‘Spirit of the Dance’ stars dazzle audiences in Riyadh with Irish, Falmenco fused rhythms
‘Spirit of the Dance’ stars dazzle audiences in Riyadh with Irish, Falmenco fused rhythms
The award-winning dance performance — now in its 20th year — has been seen by more than 30 million people around the world and has broken box office records in more than 20 countries.
“Spirit of the Dance” is being staged in the Kingdom for the first time by the Knight Group together with the General Entertainment Authority (GEA), which last month announced an entertainment bonanza, with more than 5,000 events scheduled this year.
Knight Group founder and CEO Fouad Halabi told Arab News: “The GEA has been very helpful showcasing this world-famous show. For us, as an organizer and producer, it was not feasible at the beginning to bring such a great show here, but the GEA was instrumental in understanding how the show should be organized to respect both the local and Irish culture.
“Now we are very excited about this breathtaking show. We hope after seeing the performances, people will learn about the Irish culture,
about this art.”
The GEA was established in line with the goals of Vision 2030 to diversify the entertainment sector and broaden the range of entertainment options. Opera and jazz have been featured recently.
“Spirit of the Dance” will travel to Jeddah for performances on March 15-16 at the King Abdullah Economic City.
The Irish ambassador in Riyadh, Tony Cotter, one of several diplomats at Thursday’s show, said: “I am happy to see the amount of social change taking place in Saudi Arabia — it is fantastic to see famous Irish dance being performed on stage in the Kingdom.”
Commenting on the Kingdom’s growing entertainment sector, Cotter said: “There is a huge development in this area. The GEA is doing a superb job bringing different forms of entertainment to the Kingdom — we have seen opera, jazz concert, now this ‘Spirit of the Dance’ show. I can see a bright future for the entertainment sector here.”
The “Spirit of the Dance” stars mesmerized their audience, delivering the powerful rhythms of Irish dance combined with the passionate Latino rhythms of tango, flamenco, and red-hot salsa.
Jameela Balahmar, a marketing specialist with Mobily, told Arab News: ” I am a big fan of the Irish dance, and was really excited to watch this event. Now, seeing it live, is truly an amazing experience for me and my generation, especially for women in Saudi Arabia.”
The show coincided with International Women’s Day.
“Earlier, we were having to watch it on YouTube and television or travel to experience it. Thanks to the GEA and the Knight Group for bringing it here — making a dream come true to watch it live in my hometown.”
Abdullah Ramadhan, a project manager with the IT giant Dell, said: “This show is absolutely amazing. Everybody applauds the efforts of the GEA. For a long time, we were not exposed to different cultures and lifestyles in the world, so it makes a lot of sense now as the world moves closer to be more and more connected. It is good that our authorities are now inviting famous groups from various parts of the world so we can experience their culture and learn about their society.
“Assimilation of cultures from different parts of the world with our local heritage is important. If you are exposed to different cultures, it is a good learning experience,” he said.
Saudi food truckers tickling your taste buds can’t find a recipe for parking
- Pop-up kitchens on wheels have become part of the popular Saudi culture
- Just like any other business, food trucks have regulations and licensing that owners need to follow in order to operate a food truck.
RIYADH: Food trucks are fast becoming a key feature of the Saudi streets. These mobile food outlets have become a lucrative business in major urban centers across the Kingdom.
It would not be wrong to say that these food trucks have become part of the popular Saudi culture. Only a few years ago, such outlets used to serve the needs of people working blue-collar jobs but today it has become a trend and these eateries are as valued as high-end restaurants.
With a wide variety of foods to offer, this business is gaining popularity among young entrepreneurs mainly because of the minimal costs as compared to setting up a proper restaurant. Yet when it comes to setting up the business, it turns out that it is not as simple as buying a truck and selling food.
Just like any other business, food trucks have regulations and licensing that owners need to follow in order to operate a food truck.
Cities like Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam have regulations for establishing a food truck business in order to obtain a license. There are also regulations for the vehicles, governing safety, size and sanitation. However, rules about where and when to park these mobile eateries appear to be the most difficult for the owners.
Abdulaziz Al-Qahtani, owner of a food truck in Riyadh that specializes in coffee, told Arab News about how owners struggle with the city’s municipal regulations, describing the process of opening a food truck as difficult as opening a regular outlet. But the most difficult part was finding a spot to park the truck.
He said: “They do not have clear guidelines where food trucks can stop or cannot stop,” he said. “It will be better for the city’s municipality to have a spot fixed for food trucks in different parts of Riyadh.”
Another entrepreneur, Sereen Al-Madani, said: “I’m facing the same difficulties other trucks are facing: Many food trucks lose their businesses due to the unavailability of parking spaces, the absence of electricity or other facilities around the spots these trucks are usually parked.”
The situation in other countries is totally different, she said, adding that the municipalities provide food trucks with necessary facilities.
Al-Madani said: “We are not allowed to leave our trucks parked in a specific area overnight. A number of robberies have taken place at some locations. In some incidents, generators and other machinery were stolen. I know one girl whose truck was stolen.”
Some time ago, the Riyadh Municipality had allocated a parking space for food trucks on King Fahd Road but for reasons best known to the authorities the decision was overturned.
Attempts to get comments from the municipality on this issue did not yield results.
Another regulation was about the Saudization policy. According to Jeddah’s municipal website, in order to obtain a license, the workers and owners of the food trucks must be Saudi citizens and cannot be employed at a public authority.
In addition, the owners themselves must work along with their Saudi employees in the kitchen, sales and customer care.
“That is a problem because Saudis expect high salaries compared to foreigners, and if we hire Saudis we will have to increase our prices,” Al-Madani said.
“They cannot live with low income and I cannot benefit from it if I will sell my falafels at the same price as restaurants. There is no way to compete with that and that is the biggest difficulty.”
Despite these obstacles, the city’s municipality made it pretty easy for owners to issue a food truck license. Now permits are issued electronically and generally take two working days to be issued.
Even though Al-Madani and Al-Qahtani faced some issues with their businesses, each of them has a success story to share.
Most food truck businesses are upgrading to become restaurants or shops. A food truck specialized in coffee, now has its own coffee shop boutique in one of the upscale areas in Riyadh.
“The coffee sector in Saudi Arabia is witnessing a boom,” Al-Qahtani said. “Lots of shops are opening. We will have more coffee shops in the Saudi markets in the next couple of years.”
“The environment, the experience, the details that you find in the truck or you find in the shop, our characters, our colors, are all integrated to create an unforgettable atmosphere for the customers by providing board games, music, customer service. It’s actually not one package, it’s many packages that come together and make our outlet unique.”
Al-Madani said her food truck, which specializes in making all kinds of breakfasts, is succeeding because of its uniqueness. “When planning for my food truck to stand out from the pack, I focused on the quality,” she said. “My prices are reasonable, I sell breakfast throughout the day and that is unique.”
She added: “Without the help and support of my family and partner, I wouldn’t have made it: They are the ones who inspired me.”
Some food trucks are considering the month of Ramadan as the peak season, while others are taking this month as a chance to renovate, work on maintenance and think of new plans for the rest of the summer.
Al-Qahtani said he has a clear plan for how his business will go in the summer. He said: “In Ramadan, we will sponsor Shalky (Exhibition). We are taking this position to capture the eyes of more clients.”