JEDDAH: As US President Donald Trump visits Saudi Arabia, it is important to remember that ties between the two countries go far deeper than politics — in fact, the Kingdom has long been a consumer of American pop culture and entertainment.
As one of the world’s leading entertainment producing nations, Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Entertainment (GAE) — which was created in 2016 and is working to carry out Vision 2030’s call for more entertainment in the country — has looked to the US in a bid to add some sparkle to the leisure sector in the Kingdom.
From wrestling events to the first ever Saudi Comic Con, fans have been treated to a host of cultural activities and have much more to look forward to. But more importantly, the list of class acts is expected to expand to include Western pop stars. It is not far-fetched to find Justin Bieber or Beyoncé in a concert lineup.
Six Flags amusement park to thrill families
Last April, the Kingdom announced plans to build a large entertainment city south of the capital to feature a Six Flags theme park, safari, cultural facilities and more. The US-based Six Flags park announced that it is building three parks in the country, one slated for Riyadh, one for Jeddah and one at a resort elsewhere on the Red Sea coast.
A waiver from Dubai Parks and Resorts DUBA.DU, which holds exclusive rights to develop and operate Six Flags-branded theme parks in the six member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), would enable the Saudi parks to carry the Six Flags name.
WWE Live takes Saudi fans by storm
WWE Live returned last year with wrestling stars Dean Ambrose, Randy Orton, Bray Wyatt and many more.
“I’ve been a WWE fan since I was 5 years old and it was literally a dream come true. I was finally able to see these amazing world champions in their element. The crowd went wild and the venue was packed,” 20-year-old Yazeed M.A. told Arab News.
“It’s so cool to see such entertainment shows come to my home country, a much-needed change. My brother was ecstatic as we both grew up watching WWE,” he added.
iLuminate wows crowds
In 2016, the New York-based show iLuminate wowed audiences in Riyadh and Jeddah with a series of non-traditional musical performances that dazzled families and saw children dancing in the aisles.
Comedians take to the stage
In 2016, American comedian Gabriel Iglasias, known by the stage name of “Fluffy,” entertained audiences in Riyadh and Jeddah for the second time.
“Fluffy was hilarious, I’ve never laughed harder in my life. I got the chance to attend his show in Jeddah and I had the best time. The GAE is doing great at bringing in talent, especially from the US since their reputation precedes them,” fan Anas Al-Ayesh told Arab News.
Comic-Con in Saudi Arabia
In February, the first-ever Saudi Comic-Con took place in Jeddah and a crowd of more than 20,000 flocked to the event. Fans from around the country attended the three-day convention, which was considered a success.
Anime enthusiasts, Marvel and DC Comic fans and Saudi game developers gathered to showcase their work while a private all-female cosplay competition stole the show for many women.
The event also held discussion panels featuring movie and television actors such as Julian Glover and Charles Dance, the infamous “Lord Tywin Lannister” from HBO’s “Game of Thrones.”
Nada Al-Qahtani, an avid anime fan, expressed her pleasure at attending the event, saying: “I’m an anime fan and it was great seeing the majority of attendees sharing the same adoration. We otakus (anime fans) were beyond pleased, it was better than I expected.”
“There were volunteers on every corner guiding and helping the crowds, the cosplayers were brilliant and I was very happy to see so many Saudi talents showcasing their products,” she said.
“It’s great to see that our country gave our youth the opportunity to share their work... It made people realize they don’t need to travel abroad to attend Comic Cons or showcase their work abroad, it’s a chance for them to do so in their homeland.”
Deepak Chopra’s inspiring lectures
This month, public speaker and alternative medicine proponent Deepak Chopra presented two unique and inspiring lectures in Riyadh. The US-based powerhouse spoke about the importance of empowering young people, well-being and the merits of good leadership.