First Comic-Con fest set to wow public in Saudi Arabia

Entertainment Authority says 25,000 people are expected at three-day festival, which will provide ‘boost to local economy.’

Towards boost entertainment despite religious uproar

2017-02-14 17:02:20

RIYADH - Superheroes from Hollywood's Marvel studios are among the characters set to wow thousands of curious Saudis at the Islamic kingdom's first Comic-Con event from Thursday.

The three-day festival of anime, pop art, video gaming and film-related events is part of a government initiative to bring more entertainment to Saudi Arabia which bans alcohol, public cinemas and theatre.

Comic-Con began in 1970 as a convention of a few dozen geeks who swapped superhero magazines in the United States.

Tens of thousands of people now descend on San Diego every July for Comic-Con International where they don costumes and get previews of films by Marvel and Warner Brothers.

Other Comic-Con events occur around the world.

"We see from the high number of Saudi-based attendees at Comic-Cons abroad in recent years that there is a strong demand to host these events in our own country," Amr AlMadani, chief executive of the government's General Entertainment Authority, said in a statement on Tuesday.

The authority said it is supporting the event organised in the Red Sea city of Jeddah by Saudi firm Time Entertainment.

"Comic-Con events have a strong family appeal", AlMadani said, as authorities move cautiously in a country where conservatives are wary of entertainment.

Last month the kingdom's highest-ranking cleric, Grand Mufti Abdulaziz al-Sheikh, warned of the "depravity" of cinemas and music concerts.

Unrelated men and women are normally separated in Saudi Arabia, where restaurants have sections for "single" men and families.

In December a Saudi performance by US stand-up comedian and actor Mike Epps was cancelled, its organisers said, after complaints from Islamic hardliners.

Entertainment programmes began in October when New York theatrical group iLuminate performed at the Princess Noura University in Riyadh.

Hundreds of men and women, side-by-side, hooted their appreciation and clapped to the hip hop beat.

Providing more entertainment is one of the goals of Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 economic diversification plan being pushed by the kingdom's Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 31.

He is keen to harness the energy of a young population, more than half of which is under 25.

Comic-Con in Jeddah is to feature appearances by British actor Charles Dance of "Game of Thrones", and "Breaking Bad" star Giancarlo Esposito, among others.

The Entertainment Authority said 25,000 people are expected at the event, which will provide "a boost to the local economy".

Editors' Picks

The Arab Weekly Newspaper reaches Western & Arabic audience that are influential as well as being affluent.

From Europe to the Middle East,and North America, The Arab Weekly talks to opinion formers and influential figures, providing insight and comment on national, international and regional news through the focus of Arabic countries and community.

Published by Al Arab Publishing House

Publisher and Group Executive Editor: Haitham El-Zobaidi, PhD

Editor-in-Chief: Oussama Romdhani

Managing Editor: Iman Zayat

Deputy Managing Editor and Online Editor: Mamoon Alabbasi

Senior Editor: John Hendel

Chief Copy Editor: Richard Pretorius

Copy Editor: Stephen Quillen

Analysis Section Editor: Ed Blanche

East/West Section Editor: Mark Habeeb

Gulf Section Editor: Mohammed Alkhereiji

Society and Travel Sections Editor: Samar Kadi

Syria and Lebanon Sections Editor: Simon Speakman Cordall

Contributing Editor: Rashmee Roshan Lall

Senior Correspondents: Mahmud el-Shafey (London) & Lamine Ghanmi (Tunis)

Regular Columnists

Claude Salhani

Yavuz Baydar


Saad Guerraoui (Casablanca)

Dunia El-Zobaidi (London)

Roua Khlifi (Tunis)

Thomas Seibert (Washington)

Chief Designer: Marwen Hmedi


Ibrahim Ben Bechir

Hanen Jebali

Published by Al Arab Publishing House

Contact editor

Subscription & Advertising:

Tel 020 3667 7249

Mohamed Al Mufti

Marketing & Advertising Manager

Tel (Main) +44 20 6702 3999

Direct: +44 20 8742 9262

Al Arab Publishing House

Kensington Centre

177-179 Hammersmith Road

London W6 8BS , UK

Tel: (+44) 20 7602 3999

Fax: (+44) 20 7602 8778

Follow Us
© The Arab Weekly, All rights reserved