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Wed 23 Jan 2019 09:02 AM

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Restaurants, cafes to be licensed for music and comedy events in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia's General Entertainment Authority has announced a wide range of entertainment options including football exhibitions, magic shows and Islamic cultural events

Restaurants, cafes to be licensed for music and comedy events in Saudi Arabia
Turki Al-Sheikh, the new CEO of Saudi Arabia's General Entertaintment Authority (GEA), speaks during a presentation of the 2019 GEA program at the Four Seasons hotel in Riyadh.

Restaurants and cafes will now be able to apply for entertainment licenses to host music and comedy events as Saudi Arabia ramps up its entertainment offerings in 2019, General Entertainment Authority chairman Turki Al-Sheikh announced on Tuesday.

Speaking to media in Saudi Arabia, Al-Sheikh said that the move forms part of a wider plan to turn Saudi Arabia into one of the world’s top 10 entertainment destinations.

As part of the strategy, the GEA has entered into long-term contracts with over 100 local and international partners.

According to Al-Sheikh, culturally relevant – such as Quran recitations contests – will be an important part of the event.

“Competitions are an important element of entertainment,” Al-Sheikh was quoted as saying by Arab News. “The most important will take place during Ramadan and will be of an Islamic nature.”

Additionally, Al-Sheikh announced that a prize of SAR 1 million ($266,620) will be awarded to participants in a Hijra journey contest, in which participants reenact the Prophet Mohammed’s journey between Makkah and Madinah.

Other entertainment options will include e-gaming events, concerts, plays, car ‘drifting’ competitions, stand-up comedy and magic shows, as well as exhibition football matches featuring the likes of David Beckham and Zenedine Zidane.

Al-Sheikh added that the GEA is also exploring the possibility of holding a US National Basketball Association (NBA) event in the kingdom, and plans to open a Madame Tussauds wax museum in 2019.

All the events, he added, will respect local cultural values.

“Our religion is clear and we will adhere to our Islamic values,” he said. “This is us. We used to be like this 40 years ago, now we are returning to what we had.”

Looking to the future, Al-Sheikh said that the GEA hopes to find local talent that can then go on to flourish internationally, and that the entertainment sector will be a key pillar of providing investment and employment opportunities.

“Entertainment is a sector we heavily rely on for Vision 2030 in realising our dreams,” he said. “We won’t attain our goals unless we work together.”

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