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Saudi Arabia Culture

A pilgrim prays on Mount Arafat, Mecca. Saudi Arabia has been enforcing a strict crackdown on performing Hajj without a permit

Hajj pilgrims feel the pinch as costs rise

The costs of Hajj are getting ever higher for pilgrims coming from around the world to perform the annual rites, which are a duty for every able-bodied Muslim to perform once in a lifetime.  Even pilgrims coming from within Saudi Arabia, for whom the costs are cheaper, are paying around SAR23,500 ($6,266) for up to […]

French transport company Systra has been contracted by the Royal Commission to conduct a study on expanding Mecca's train system

Mecca expands public transport as Eid al-Adha nears

Authorities in Mecca are expanding the public transport system to accommodate more pilgrims from abroad as the Hajj season reaches its climax next week with Eid al-Adha.  The Royal Commission for Mecca City and the Holy Sites said this week it was providing 400 buses operating from four main stations around the city to manage […]

An extension of Diriyah's Bujairi Terrace, a popular nightspot, will open in November

Diriyah giga-project to open first hotel in November

Diriyah, one of Saudi Arabia’s leading giga-projects, will finally open its first hotel in November along with other attractions and sites, its CEO said this week.  “This November we’ll open another few kilometres of parks, we’ll open our first Bab Samhan hotel, we’ll open our first museum which is the Diriyah Art Futures Museum, we’ll […]

Tourists visit the tombs of the Nabatean civilisation in AlUla. Saudi Arabia's goal is for tourism to make up 10 percent of GDP by 2030

Affluent tourists around the globe on Saudi Arabia’s radar

Saudi Arabia will invest more than $800 billion in its main giga-projects by the next decade as part of a tourism expansion strategy focused on affluent tourists in China, India and Europe.  The kingdom’s tourism minister Ahmed Al-Khateeb, speaking at the Qatar Investment Forum, said: “We’re building and investing in major destinations like Neom, Red […]

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at prayers to mark the end of Ramadan. He said in 2022 that flogging would be ended and the use of the death penalty restricted

Saudi Arabia grapples with new penal code

A legislative committee is grappling with the text of a new penal code which could cement — or jeopardise — the gains made by Saudi Arabia after it introduced a new commercial law code last year.  The kingdom is trying to shake off a reputation for opaque and arbitrary justice to meet ambitious tourism and […]

A pilgrim prays during a visit to Mount Al-Noor in the holy city of Mecca. Saudi Arabia is building an additional 320,000 hotel rooms by 2030

Pilgrims remain bedrock of Saudi tourism plans

Saudi tourism is to undergo a massive expansion with religious travellers remaining its bedrock – but some hotel operators are wary of an overheated market. The kingdom is aiming to bring in 150 million visitors per year by 2030, with tourism accounting for 10 percent of non-oil GDP, playing a key role in its economic […]

Tawfik Alzaidi

Saudi director’s labour of love takes the kingdom to Cannes

For the first time a Saudi film has been selected to compete in the Cannes film festival, catapulting its little-known self-taught director into the limelight. Tawfik Alzaidi was so surprised that he’d managed to break through to the big time that he kept the news that his film Norah had been accepted for the ‘Un […]

Diriyah Gate encompasses the Al-Turaif Unesco World Heritage Site

Saudi giga-project Diriyah Gate targets 2027 completion

Diriyah Gate, one of the first Saudi giga-projects, said this week that it was on target for completion by late 2027. The opening of the project’s first hotel is now rescheduled for later this year.  “We’re looking forward to the conclusion of our project, probably toward the end of 2027,” said Andrew Tonnor, Diriyah Gate’s […]

Sylvain P. Gaillard, director of the Opera Gallery in Dubai

Art trumps diamonds when it comes to luxury investment

For Middle East investors, works of art are worth hanging on to. Artworks have more than doubled in value over the past decade, the latest edition of the Knight Frank Global Wealth Report reveals. It was a mixed year for luxury investments last year. Whisky, cars, handbags, furniture and wine lost value. Diamonds, coins and […]

How the Grand Boulevard Approach of The Arena will look

London architect HKS to design Diriyah’s 20,000-seat Arena

Saudi Arabia has hired a London-based architecture practice to design a sports and entertainment venue in Riyadh’s historic district of Diriyah, close to the site where a landmark opera house will be built.  “The architecture rises from the landscape as a series of monoliths, evoking local geological formations and alluding to ancient Nadji forts and […]

The Big Time fund will be used to support pan-Arab cinema and production facilities have already been developed at AlUla

Saudi Arabia sets up Big Time film investment fund

Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority has set up the Big Time investment fund to support pan-Arab cinema, in Riyadh’s latest push to develop soft power through sports and culture. The authority’s head Turki Alalshikh said during a visit to Cairo that the entertainment authority would act as the Big Time fund’s main sponsor along with […]

A market in the historic district of Al Balad in Jeddah. Developer Jeddah Central is planning an opera house, an oceanarium and a sports stadium

Jeddah Central signs contracts for major landmarks

Jeddah Central, the developer of one of Saudi Arabia’s giga-projects, signed four construction contracts this week for a set of major landmarks. According to the state-run Saudi Press Agency, Jeddah Central’s CEO Ahmed bin Abdulaziz Al-Saleem signed the contracts to construct a sports stadium, an oceanarium, an opera house and infrastructure work in the Red […]

People are still watching full-size TVs rather than streaming programmes on their phone

Saudi TV fights off the smartphone challenge

Smart television is holding up as the main platform for accessing sports, news and entertainment in Saudi Arabia, despite the boom in streaming services that can be watched on smartphones, a leading media researcher said this week.   “In the past decade there was a lot of transformation in Saudi. New devices, behaviours and trends,” said […]

Lionel Messi, Antonela Roccuzzo and their sons on holiday. His latest Saudi Tourism promo video has been posted on Instagram Video length: 01:02

Saudi tourism scores big with Lionel Messi video

Global Google searches for “Saudi tourism” shot up at the weekend after tourism bosses in the kingdom released a new promotional video starring footballer Lionel Messi. The campaign, which is being launched in markets including Europe, India and China, focuses on overturning common misconceptions about Saudi Arabia. The video has been watched by 50 million […]

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - DECEMBER 02: Greg Silverman, Charlene Deleon-Jones and Jessika Borsiczky pose in the portrait studio during the Red Sea International Film Festival 2023 on December 02, 2023 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for The Red Sea International Film Festival)

Coming to a movie theatre near you … AlUla

It would make the perfect setting for Star Wars or Indiana Jones, but AlUla is developing production facilities that will expand its reach beyond sci-fi and desert adventure movies, making it one of the region’s prime locations for international shoots.  The tourist location in northwest Saudi Arabia is fast developing into a mini-city with an […]

Saudi artist Manal AlDowayan will represent her country at the 2024 Venice Biennale

Saudi art blooms with the kingdom’s transformation

The arts have undergone profound changes in Saudi Arabia over the past decade as the country has enacted wide-ranging reforms, according to a leading Saudi artist.  Once silenced by religious forces and a conservative culture, female artists in particular have come to the fore through a raft of government and private sector initiatives to encourage […]

U.S. actress Gwyneth Paltrow talks during an ‘In Conversation’ session at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on December 6th, 2023, as part of the 3rd edition of Red Sea Film Festival. Photo by Balkis Press/ABACAPRESS.COM

Gwyneth Paltrow slides door on films to focus on Goop

Gwyneth Paltrow has all but closed the door on her acting career, giving her more time to focus on her wellness brand Goop and to explore new countries such as Saudi Arabia, the Oscar winner told an audience at the Red Sea International Film Festival.  “For the foreseeable future I’m at Goop. I have a […]

Man watching tv and eating popcorn at home on a couch, back view

In the streaming age, the TV stays on after Ramadan

YouTube creators and streaming services are changing the face of television all over the world – but particularly in Arab countries, according to executives who attended the Red Sea Film Festival in Jeddah this month. The entertainment industry in the Middle East traditionally focused on the fasting month, when TV shows could find a captive […]