SAUDI ARABIA - Muslim Country Enters Fun Industry

Arno Froese

On a packed night at Al Comedy Club in the Red Sea port city of Jidda, as Saudi Arabia was preparing to allow women to drive, a performer asked the women in the audience what cars they intended to buy.

“Maserati,” one called out. “Mercedes,” said another.

“Just like that? First car a Maserati?” the male comedian fired back. “You ask a guy what he wants to get, he’ll say a Hyundai. That’s because he’s paying for it!”

Servers in flowing robes and red caps navigated the aisles of the small theater, passing out bags of popcorn and chocolate bars to the young audience members, many of whom were taking pictures with their cellphones to share on Instagram and Snapchat.

Six years ago, just getting permission to open the club was a milestone, according to the owner, Yaser Bakr. Live stand-up comedy didn’t exist in the country, and government bureaucrats were distrustful of anything new.

“They didn’t know what it was,” Bakr said. “So you don’t only have to ask for a permit, you also have to explain what it is, and why is this guy on stage talking about his childhood and his mother.”

The first new cinema in more than 30 years opened in the capital, Riyadh, in April with a gala screening of the Hollywood blockbuster “Black Panther.” The same month, the prince and his father, King Salman, broke ground on a new entertainment complex outside Riyadh—described as 2½ times the size of Disney World—that will offer auto racing, indoor ski slopes, water parks and a Six Flags theme park.

Saudis spend billions of dollars every year on leisure activities abroad. By expanding the country’s entertainment options, the government hopes to entice citizens to spend more of that money at home and draw more visitors.

Overseeing a massive public and private investment in the entertainment sector is the General Entertainment Authority, which was created in May 2016 and plans to stage more than 5,000 events this year, double the number in 2017.

“I love the vision, but I think they are moving too fast,” said a 35-year-old mother of two who asked to be identified by a traditional nickname, Um Ahmed, out of fear that she might be seen as critical of the monarchy.

She worries that her country is losing its distinct cultural identity and wants to turn itself into another Dubai, with its slick bars and more liberal dress code.

“It’s weird for us, because we were raised with all these don’ts,” she said. “Suddenly, there are laser shows, mixed [gender] festivals, gays out in the open.

“Awesome, but I’m worried about the Saudis who are very, very religious,” she continued. “They are quiet now, but for how long are they going to stay quiet?”, 14 September 2018

Arno's commentary

It is important to realize that the god of this world is in charge. Believers in Jesus Christ, according to Scripture, are a tiny minority. The rest are part of the sin-saturated world, regardless of their religion.

But money talks, and that very powerfully. Saudi Arabia, one of the most oppressive regimes in the world, maintains an excellent relationship with the US [and, we must note, despite the recent killing of the journalist inside their consulate]. Why? Again, the answer is money.

But Saudi Arabia already sees its own decline by relying on oil exports; thus, entertainment is one lucrative source of income. According to, the global entertainment industry stood at $1.39 trillion in 2011, and is estimated to be $2.2 trillion in 2021.

Arno Froese is the executive director of Midnight Call Ministries and editor-in-chief of the acclaimed prophetic magazines Midnight Call and News From Israel. He has authored a number of well-received books, and has sponsored many prophecy conferences in the U.S., Canada, and Israel. His extensive travels have contributed to his keen insight into Bible prophecy, as he sees it from an international perspective.

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