Saudi Arabia announces live music permits as part of ambitious ‘year of entertainment’

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Turki Al-Sheikh, the new CEO of Saudi Arabia's General Entertaintment Authority (GEA), speaks during a presentation of the 2019 GEA program at the Four Seasons hotel in Riyadh on January 22, 2019. (AFP)
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Turki Al-Sheikh, left, the new CEO of Saudi Arabia's General Entertainment Authority (GEA), with Saudi actors during a presentation of the 2019 GEA program at the Four Seasons hotel in Riyadh on Tuesday. (AFP)
Updated 24 January 2019

Saudi Arabia announces live music permits as part of ambitious ‘year of entertainment’

  • In his first press conference since he was appointed to the role, Turki Al-Sheikh unveiled a number of initiatives and projects
  • Planned events include soccer matches featuring Beckham and Zidane, concerts, theater shows and Islamic competitions

RIYADH: 2019 is shaping up to be the year of entertainment in Saudi Arabia, with an ambitious program of events planned on a scale never before seen in the Kingdom.

The coming attractions, announced by General Entertainment Authority Chairman Turki Al-Sheikh in Riyadh on Tuesday night, aim to transform Saudi Arabia into one of the top 10 international entertainment destinations. To achieve this, he said, the GEA has negotiated long-term contracts with more than 100 local and international partners. In addition, restaurants and cafes will be able to apply for entertainment licenses.

Traditional and culturally significant local events feature prominently in the plans.

“Competitions are an important element of entertainment,” said Al-Sheikh. “The most important will take place during Ramadan and will be of an Islamic nature, with the supervision of Islamic scholars.

“The first competition will be for the most beautiful reciting of the Holy Qur’an, and competitors from all over the world are invited. The first prize will be SR 5 million.

“The second Islamic competition is for the athan (call for prayer). In addition to receiving a large prize of SR 2 million, the winner of the first prize can also look forward to raising the athan in the Prophet’s Holy mosque.”

Al-Sheikh also announced a SR1 million prize for participants in a  Hijra Journey contest. It will require participants from around the Muslim world to walk between Makkah and Madinah in a reenactment of Prophet Muhammad’s journey of migration.

Soccer fans, meanwhile, are promised exhibition matches featuring football heroes such as former England midfielder David Beckham and French star Zinedine Zidane. The GEA is also looking into the possibility of holding an NBA championship basketball game in the Kingdom.

For those who prefer gentler pastimes, there will be a baloot championship and e-gaming events, while culture vultures can look forward to a varied program of concerts, theatrical events, comedy shows and feats of magic. There will also be a running of the bulls, a “winter wonderland” event, TV game shows, circuses from around the world, bazaars, floating restaurants and outdoor cinemas in 13 cities, plus much more.

One of the biggest new attractions expected to open in 2019 is the Madame Tussauds waxworks museum, which will have venues in Riyadh and Jeddah and feature a wax model of King Faisal.

Although many of these events and attractions have not been seen in Saudi Arabia for many years, if at all, Al-Sheikh emphasized that they will be presented in a way that respects local values.

“Our traditions and culture will be respected,” he said. “Our religion is clear and we will adhere to our Islamic values,” he said.

He also pointed out that similar events were common in the Kingdom at one time, and added: “This is us; we used to be like this 40 years ago, now we are returning to what we had.”

One pastime that is a more recent arrival in Saudi Arabia is drifting, a motor sport hobby that has become popular among Saudi youths. While it is frowned upon by the authorities on public streets, there are plans to give fans a chance to compete in organized events and competitions.

“Now rather than have someone drink soft drinks and annoy us on the streets, we have a new initiative with the General Sports Authority to launch rallies where youths can drift in safety, far from the public streets,” said Al-Sheikh.

One of the aims of the GEA is to discover and develop local talent and give it a chance to prosper internationally. Among the first to benefit from this are Osama, the “animal whisperer,” and Al-Juaad group, who will travel to Germany to showcase their talents. 

“One of the many visions we have is that our local talent performs not only in Saudi Arabia but also abroad,” added Al-Sheikh, who also unveiled a colorful new GEA logo.

“Entertainment is a sector we heavily rely on for vision 2030, in realizing our dreams. We won’t attain our goals unless we work together.”

He said that in addition to the pleasure it provides, the entertainment industry is a vital part of the economy, adding: “It creates jobs and investment opportunities. There is an opportunity for everyone.”

To help support small and medium-sized local companies benefit from this, Al-Sheikh and Minister of Commerce and Investment Majed Al-Qasabi have signed an agreement that will help with the issuing of licenses for entertainment purposes. Al-Sheikh said coffee shops and restaurants will be issued permits to host live musical performances and stand up comedy events.


Saudi woman runs a seamless op to meet military demands

In the future, Al-Mutairi aims to build partnerships with global companies to develop the field. (Supplied)
Updated 19 September 2020

Saudi woman runs a seamless op to meet military demands

  • Turfah Al-Mutairi’s factory creates cutting-edge uniforms, and she hopes to expand beyond the Kingdom

RIYADH: Turfah bint Abdulrahman Al-Mutairi is the first Saudi woman to obtain a license from the General Authority for Military Industries (GAMI) for a military outfit factory.

The owner of Sondos Al-Dibaj factory, Al-Mutairi has a bachelor’s degree in textile engineering and started working in the field after graduating. She is now specialized in military equipment, including clothing that can protect against weapons of mass destruction and biological weapons, as well as fire-resistant clothing.
“My company is among the first five companies to get licensed in the field of military industries by GAMI,” Al-Mutairi told Arab News.
She said her factory works with international companies specialized in localizing production of military equipment.
These include a French company with which she has signed an agreement as a Saudi-French investment specializing in military uniforms. The clothing is designed to meet the needs of the Saudi military in the field.
“I started my career in design and textile as this was my major. Fashion and design depend on the concept more than on quantity,” she said. “There are industries, however, that depend on quantity, and this is found in the military sectors.”
She said her approach to working for the military sector was founded on two beliefs. The first is that, being a strategic sector, and from a security and political point of view, the industry should be local and domestic, and localizing it leads to self-sufficiency, Al-Mutairi said.
“The second reason is that my goal since graduation has been to be part of a cycle that seeks to create jobs for women. Textiles is one of the businesses in which women innovate, and opening production lines for this field has been my goal for over 20 years,” she added.
She has worked on the project since the establishment of her first factory 12 years ago, and she was among the first to demand the domestic production of military clothing.

Turfah bint Abdulrahman Al-Mutairi

The idea of localizing military industries had yet to be discussed when she first started her factory. Many of Al-Mutairi’s relatives work in the military field, which made her aware of the needs of the industry.

FASTFACTS

• The owner of Sondos Al-Dibaj factory, Al-Mutairi has a bachelor’s degree in textile engineering and started working in the field after graduating.

• She is specialized in military equipment, including clothing that can protect against WMDs, biological weapons, as well as fire-resistant clothing.

“I rang the bell at the AFED-2016 exhibition, which targeted the field of spare parts, not individual equipment. I spoke to Maj. Gen. Attia Al-Malki, head of the exhibition, and he was very understanding of my idea, so I took part in the exhibition,” she said, adding: “Here comes the importance of having an official who understands the requirements of the stage and has the flexibility that enables him to make a decision.”
The exhibition also gave Al-Mutairi the opportunity to work with international companies such as BAE Systems, which specializes in aircraft production. “I discussed with them their needs, and we began to fulfill their special requirements and supply them with spare parts for military aircraft, such as engine covers, and we have started to develop our capabilities to cover their delicate product requirements,” she added.
Al-Mutairi said that spare parts are also a type of textile with unique specifications, which can demonstrate the ability of manufacturers.
“Experience begins with a small part and extends to include other parts. We have thankfully passed the stages of installation and reached the stages of creativity and innovation,” she said. For centuries, Al-Mutairi said, fabric and textile production has been women’s work, adding that military uniforms have special requirements that must help soldiers navigate in the field and surrounding terrain.
“We therefore take into account the military requirements in terms of design and material, and this is what we are trying to develop. We had experience in designing the uniforms for the staff of the National Center for Security Operations (911). Maj. Gen. Abdulrahman Al-Saleh, the center’s director, supported us, and the uniform was approved by the Ministry of Interior,” she said.
Her factory also took part in designing Public Security uniform. Al-Mutairi said there are some similarities between the military uniforms of Saudi armed forces and those of other countries. The most common uniform is the No. 4 camouflage, which is worn during deployment.
“They are meant to look like the surrounding area, whether it is a desert or a mountain. These are thought-out patterns, and developments are continuously made by following the latest technologies in textile engineering and color combinations,” she said. “The process of changing them takes a long time and requires decisions by the military sector.” With the comprehensive change in the Saudi economy, cutting-edge systems are encouraging investment, especially in the military industry, she said.
The country goal to localize 50 percent of the military industry. Regulations by GAMI, new systems, and employing purchasing and negotiating powers will help manufacturers achieve the ambitious target, she said.
She added that military technology has valued customers, and it is guaranteed that the products will be bought if they are of high quality.
Al-Mutairi said it is an excellent investment opportunity for Saudis and foreign investors in particular, given that the Kingdom ranks fourth globally in military expenditure, “and you can imagine that 50 percent of this huge spending goes to local factories.”
She said that despite strong competition locally, her factory alone cannot cover market demands, and that the Kingdom needs more competition in the military sector.
“It also needs to localize, train and financially support talent, in addition to developing systems, such as a procurement system. We have also seen recent reforms such as arbitration in corporate cases, and this has become clear and fast, which encourages investment,” she added.
Al-Mutairi said another step that made things easier for industry investment was the development in completing government transactions, which have moved online. “These procedures in the Kingdom only take a few minutes and the response is received electronically.”
In the future, Al-Mutairi aims to build partnerships with international companies to develop the field, quoting Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who said: “The sky is the limit.”
She has had meetings with Chinese and Greek industrial companies, and said she will work with any company that wishes to enter the Saudi market.
While the military industry always relies on patents, Al-Mutairi said it is an advanced stage in the field, and her factory is working toward that goal and focusing on it. But patents only come after mastering a skill, establishing work and starting it, she added.
Military uniforms resistant to weapons of mass destruction are unique to Al-Mutairi’s factory, as it is the only one in the Kingdom and the Gulf region to produce the clothing.
She added that the Sondos Paul Boye Company — a Saudi-French partnership — is the only company in the world to produce the uniform in two internationally known methods. “The first of which is using cellular textile, produced globally by one company, while the second uses spherical textile, produced by another specialized company.” Sondos Paul Boye also manufactures fire-resistant uniforms.
Al-Mutairi said her company is also looking to export uniforms soon.
She employs 170 workers in her factory, while there will be 213 new employees as part of a new expansion.
Many of the workers are women, she added, “because Saudi women by all means have taken over the foreign workers’ department as they complete their work very quickly and demand more tasks.”
This, she said, has added pressure on other workers to keep up with the speed and achievements of the 49 Saudi women working on the factory production line.