Richard Branson to invest in Saudi Red Sea project

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Virgin airlines founder Richard Branson. (AFP)
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Richard Branson visiting an old railway system in Madinah. (Courtesy photo)
Updated 02 October 2017
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Richard Branson to invest in Saudi Red Sea project

JEDDAH: Virgin airlines founder Richard Branson will invest in a Red Sea project that aims to turn 50 Saudi Arabian islands into luxury tourism destinations, the Saudi government announced on Sunday.
Branson is the first international investor to commit to the project, Saudi Arabia’s information ministry said, in what officials called “a clear sign that Saudi Arabia is opening its doors to international tourism.”
Branson also visited the tombs at Madain Saleh — an UNESCO World Heritage site located near a string of new hotels — in a trip to the Gulf kingdom that appears to be aimed at attracting further international attention, both investment and tourism.
“This is an incredibly exciting time in the country’s history and I’ve always felt that there’s nothing like getting a firsthand impression,” Branson said in a statement released by the information ministry.
The scheme aims to pull the region’s biggest economy out of its dependence on oil and diversify the country’s economic revenue model.
On August 1, Saudi Arabia announced plans to turn 34,000 square kilometers (13,127 square miles) of its Red Sea coastline into luxury resorts.
The project is aimed at attracting international tourists to a country where alcohol is prohibited and the mobility and dress of women restricted.
The Saudi Public Investment Fund, which is headed by Prince Mohammed, will provide the initial investment into the Red Sea project, with construction slated to start in 2019.
The Red Sea project is expected to generate 35,000 jobs, according to the Saudi government.


King of Latin pop Enrique Iglesias launches Ad Diriyah festival

Spanish superstar Enrique Iglesias performs at the launch of a three-day festival of music, culture and motorsport on Thursday in Ad Diriyah, near Riyadh. (Twitter)
Updated 14 December 2018
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King of Latin pop Enrique Iglesias launches Ad Diriyah festival

  • Enrique Iglesias took the stage in an outdoor arena in historic Ad Diriyah
  • The cheers were deafening, the excitement electric and the performance magical

RIYADH: Spanish superstar Enrique Iglesias launched a three-day festival  of music, culture and motorsport on Thursday with a stunning concert at an outdoor arena in historic Ad Diriyah.

The king of Latin pop took the stage by storm and stole the hearts of thousands in the crowd, whose screams could be heard from a long way away. “I love you Enrique,” a group of girls in the audience shouted.

As he waved his hand back and forth in the air, the crowd started doing the same while jumping up and down. The cheers were deafening, the excitement electric and the performance magical. 

No theatrics were excluded as displays of fireworks and lasers wowed the audience. The singer asked the crowd if they spoke Spanish, and everyone screamed “Yes.”

While stage smoke poured into the arena a female performer sang a duet with Iglesias, who then delighted the crowd with some impromptu salsa dancing in front of the stage.

Fans waved their uplifted phones with their screens and flashes along with the music, while others tried to capture the performance.

“You can run, you can hide but you can’t escape my love,” sang Iglesias while the crowd screamed.

Earlier the R&B singer, songwriter and dancer Jason Derulo persuaded the crowd to put on their dancing shoes with an energetic set.

“Saudi, whassup! This is a dream come true for me! Since we are in Saudi Arabia I want to do things a little different,” he told the audience. He said his mother taught him to never visit empty handed, so his gift to Saudi Arabia was the debut performance of a new song.

Thursday’s entertainment will be followed on Friday by shows from Arab music star Amr Diab and the Black Eyed Peas. The climax of the festival comes on Saturday with the Saudia Ad Diriyah Formula E Grand Prix motor race, followed by headline performances by OneRepublic and the megastar DJ/producer David Guetta.