Saudi Arabia just hosted two major concerts in the past few days, the first in the kingdom in many years.
A sold-out jazz performance took place in Riyadh over the weekend, held at the 3,300-seat King Fahd Cultural Centre, a first for the city in 25 years. On Monday night, some 8,000 men attended a Jeddah concert for the Saudi singer Mohammed Abdo, the first major concert in the city in seven years.
The major events come only two weeks after Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti's said that musical concerts and cinemas "open doors to evil," saying there is "nothing good" in them. His comments came in response to the kingdom's entertainment authority's efforts to bring more such activities to the country.
Prince Mohammed bin Salman is pushing for change in the kingdom
Enhancing cultural and entertainment opportunities throughout Saudi Arabia is an integral part of the Riyadh's Vision 2030, which has been championed by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Amr al-Madani, head of the kingdom's General Authority for Entertainment, said in early January that concerts and cinemas would come to the kingdom in 2017. Madani also said at the time that Abdo would perform in Jeddah very soon.
Popularly known as the "Artist of the Arabs," Abdo has performed abroad regularly in the past few years, often to largely Saudi audiences. He was slated to perform in Riyadh last year, but the event was canceled without an explanation.
Rabeh Sager, a Saudi, and Majid Al-Muhandis, an Iraqi who also holds Saudi citizenship, also performed with Abdo on Monday evening.
"We were longing for such concerts in our beloved kingdom. The audience was longing for us and we were longing for them," Muhandis told Voice of America.
In addition to pushing for more music events, Saudi Arabia has begun promoting up-and-coming filmmakers and several Saudi films have drawn significant accolades at international film festivals.