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Jazzing up the Kingdom: Music fest planned as reforms take hold

Saudi Arabian singer Rashed Al-Majed peforms during a concert in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (REUTERS)
RIYADH: A Saudi Arabian industrial zone plans to host a jazz festival around the end of this year as it moves into tourism and entertainment, a result of economic reforms designed to end the Kingdom’s reliance on oil exports.
In January, Jeddah hosted Saudi Arabia’s first major public concert in over a decade, featuring Arab music.
Reforms launched by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman are changing the business environment. The crown prince has identified tourism and entertainment as key industries to develop because of their potential to create jobs.
Fahd Al-Rasheed, group chief executive of Emaar the Economic City (EEC), which is developing the King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) on the Red Sea coast near Jeddah, said he aimed to have foreign musicians perform at the jazz festival.
Al-Rasheed said it was not clear whether current visa rules would permit a large foreign audience at the festival, but predicted heavy demand for tickets among Saudi citizens.
“There is a huge, untapped demand for events and cultural performances like this,” he said in an interview on Wednesday on the sidelines of an international conference promoting Saudi Arabia as an investment destination.
The jazz plan underlines a shift of emphasis at KAEC since the crown prince started his reforms last year.

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