have been banned since the 1970s, after the clerical establishment persuaded the authorities to close them, reflecting rising Islamist influence throughout the Arab region at the time. And while some concerts have been held this year, clerics still frown upon them.

But the government has promised a shake-up of the cultural scene with a set of “Vision 2030” reforms announced by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz last year, aimed at creating jobs and opening up the cloistered lifestyle of Saudi citizens.

The changes are also intended to capture up to a quarter of the $20 billion currently spent overseas by Saudis, who are accustomed to travelling abroad to see shows and visit amusement parks in nearby tourist hub Dubai or further afield.

In an interview, Ahmed Al Khatib, chairman of the General Entertainment Authority (GEA), said conservatives who criticised the reforms were gradually learning that most Saudis, a majority of whom are under 30, wanted these changes.

His goal was to create entertainment that “will be like 99 per cent of what is going on in London and New York,” although he conceded that change would not come quickly after decades of cultural conservatism.

“I believe we are winning the argument,” he said. A few Saudis were liberal, a few conservative, but “the majority are moderate,” he added. “They travel, they go to cinemas, they go to concerts. I am counting on the middle segment, which is about 80 per cent of the population.” he said. Conservatives, he added, could simply opt to stay at home if they did not care for such entertainment.

Saudi Arabia’s top religious authority, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al Al-Sheikh, regards cinemas and concerts as a corrupting influence. Round-the-clock entertainment could open the door to “atheistic or rotten” foreign films and encourage the mixing of the sexes, he said in January.

In large part, the kingdom’s entertainment plans are motivated by economics. With oil prices low, authorities have embarked on an ambitious reform programme to diversify the economy and create whole new sectors to employ young Saudis.

The government has commissioned the Boston Consulting Group to identify venues like parks and theatres for the kingdom to develop through a mix of government funding and private sector investment.

Mr Khatib said the GEA’s activities have created 20,000 jobs so far after only seven months, and can surpass targets set out last year in the Vision 2030 plan. He predicts the share of Saudi spending on entertainment will triple to 8 or 9 per cent by 2030.

The kingdom’s most ambitious leisure project to date is a giant entertainment city outside the capital Riyadh, which would aim to draw regional visitors with resorts, golf courses, car racing tracks and a Six Flags theme park.

“Our start is very encouraging. Every event is sold out,” he said. Comic-Con, a comic book convention held in Jeddah in February attracted 10,000 more people than could be accommodated.

“The demand is massive. And it is normal — the demographic is young in Saudi Arabia and we have a higher disposable income than other countries,” he said.

But Comic-Con also provoked the most public challenge to the entertainment agenda thus far, drawing rebuke from thousands of conservatives — including the imams of prominent mosques — after video emerged of men and women dancing at the event.

Such conservatism was not always typical in Saudi Arabia, said Mr Khatib, but would take time to change after it had been nurtured over the course of several decades.

Cinemas, a particular flashpoint, were not on the agenda in the short term, but would come to Saudi Arabia eventually, he said. “We will get there. We’ll get there. I know how. I don’t know when.”

* Reuters

The Mandalorian season 3 episode 1

Director: Rick Famuyiwa

Stars: Pedro Pascal and Katee Sackhoff

Rating: 4/5 

RESULTS

6pm: Mazrat Al Ruwayah – Group 2 (PA) $40,000 (Dirt) 1,600m
Winner: AF Alajaj, Tadhg O’Shea (jockey), Ernst Oertel (trainer)

6.35pm: Race of Future – Handicap (TB) $80,000 (Turf) 2,410m
Winner: Global Storm, William Buick, Charlie Appleby

7.10pm: UAE 2000 Guineas – Group 3 (TB) $150,000 (D) 1,600m
Winner: Azure Coast, Antonio Fresu, Pavel Vashchenko

7.45pm: Business Bay Challenge – Listed (TB) $100,000 (T) 1,400m
Winner: Storm Damage, Patrick Cosgrave, Saeed bin Suroor

20.20pm: Curlin Stakes – Listed (TB) $100,000 (D) 2,000m
Winner: Appreciated, Fernando Jara, Doug O’Neill

8.55pm: Singspiel Stakes – Group 2 (TB) $180,000 (T) 1,800m
Winner: Lord Glitters, Daniel Tudhope, David O'Meara

9.30pm: Al Shindagha Sprint – Group 3 (TB) $150,000 (D) 1,200m
Winner: Meraas, Antonio Fresu, Musabah Al Muhairi

The Genius of Their Age

Author: S Frederick Starr
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Pages: 290
Available: January 24

Top 10 most polluted cities
  1. Bhiwadi, India
  2. Ghaziabad, India
  3. Hotan, China
  4. Delhi, India
  5. Jaunpur, India
  6. Faisalabad, Pakistan
  7. Noida, India
  8. Bahawalpur, Pakistan
  9. Peshawar, Pakistan
  10. Bagpat, India
ROUTE TO TITLE

Round 1: Beat Leolia Jeanjean 6-1, 6-2
Round 2: Beat Naomi Osaka 7-6, 1-6, 7-5
Round 3: Beat Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-2
Round 4: Beat Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-0
Quarter-final: Beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-0, 6-2
Semi-final: Beat Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4
Final: Beat Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-2

The specs

Engine: 2-litre 4-cylinder mild hybrid
Transmission: 7-speed S tronic
Power: 265hp / 195kW
Torque: 370Nm
Price: from Dh260,000
On sale: now

‘White Elephant’

Director: Jesse V Johnson
Stars: Michael Rooker, Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Olga Kurylenko
Rating: 3/5

HEADLINE HERE
  • I would recommend writing out the text in the body
  • And then copy into this box
  • It can be as long as you link
  • But I recommend you use the bullet point function (see red square)
  • Or try to keep the word count down
  • Be wary of other embeds lengthy fact boxes could crash into
  • That's about it
Biog

Mr Kandhari is legally authorised to conduct marriages in the gurdwara

He has officiated weddings of Sikhs and people of different faiths from Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Russia, the US and Canada

Father of two sons, grandfather of six

Plays golf once a week

Enjoys trying new holiday destinations with his wife and family

Walks for an hour every morning

Completed a Bachelor of Commerce degree in Loyola College, Chennai, India

2019 is a milestone because he completes 50 years in business

 

Winners

Best Men's Player of the Year: Kylian Mbappe (PSG)

Maradona Award for Best Goal Scorer of the Year: Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)

TikTok Fans’ Player of the Year: Robert Lewandowski

Top Goal Scorer of All Time: Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United)

Best Women's Player of the Year: Alexia Putellas (Barcelona)

Best Men's Club of the Year: Chelsea

Best Women's Club of the Year: Barcelona

Best Defender of the Year: Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus/Italy)

Best Goalkeeper of the Year: Gianluigi Donnarumma (PSG/Italy)

Best Coach of the Year: Roberto Mancini (Italy)

Best National Team of the Year: Italy

Best Agent of the Year: Federico Pastorello

Best Sporting Director of the Year: Txiki Begiristain (Manchester City)

Player Career Award: Ronaldinho

Points to remember
  • Debate the issue, don't attack the person
  • Build the relationship and dialogue by seeking to find common ground
  • Express passion for the issue but be aware of when you're losing control or when there's anger. If there is, pause and take some time out.
  • Listen actively without interrupting
  • Avoid assumptions, seek understanding, ask questions
Confirmed bouts (more to be added)

Cory Sandhagen v Umar Nurmagomedov
Nick Diaz v Vicente Luque
Michael Chiesa v Tony Ferguson
Deiveson Figueiredo v Marlon Vera
Mackenzie Dern v Loopy Godinez

Tickets for the August 3 Fight Night, held in partnership with the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi, went on sale earlier this month, through www.etihadarena.ae and www.ticketmaster.ae.

ESSENTIALS

The flights 

Etihad (etihad.com) flies from Abu Dhabi to Mykonos, with a flight change to its partner airline Olympic Air in Athens. Return flights cost from Dh4,105 per person, including taxes. 

Where to stay 

The modern-art-filled Ambassador hotel (myconianambassador.gr) is 15 minutes outside Mykonos Town on a hillside 500 metres from the Platis Gialos Beach, with a bus into town every 30 minutes (a taxi costs €15 [Dh66]). The Nammos and Scorpios beach clubs are a 10- to 20-minute walk (or water-taxi ride) away. All 70 rooms have a large balcony, many with a Jacuzzi, and of the 15 suites, five have a plunge pool. There’s also a private eight-bedroom villa. Double rooms cost from €240 (Dh1,063) including breakfast, out of season, and from €595 (Dh2,636) in July/August.

Company Profile

Name: Direct Debit System
Started: Sept 2017
Based: UAE with a subsidiary in the UK
Industry: FinTech
Funding: Undisclosed
Investors: Elaine Jones
Number of employees: 8

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: SmartCrowd
Started: 2018
Founder: Siddiq Farid and Musfique Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech / PropTech
Initial investment: $650,000
Current number of staff: 35
Investment stage: Series A
Investors: Various institutional investors and notable angel investors (500 MENA, Shurooq, Mada, Seedstar, Tricap)

SPEC SHEET

Display: 10.9" Liquid Retina IPS, 2360 x 1640, 264ppi, wide colour, True Tone, Apple Pencil support

Chip: Apple M1, 8-core CPU, 8-core GPU, 16-core Neural Engine

Memory: 64/256GB storage; 8GB RAM

Main camera: 12MP wide, f/1.8, Smart HDR

Video: 4K @ 25/25/30/60fps, full HD @ 25/30/60fps, slo-mo @ 120/240fps

Front camera: 12MP ultra-wide, f/2.4, Smart HDR, Centre Stage; full HD @ 25/30/60fps

Audio: Stereo speakers

Biometrics: Touch ID

I/O: USB-C, smart connector (for folio/keyboard)

Battery: Up to 10 hours on Wi-Fi; up to 9 hours on cellular

Finish: Space grey, starlight, pink, purple, blue

Price: Wi-Fi – Dh2,499 (64GB) / Dh3,099 (256GB); cellular – Dh3,099 (64GB) / Dh3,699 (256GB)

SERIES INFO

Schedule:
All matches at the Harare Sports Club
1st ODI, Wed Apr 10
2nd ODI, Fri Apr 12
3rd ODI, Sun Apr 14
4th ODI, Sun Apr 16

UAE squad
Mohammed Naveed (captain), Rohan Mustafa, Ashfaq Ahmed, Shaiman Anwar, Mohammed Usman, CP Rizwan, Chirag Suri, Mohammed Boota, Ghulam Shabber, Sultan Ahmed, Imran Haider, Amir Hayat, Zahoor Khan, Qadeer Ahmed

Zimbabwe squad
Peter Moor (captain), Solomon Mire, Brian Chari, Regis Chakabva, Sean Williams, Timycen Maruma, Sikandar Raza, Donald Tiripano, Kyle Jarvis, Tendai Chatara, Chris Mpofu, Craig Ervine, Brandon Mavuta, Ainsley Ndlovu, Tony Munyonga, Elton Chigumbura

The specs

Engine: three three 212.7kWh motors
Power: 1,000bhp
Torque: 15,600Nm
Range: 530km
Price: Dh500,000+ est
On sale: early 2023

Company profile

Company name: Fasset
Started: 2019
Founders: Mohammad Raafi Hossain, Daniel Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech
Initial investment: $2.45 million
Current number of staff: 86
Investment stage: Pre-series B
Investors: Investcorp, Liberty City Ventures, Fatima Gobi Ventures, Primal Capital, Wealthwell Ventures, FHS Capital, VN2 Capital, local family offices

The biog

Favourite food: Tabbouleh, greek salad and sushi

Favourite TV show: That 70s Show

Favourite animal: Ferrets, they are smart, sensitive, playful and loving

Favourite holiday destination: Seychelles, my resolution for 2020 is to visit as many spiritual retreats and animal shelters across the world as I can

Name of first pet: Eddy, a Persian cat that showed up at our home

Favourite dog breed: I love them all - if I had to pick Yorkshire terrier for small dogs and St Bernard's for big

The specs

Engine: 3.0-litre 6-cyl turbo

Power: 374hp at 5,500-6,500rpm

Torque: 500Nm from 1,900-5,000rpm

Transmission: 8-speed auto

Fuel consumption: 8.5L/100km

Price: from Dh285,000

On sale: from January 2022

The specs

Engine: 4.0-litre, twin-turbocharged V8

Transmission: nine-speed automatic

Power: 630bhp

Torque: 900Nm

Price: Dh810,000

What's in my pazhamkootan?

Add:
Parippu – moong dal and coconut curry
Sambar – vegetable-infused toor dal curry
Aviyal – mixed vegetables in thick coconut paste
Thoran – beans and other dry veggies with spiced coconut
Khichdi – lentil and rice porridge


Optional:
Kootukari – stew of black chickpeas, raw banana, yam and coconut paste
Olan – ash gourd curry with coconut milk
Pulissery – spiced buttermilk curry
Rasam – spice-infused soup with a tamarind base


Avoid:
Payasam – sweet vermicelli kheer

MEDIEVIL (1998)

Developer: SCE Studio Cambridge
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Console: PlayStation, PlayStation 4 and 5
Rating: 3.5/5

KEY DATES IN AMAZON'S HISTORY

July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to Amazon.com, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the Amazon.com platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone

BLACKBERRY

Director: Matt Johnson

Stars: Jay Baruchel, Glenn Howerton, Matt Johnson

Rating: 4/5

The specs

Engine: 3.0-litre 6-cyl turbo

Power: 435hp at 5,900rpm

Torque: 520Nm at 1,800-5,500rpm

Transmission: 9-speed auto

Price: from Dh498,542

On sale: now

The bio:

Favourite holiday destination: I really enjoyed Sri Lanka and Vietnam but my dream destination is the Maldives.

Favourite food: My mum’s Chinese cooking.

Favourite film: Robocop, followed by The Terminator.

Hobbies: Off-roading, scuba diving, playing squash and going to the gym.

 

TO ALL THE BOYS: ALWAYS AND FOREVER

Directed by: Michael Fimognari

Starring: Lana Condor and Noah Centineo

Two stars

'Midnights'

Artist: Taylor Swift

Label: Republic Records

Rating: 4/5

'Brazen'

Director:+Monika Mitchell

Starring:+Alyssa Milano, Sam Page, Colleen Wheeler

Rating: 3/5

BLACK ADAM

Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Sarah Shahi, Viola Davis, Pierce Brosnan

Rating: 3/5

Indika

Developer: 11 Bit Studios
Publisher: Odd Meter
Console: PlayStation 5, PC and Xbox series X/S
Rating: 4/5

The specs

Engine: Twin-turbo, V8
Transmission: 8-speed automatic and manual
Power: 503 bhp
Torque: 513Nm
Price: from Dh646,800 ($176,095)
On sale: now

JOKE'S ON YOU

Google wasn't new to busting out April Fool's jokes: before the Gmail "prank", it tricked users with mind-reading MentalPlex responses and said well-fed pigeons were running its search engine operations .

In subsequent years, they announced home internet services through your toilet with its "patented GFlush system", made us believe the Moon's surface was made of cheese and unveiled a dating service in which they called founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page "Stanford PhD wannabes ".

But Gmail was all too real, purportedly inspired by one – a single – Google user complaining about the "poor quality of existing email services" and born "millions of M&Ms later".