International

Saudi Arabia to let women attend opera for first time

Saudi Arabia is celebrating the 87th anniversary of its founding this weekend with an unprecedented array of concerts and performances, including allowing women into the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh for a Saturday evening operetta — a first in the conservative Islamic kingdom.

Also on offer is a concert in the Red Sea city of Jeddah featuring, 11 Arab musicians, fireworks, air acrobatics and traditional folk dance shows.

The events are the latest entertainment sponsored by the government as part of the Vision 2030 reform programme, launched two years ago, to diversify the economy away from oil, create whole new sectors to employ young citizens, and open up Saudis’ cloistered lifestyles.

However, in a country that adheres to the austere Wahhabi brand of Sunni Islam, which bans gender mixing, concerts and cinemas, the plan’s seemingly anodyne goals to empower women, promote sports and invest in entertainment have been criticised.

Saudi rulers are also starting to reform areas that were once the exclusive domain of the clergy, such as education and the law, and have promoted elements of national identity that have no religious component.

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Printable version | Jul 5, 2020 1:48:55 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/saudi-arabia-to-let-women-attend-opera-for-first-time/article19743609.ece

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