Saudi Arabia readies to enjoy cinemas and music for the first time in 40 years

In 2018, Saudi Arabia will experience major shocks: in March, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia intends to open cinemas for the first time in almost 40 years. Therefore, the "Arab Spring" expression may have a whole new meaning.

The opening of cinemas, the organisation of concerts of classical or popular music, the construction of amusement parks - all these are elements of a large action plan aimed at creating a modern entertainment industry in Saudi Arabia. All of these things, common in most countries of the world, have been banned in the kingdom since the beginning of the 1980s. In Saudi Arabia, it was considered illegal to sing and dance and listen to the music, at least not in public places.

The system of prohibitions of the Kingdom is based on Wahhabism - an extremely strict moral and ethical doctrine of Islam. Its zealous supporters had gained exceptionally strong positions in the country after 1979 terrorist attacks in Mecca. Since then, any deviations from strict regulations and Puritan norms of Islam have been equated to crime. Everything beyond those restrictions was unacceptable and severely punishable.

Such prohibitions are not an exclusive invention of Saudi theologians. It is no incident they are referred to as "Puritan." European Puritan Protestants used to have even more binding practices.  For example, women used to be allowed to wear only black clothes not to be accused of witchcraft with all ensuing consequences.

As for music, the Saudis march in step with the Iranians. After the Islamic revolution of 1979 in Iran, the Shiite clergy also banned all kinds of music save for military marches.

It's funny that Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran entered the state of religious zeal, general mobilisation and renunciation of the corrupt influence of Western entertainment together during the 1980s. Today, they are coming out of it together as well. Hardly had the Saudis announced the coming opening of cinemas, when Iran said that German pop band Schiller was going to come to the country with a concert. Schiller will be the first Western band to perform in  Iran since 1979.

The Saudi Arabian society will have to experience a lot of new things. All new cultural institutions will have to be accessible both to men and women at a time, and this is something absolutely unimaginable for Saudi nationals.

The new social experience of Saudi Arabia will define stability of the largest country on the Arabian Peninsula, the situation on the world market of oil, global investment flows, etc. To crown it all, if  the Saudi authorities make mistakes and fail to properly organise entertainment of their compatriots, terrorists will not let such an opportunity slip out of their hands.

Dmitry Nersesov

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Author`s name Dmitry Nersesov