Saudi Arabia’s first home-grown cinema chain to open four multiplexes by year end

Time: August 06, 2019  

The first cinema will be at the Mall of Arabia in Jeddah. (Muvi Cinemas)
  • Muvi Cinemas’ first multiscreen to launch in Jeddah mall as part of deal for 10 more destinations in 2020

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s first home-grown cinema chain is to open four new multiplexes in the Kingdom before the end of this year.

Muvi Cinemas has signed a partnership deal with Arabian Centers which will see a network of film theaters established in malls in cities throughout the country.

The first will be at the Mall of Arabia in Jeddah where a 15-screen complex is expected to open to the public in the coming weeks.

It will be followed by cinemas at Nakheel Mall in Dammam, the Mall of Dhahran, Al-Hamra Mall in Riyadh and the new U-Walk boulevard mall complex due for the capital later this year.

Saudi lifestyle destinations operator Arabian Centers and its new partner Muvi Cinemas will continue to expand in 2020 with the launch of an additional 10 malls, bringing the movie experience to eight Saudi cities over the next 24 months through 250 screen choices including ScreenX, Junior, Suites and bespoke Xperience.

Arabian Centers’ CEO Olivier Nougarou, said: “As a local company with a deep understanding of the Saudi consumer, we are delighted to have a cinema chain partner who is also born out of the Kingdom and is equally committed to provide a bespoke and uniquely homegrown entertainment experience.

“We are shortly opening Muvi Cinemas’ first cineplex at our flagship Jeddah mall – the Mall of Arabia – and following it with openings in the capital and Eastern Province as we continue to enable and enhance our lifestyle experience across the Kingdom.”

The film theater partnership with Muvi Cinemas is aligned with the Saudi government’s quality of life program within the Vision 2030 reform plan, that is committed to the introduction of cinemas across the nation as part of a comprehensive range of entertainment, arts and cultural facilities.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Successful first Jeddah Season only the beginning

Time: July 17, 2019  

A view of Jeddah’s old district of Balad (AN photo/Essam Al-Ghalib)

Jeddah is reborn as a tourist destination. Jeddah Season has succeeded in bringing attention to the city nationally and internationally. But, in order to put it firmly on the tourism world map, attention should be given to developing the city’s infrastructure, facilities and long-term planning.

Jeddah is historically the gateway to Makkah and a commercial hub. It has always been the entry point for pilgrims arriving by sea or air on their way to Makkah for Umrah or Hajj, and it naturally became a center for trade. In modern history, when it was developed into a beautiful coastal city, Jeddah was named the “Bride of the Red Sea,” but in past decades it has been mismanaged and neglected. Roads are badly paved and full of potholes, the sewerage system is incomplete, neighborhoods grew haphazardly, poor urban planning, and a dilapidated airport are just some of the city’s main problems.

In recent years, there have been some positive developments, especially at the seafront and in solving the hazard of floods, which a few years ago claimed many lives in an unforgettable disaster. But much, much more needs to be done for the city, starting with its long-awaited new airport, which marks the first impression of the city for any visitor.

Jeddah Season has put a bright face on the city, showing its potential as a tourist destination. Despite the hot, humid weather, people flocked to the events with enthusiasm. The season, which was launched on June 8 and will wrap up on Thursday with a grand finale concert, featured a variety of events suitable for all ages and in different locations. There were concerts by famous Arab and international singers and bands, comedy, drama and kids’ plays, sports events and activities, art exhibitions, and fabulous circus shows and games, in addition to the sumptuous cuisine served by renowned international restaurants and local eateries and the nightly spectacular fireworks.

Al-Balad (old Jeddah) has come alive with the sounds of live music in public squares, the colorful decorations and lights, and the aroma of local dishes prepared by street vendors, not to mention the theater performances by local talents, including the first interactive play in Saudi Arabia — our own version of a haunted house — and also the first art house cinema. Jeddah Waterfront has also been abuzz with amazing shows and entertainment. Al-Hamra district, Obhor, King Abdullah Sports City, the malls, and other locations also thumped with activities, live performances and displays.

In general, the organizing of the events was very good, but in some mass concerts better crowd management was needed. The services, promotion and publicity campaigns were top notch. Some people, however, complained about the extravagant prices of the international restaurants.

In general, the organizing of the events was very good, but in some mass concerts better crowd management was needed.

Maha Akeel

Even though foreign companies are involved, local companies are clearly in charge of many aspects and young Saudi men and women have been present, working hands-on and in the field. Who said Saudis don’t want to work? They are proving the negative stereotypes wrong. They are energetic, creative and willing to work. With the right training and motivation, they can deliver. The season offered an opportunity for Saudi businesses to discover prospects for launching new enterprises, provided that the regulations and incentives are suitable.

With high-profile international events such as the Red Sea International Film Festival scheduled for next year, along with a possible revival of the Jeddah Economic Forum and the launch of other cultural, artistic, scientific, educational and economic events, Jeddah can claim its place as a world-class destination. New hotels are already rising, current sites are being rehabilitated for activities and events, and new development projects have been announced. Jeddah has the necessary ingredients — rich history, location and welcoming people — to lure visitors. The tourist visa is already available. Now we need to lay the groundwork for a diverse palette of activities and sites. Without good infrastructure, enough facilities and quality service, the expected returns will not be sustainable.

Jeddah Season is part of the Saudi Season 2019 initiative that includes programs in other cities and locations across the Kingdom; with the Riyadh Season expected to be the biggest entertainment event in the capital, starting on Oct. 11. Saudi Season 2019 was launched by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage with the cooperation of several government departments, including the Ministry of Culture, General Authority for Entertainment, General Sports Authority and the Saudi Exhibition and Convention Bureau, under the leadership of a higher committee chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Season 2019 is only the beginning, as it paves the way for the seasons to follow. An overall review of the choice of entertainers, events, restaurants and locations, as well as the logistical planning, management, services and promotion is needed to prepare for future seasons.

Putting the spotlight on the unique cultural and historical characteristics of the different cities in Saudi Arabia highlights their potential as destinations for tourism and investment. This is in line with achieving all three pillars of the groundbreaking agenda of Vision 2030: A vibrant society, a thriving economy and an ambitious nation. It also reaches some of the 13 Vision Realization Programs. In particular, the focus on developing the tourism sector would achieve the strategic objective of diversifying the country’s sources of income and attracting investment.

• Maha Akeel is a Saudi writer. She is based in Jeddah. Twitter: @MahaAkeel1

This article was first published in Arab News

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K-pop superstars BTS to perform in Saudi Arabia in October

14/07/19

BTS made history when they performed at the Grammy Awards. (File/AFP)
  • They will perform on October 11 at the King Fahd International Stadium
  • The Saudi show is part of the group’s record-breaking world tour “Love yourself: Speak yourself”

DUBAI: Global superstars BTS confirmed on Sunday that they will be performing in Saudi Arabia for the first time, just days after another K-pop group debuted in the Kingdom.

Set to happen on October 11 this year, BTS will be performing at the King Fahd International Stadium as part of Riyadh Seasons. The Saudi show is part of the group’s record-breaking world tour “Love yourself: Speak yourself.”

 

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The K-pop sensation made history earlier at the Grammy Awards in the US as the first Korean act to perform at the glittering ceremony.

Ticket details will be announced at a later date.

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EDM star Marshmello’s first Saudi gig is anything but mellow

Time: July 11, 2019  

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Marshmello performing at the Prince Abdullah Al-Faisal Basketball Arena at King Abdullah Sport City on Wednesday. (Supplied photo)
  • Masked DJ and producer gets Jeddah crowd pumped up during a show packed with his hits
  • Saudi DJ duo Dish Dash kick the evening off with a well-received opening set

JEDDAH: American EDM artist Marshmello enthralled fans in Jeddah with a brilliant live performance on Wednesday night, his first in Saudi Arabia.

The evening began with a well-received opening set from acclaimed Saudi DJ duo Dish Dash, who are no strangers to performing in front of large crowds in the Kingdom.

After they finished up, the stage was set for the main attraction, and the eager fans who had filled the Prince Abdullah Al-Faisal Basketball Arena at King Abdullah Sport City began to chant his name. The chant turned to cheers when the opening bars of his song “Wolves,” featuring Selena Gomez, filled the venue, and when Marshmello appeared on stage the crowd erupted and many abandoned their seats.

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Along with his undoubted musical talents, the mystery surrounding Marshmello’s peculiar stage persona has helped to fuel his rise to fame as a producer and DJ. His identity is hidden by a light-up, marshmallow-shaped helmet that completely covers his head, and he speaks as little as possible, happy to let his music do the talking.Many people in the crowd were wearing replicas of his mask and others took selfies with them. Some fans danced along to the star’s music, at times attracting almost as much attention as their hero on stage.

One fan who attended the gig wearing a replica Marshmello outfit — and who, like the star, would not reveal their real identity — said: “I always cosplay as Marshmello at all the comic cons and everything, so him coming here was such good news I couldn’t believe it at first.”

Marshmello played all his best-known hits and remixes, including “Happier,” featuring Bastille, and “Silence” featuring Khalid. During the latter, he encouraged the audience to sing alternate lines, and throughout the show he kept the crowd engaged and energized by asking them to sing along and keep their hands up in the air.

Marshmello performing at the Prince Abdullah Al-Faisal Basketball Arena at King Abdullah Sport City on Wednesday. (Supplied photo)

His performance was filled with enthusiasm and energy, but when it finally came to the end it seemed very abrupt — he simply snapped a photo of his fans and left the stage. The audience cheered and clapped in the hope that he would return for an encore, but it was in vain.

As the crowd filed out of the venue, some of the Marshmello cosplayers danced outside to provide further entertainment for fans still buzzing with excitement.

“Seeing Marshmello in real life was so much better” than simply listening to his music, said Basma Mohammad, 30, as he left. “I just couldn’t sit down throughout the whole concert.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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Two of world’s top DJs leave Saudi fans all shook up with electric performance

09/07/19

Dutch DJs Afrojack and R3hab were in Jeddah on Sunday night. (Huda Bashatah)
The concert is part of Jeddah Season. (Huda Bashatah)

This article was first published in Arab News

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How circuses have thrived as Saudi Arabia’s form of entertainment

Time: July 05, 2019

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Live Show Arabia has organized circuses in three different cities, with more on the way, since the start of ‘Entertainment Renaissance’ in the Kingdom last year. (Photo/Supplied)
  • Adjustments in their costumes and routines notwithstanding performers never fail to wow audiences

RIYADH: “Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls of all ages,” the introduction has been booming out across Saudi Arabia for over two years now. The circus is in town all over the Kingdom and, from the looks of it, it’s here to stay.

Circuses are universally loved as places where one can take the family to enjoy a night out. Young and old are entertained by the antics of a clown or dazzled by feats of acrobatic excellence. And as a family-oriented society, Saudi Arabia is the perfect place for circus shows to thrive.

Live Show Arabia (LSA) was one of the first companies to market circuses as a form of entertainment in Saudi right at the start of the “Entertainment Renaissance” that began in the Kingdom last year.

The company staged the “Hollywood Circus,” pitching their tents in the lot outside Granada Mall in Riyadh, now informally known as Circus Square. Since then they’ve gone on to organize circuses in three different cities, with more on the way.

Shows big and small

The popularity of circuses has continued to grow since, with small productions such as those organized by LSA just as common as bigger names such as Cirque du Soleil or Cirque Eloize.

The larger shows are significantly less intimate, and often more expensive, meaning only a limited audience — those who can afford it —  can attend. The fact that smaller circuses like those put on by LSA are not restricted to Saudi Arabia’s major cities has helped them become even more popular.

And despite the smaller size of their shows, their performers are no less talented. “Circo Americano” is helmed by ringmaster Martin Espana — also known as Mr. Extreme Circus. As the most experienced member of the troupe, Espana is involved with all the acts in one way or another and performs with everyone, from the acrobats to the clowns.

Espana told Arab News he has been with the circus for 59 years. When asked how old he was, he replied with the same number: “I was born in the circus, I’ve been a circus performer my whole life,” he said with a grin.

Miguel Gustavo Barreiro has been performing as a clown for over 30 years. He joined up with the “Circo Americano” troupe about four years ago and has toured with them all over the Arab world, visiting countries including Oman, Jordan, and Lebanon. But so far, he says, his favorite location in the Middle East has been Saudi Arabia.

“The people in Saudi Arabia are very soft. Very lovely! Very cute. Arabia is so special, I love the people,” he told Arab News backstage during the intermission.

His affection for the Arab world is clear during his performances, when he can be seen speaking to the audience in Arabic. He calls out “Yalla!” when trying to get them to interact, and “Mashallah!” when they do as they’re told. When asked if he would like to come back to Saudi Arabia in the future, he answers with a cheeky “Inshallah!”

Thierry Antonios of Live Show Arabia invited Arab News backstage after the circus to meet the performers and discuss the success of the company’s different circus shows.

“This is our fourth circus in Saudi Arabia, and we are still planning more,” he said. “We have had a lot of success with Saudis as an audience so far.”

However, there are certain restrictions on performers in Saudi Arabia that generally do not apply elsewhere in the world — meaning the troupe members have to make changes to their costumes and routines.

The people in Saudi Arabia are very soft. Very lovely! Very cute. Arabia is so special, I love the people.

Miguel Gustavo Barreiro

These changes are evident in the way the performers present themselves onstage. The female performers’ dance movements are muted, sometimes jerky, as if they are restraining themselves from moving their bodies too provocatively.

And of course, the costumes have been altered as well: One of the clowns wears a pair of black basketball shorts underneath her tutu to cover her thighs. Underneath short, swishing skirts and cropped shirts, female acrobats wear long-sleeved black bodysuits that hide every inch of exposed skin. The ringmaster’s assistant’s top half looks impeccable in a fancy, sequined red coat, but her bottom half is clad in a regular pair of black sweatpants.

Ludmilla, a Ukranian performer, specializes in acrobatics and contortion. Acrobats in most circuses are usually clad in scanty, skin-tight costumes that leave little to the imagination, Ludmilla has opted for a loose-fitting jumpsuit more appropriate for a Saudi audience.

HIGHLIGHTS

• LSA’s small productions are as popular compared to bigger names such as Cirque du Soleil or Cirque Eloize.

• Circo Americano is helmed by ringmaster Martin Espana — also known as Mr. Extreme Circus.

• There are certain restrictions on performers in Saudi Arabia that generally do not apply elsewhere in the world — meaning the troupe members have to make changes to their costumes and routines.

She said that the costume change does not affect her performance: “It doesn’t bother me. Some of the other performers need tight costumes in order to perform, but my act doesn’t require it.”

“We try to choose artists who are willing to modify their costumes, and so far we haven’t had any issues with getting them to try something different,” Antonios said.

Feedback

The costume changes came into effect following a few complaints that Live Show Arabia received during their first performance of “Hollywood Circus” in Riyadh regarding outfits and acts.

“This year we have taken all the feedback into consideration and adapted the show to Saudi needs,” said Antonios.

Most of the performers Arab News spoke to at “Circo Americano” — and indeed most circus performers worldwide — began honing their talents at a very young age. Barreiro, who turns 50 this year, has been performing as a clown for more than 30 years. Ludmilla, 29, has been performing for 25 years. Most circus performers were either born into the circus life or began traveling with a troupe at as young as three years old.

However, LSA is aware that there are Saudis who may be interested in joining a circus troupe and Antonios revealed exclusively to Arab News that his company has plans to establish a circus school in Riyadh some time in the next few years.

“We’re still waiting on full approvals, and investors, but this is definitely something we would be interested in doing,” he said.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Rapper Nicki Minaj to headline mega music festival in Saudi Arabia

Time: July 03, 2019  

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Raed Abuzinada and Robert Quirke at the press launch of the Jeddah World Fest on Tuesday. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
  • Event organizer Roqu specializes in creating world-class festivals in partnership with cities and governments all around the globe
  • Other stars performing at the event will be DJ Steve Aoki and singer Liam Payne

JEDDAH: Organizers of the mega music festival, being held in Saudi Arabia, have revealed the first wave of international artists to take to the stage.

Rapper Nicki Minaj, musician Steve Aoki, and singer Liam Payne are to perform at Jeddah World Fest, which will be emceed by DJs R3wire and Varski and broadcast on TV around the globe.

The event will take place on July 18 at King Abdullah Sports Stadium.

The music festival is part of the Jeddah Season of activities which falls under the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage’s (SCTH) ambitious program of seasonal entertainment for the Kingdom.

Raed Abuzinada, sector development chief of the Saudi General Entertainment Authority (GEA) and director general of Jeddah Season, said the Jeddah World Fest would be the biggest music event of its kind and would be covered by MTV.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The Jeddah World Fest stage is designed by the same team behind the world tours of Ed Sheeran, Madonna, U2 and other top stars.

• The stage for Jeddah will be 100 meters wide, 18 meters high and 50 meters deep and will be the largest music stage ever built in the Middle East.

• The event will take place on July 18 at King Abdullah Sports Stadium.

As well as featuring a star-studded lineup of international artists it would also provide an opportunity for local talent. “There is a stereotype of the Kingdom all over the world, and today it is disappearing. In its place is a new picture of the Kingdom, that accepts everyone,” added Abuzinada.

Robert Quirke, president of event organizer Roqu Media International, said: “Projects like this, no matter where they are in the world, from Toronto to Tokyo, are always extremely challenging. But here in Jeddah it’s actually been a relief, because the team has been so professional and has been a big support to what we are doing.

“Jeddah World Fest is the first ever international festival of its kind in this country, which is really spectacular, and the fact that it’s right here in Jeddah makes it even more special.

“What we are doing specifically, is creating a world-class live music international festival in the city of Jeddah. It’s an outdoor music festival, on a similar scale to iconic festivals in different countries around the world.

“What makes this project unique among every other project in Jeddah this year, is that this is produced specifically for global TV broadcast, and that’s really special,” Quirke added.

“It’s going to be really special for the people who go to the event, but what is going to be even more special is the hundreds of millions of people who see this show all around the world. So, when you turn on your TV in New York, Berlin or Sydney, you see Jeddah. And that’s special.”

He said the first person to perform at the festival this year would be Nicki Minaj.

“She is an absolute global icon. She has 130 million followers on Instagram, she is considered one of the top 10 female performers of all time, she’s had multiple awards and she’ll have her new album come out this year.

“She is going to get a lot of attention for Jeddah in the most positive way you can imagine. She’s going to be actively on her social media, she’ll be posting right from the stage in Jeddah and at her hotel in Jeddah. Everyone is going to know that Nicki Minaj has landed in Saudi Arabia,” Quirke said.

“Second of the lineup is Steve Aoki, an American DJ based in Las Vegas. He is one of the most spectacular live DJs I’ve ever seen, and his global fans agree. Aoki is an incredible electronic artist and headlines the best shows such as Tomorrowland and Ultra Music Festival. It’s going to be like nothing ever seen before here.

“We’re also very happy to announce that R3wire and Varski will be emceeing the show. They are the MTV ambassador DJs, they were signed by Ministry of Sound and they perform all over the world from Tokyo, Hong Kong, Asia, and Europe. They go to all the top festivals, so while we’re making the changeover from Nicki Minaj to Steve Aoki or Liam Payne, these guys will make sure that the crowd stays absolutely pumped,” he added.

The second wave of festival performers will be announced later this week.

—–

Where to get tickets: www.jeddahworldfest.com

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Blue Man Group set to return to Jeddah

Time: June 27, 2019  

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Blue Man Group, one of the world’s most popular shows, is coming back to Jeddah for the third time. (Photo: Supplied)
  • Blue Man Group is a performance arts company formed in 1991
  • Since its formation, it has entertained a global audience of over 35 million people and won numerous awards

JEDDAH: Blue Man Group, one of the world’s most popular shows, is coming back to Jeddah for the third time. The show is a circus, a play and a stand-up comedy performance combined by three identical men covered in blue paint.
Their performances are famous for their recurring themes, such as science and innocence. Each theme is uniquely represented through the group’s skill with colors, instruments, and humor.
Blue Man Group is a performance arts company formed in 1991. Since its formation, it has entertained a global audience of over 35 million people and won numerous awards.
Blue Man Group is comprised of Matt Goldman, Phil Stanton and Chris Wink. Before founding the group, they were entrepreneurs, artists and contemporary comedians.
These three men later became a cultural phenomenon and laid the foundations for their successful artistic organization.
Blue Man Group first visited Saudi Arabia in 2017 and was met with a fantastic reception. Its debut in the Kingdom was considered the biggest international show to be performed in the country.
Its latest tour “Speechless” started in May and runs until 2020. The Jeddah show runs from July 1 until July 18 in the Jawhara Stadium.

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Jeddah Season attracts 13 international restaurants, 157 food and beverage projects

Time: June 21, 2019  

Food stands serving a variety of food and beverage choices can be found at Jeddah Season festival sites. (Photo/Supplied)
  • Jeddah Season aims to highlight the development opportunities in the Kingdom

JEDDAH: Under the theme Sea and Culture the Jeddah Season festival has attracted 13 international restaurants and 157 food and beverage projects run by young Saudis, while entertainment is provided by 150 local and international events and activities.

The organizing committee was keen to attract the finest international restaurants appealing to all tastes and age groups, presenting new experiences in each of the five main sites where the festival is being held until July 18.

Food stands can be found across the festival’s sites to provide a variety of food and beverage choices, in addition to offering the finest Arabian and seafood dishes amid the cultural atmosphere of Jeddah and its historical landmarks.

Jeddah Season aims to highlight the development opportunities in the Kingdom, shed light on the city’s status as the Kingdom’s tourism capital, support the events sector as one of the most important industries for the national economy, strengthen the state’s efforts in empowering young Saudis, provide work opportunities for local emerging and medium-sized companies, and attract international companies to the Saudi market.

The sites where Jeddah Season is being held include King Abdullah Sports City (KASC), Al-Hamra Corniche, the Jeddah Waterfront, Obhur and Historic Jeddah (Al-Balad), which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Jeddah Season takes music lovers on magical journey with Vivaldi light show

Time: June 13, 2019  

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The Vivaldianno production put a twist on the story of one of the greatest Baroque composers Antonio Vivaldi. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)

JEDDAH: Visitors to the Jeddah Season of festivities were taken on a magical musical journey during a spectacular light show about the turbulent life of Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi.

The Vivaldianno production put a twist on the story of one of the greatest Baroque composers with the use of 3-D projections and lasers to narrate the highs and lows of the music genius.

The show was a collection of some of Vivaldi’s best works including his “Four Seasons,” in which he gave musical representation to each season of the year played on a group of four violin concerti.

The story started with a narration of the day Vivaldi was born in 1678 in Venice, when it was said that an earthquake shook the city. The infant Vivaldi almost died at birth but as the show revealed was given the breath of life by a mirror with a black frame.

Narrators in Venetian masks went on to depict Vivaldi as a young musician, playing instruments to professional standards from the age of seven.

His career properly kick-started when he was 25 years old, and there were mentions of him finding the mirror and devoting his life to writing and composing music.

He was seen as an isolated and lonely man who spent all of his time working after the love of his life leaves him. At the end of the show the boy who sold him the mirror told Vivaldi that he would be remembered for centuries to come.

Throughout the show the talented musicians interacted with the audience.

Nagham Hashim, 18, a show organizer, said: “When I found out that I would be participating in this event it was the best day of my life.

“Now after listening to this music, I feel more open to the world. I can now enjoy more types of music than ever before because I never really thought I would enjoy this type of music,” she told Arab News.

The Jeddah Season was launched on Saturday in five main destinations across the region, with more than 150 events and expectations that visitor numbers could reach 4 million.

Jeddah Season will provide a wide array of seasonal job opportunities and volunteer opportunities for young people, through an integral team of 20,000 people, gaining expertise and qualifications.

The objectives also shed light on development opportunities, presenting the Kingdom as one of the most popular tourist destinations.

The Saudi Seasons are a combined initiative from the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, the General Entertainment Authority, the General Culture Authority and the General Sports Authority.

There are 11 seasons this year covering, all regions of the Kingdom: The Eastern Province (Sharqiah) Season, Ramadan Season, Eid Al-Fitr Season, Jeddah Season, Taif Season, Eid Al-Adha Season, National Day Season, Riyadh Season, Diriyah Season, Al-Ula Season and Hail Season.

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