Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority (GEA) has revealed plans to turn the conservative Gulf kingdom into an entertainment hub in an attempt to generate billions of dollars in revenue.
The GEA, headed by Turki bin Abdulmohsen Al-Shaikh, plans to hold an event similar to Spain’s running of the bulls and hopes to host rapper Jay Z, among other events.
The strategy “seeks to position the Kingdom among the top four entertainment destinations in the Asian region and the top 10 globally”, according to a press release.
The GEA also unveiled its new brand identity and launched a new events platform called “Enjoy Saudi”.
Saudi Arabia’s reputation has taken a hit following the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed by a Saudi hit squad inside its consulate in Istanbul last year.
He was dismembered inside the building in what Turkey called a “premeditated murder” orchestrated by the Saudi government.
Saudi officials have countered that claim, insisting Khashoggi died in a “rogue operation” after initially claiming he had left the consulate before vanishing.
Eleven men are on trial in Saudi Arabia for his murder, with the prosecutor requesting the death penalty for five of the accused.
The United Nations has said the trial was “not sufficient”.
Saudi Arabia has faced tough economic conditions in recent years, partly due to a prolonged period of falling oil prices.
The kingdom has announced plans to diversify its economy, steering it away from natural resource exports to renewable energy and the tech sector under the “Vision 2030” plan, spearheaded by Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman, commonly known as MBS.
MBS, who some have said was involved in Khashoggi’s killing, is a driving force behind Saudi Arabia’s attempts to rebrand its image.
The GEA’s initiative also hopes to host e-gaming tournaments, a possible NBA game and Madame Tussauds wax museum, while magicians are set to perform despite the fact that sorcery and witchcraft are crimes punishable by death.
Ali Hussein Sibat, a Lebanese man who hosted a “psychic call-in hotline” on satellite television that aired across the Middle East, was arrested by Saudi Arabia on charges of sorcery in 2008.
He was convicted of the charge and sentenced to be executed in 2010, though he was later given a stay of execution.