Fun and games in Saudi with planned 'entertainment city'

Fun and games in Saudi with planned 'entertainment city'
Looking for fun in Saudi Arabia? Riyadh's plans to build an 'entertainment city' outside the capital could offer some respite for citizens starved of merriment.
2 min read
08 April, 2017
Mohammed bin Salman is one of Saudi Arabia's most influential royals [AFP]
Fun and Saudi Arabia don't often fit in the same sentence, but Riyadh's influential Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is looking at ways to shake up the kingdom's stale reputation.

Among the latest initiatives the young prince has planned for entertainment-starved young Saudis is a new 334sq km park outside the capital Riyadh.

Dubbed "entertainment city", the huge recreation centre will include a safari park, sports facilities, a theme park and other activities.

"This city will become - God willing - a prominent cultural landmark and an important centre for meeting the future generation's recreational, cultural and social needs in the kingdom," Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in a statement.

Prince Mohammed is attempting to push through a series of radical economic reforms to wean the country off its oil reliance.

He is also attempting to shake-up Saudi Arabia's often undynamic work culture, high unemployment and a costly welfare state through Vision 2030.

Yet, he is also said to understand that to foster creativity he must also halt the kingdom's brain drain which sees many of Saudi Arabia's most innovative and liberal young workers leave for Europe, the US and other parts of the Middle East.

Among the tight social restrictions in place is a ban on women from driving, and restrictions on live music and cinema.

Saudi Arabia's influential ulama have also been a stumbling block for the young prince, he's had some success in easing restrictions on concerts, while events such as Comic Con have also found a footing thanks to influential support.

In a landmark announcement last year, Saudi Arabia also said it build a series of theme parks in the kingdom with US based developer Six Flags.

The Saudi state is also investing in some of these developments which should grease the wheels and help these ambitious projects navigate the difficult waters of red tape and religious sensitivities.