The manifestations of the celebration of Halloween in the streets of Riyadh indicate the change taking place in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which used to arrest anyone who thought of reviving this “Western event”.
The “frightening” manifestations of the transformation, according to the New York Times, indicate the changes that have taken place in the kingdom since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is now heir to the throne and prime minister, began his rise to power in 2015 and start to get rid of social restrictions one by one.
Creatures from other worlds
In the photos the newspaper attached to its report, parts of Riyadh, the Saudi capital, appeared to embrace beings from other worlds.
The report describes the scene in Saudi Arabia on the eve of the Halloween celebrations on October 31, with the phrase “the creatures seem to have taken over the city, monsters, witches and bank robbers were there…”.
Yahya Al-Hazazi, a young Saudi man, said in an interview with the American newspaper as terrifying music played through loudspeakers on Riyadh Boulevard, “In the past it was not part of our customs and traditions, but we loves new things.”
and Riyadh Boulevard, a sprawling complex of shops, arcades and restaurants that opened in 2019 as part of the government’s efforts to provide entertainment spaces for families and youth.
In 2018, Saudi police reportedly raided a Halloween party and arrested people, ordering women dressed in strange clothing to “cover” themselves.
In Saudi Arabia, where government politics are ambiguous as social changes sweep the country, the government-sponsored event was not, strictly speaking, a Halloween festival, as the New York Timer reckons, but rather a “final holiday ” promote. Week,” which coincides with the weekend before Halloween.
“The Saudis are changing,” says Abdulaziz Khaled, a 23-year-old university student.
Khaled, who has shown the ability to seamlessly switch between Arabic and English, said he plans to wear glamorous clothes this year.
And Rima Al-Jaber (23) wanted to meet friends in a house as a white angel and with wings.
More freedom spaces for women
Like most Saudis, Al-Jaber has never celebrated Halloween, although she has seen it in movies.
Saudi Arabia punishes sorcery and witchcraft. For decades, accused practitioners were tried and beheaded, while the celebration of non-Islamic holidays such as Valentine’s Day, Christmas and Halloween was taboo.
During Al-Jaber’s childhood, Saudi Arabia banned women from driving, required them to wear long cloaks in public places that reached the ground, and security personnel from the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice often targeted them. shouted to cover their hair and face.
Separation of the sexes was imposed in offices, cafes and many other places, while the playing of music in public places was prohibited.
But in 2016, Prince Mohammed announced an economic diversification plan that called for the kingdom to be transformed into an investment powerhouse and a global business hub.
The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice lost its authority and women were allowed to drive.
Then many of the shackles of the male guardianship system began to be lifted, although other restrictions remained.
Prince Mohammed, 37, also launched a campaign to develop entertainment options as a new economic sector away from oil.
Many of the 58% of Saudis under the age of 30 say they “craved such entertainment” before the new changes.
Cinemas opened for the first time in decades, and a series of government-sponsored celebrations dominated the kingdom, most notably the “Riyadh Season,” a months-long event.
Saudi Arabia also plans to double high-speed flights and ease ground travel in a bid to attract tens of thousands of soccer fans attending the World Cup in neighboring Qatar, AFP quoted the Saudi tourism minister as saying.
These efforts are aimed at reviving the nascent tourism sector in the conservative kingdom, which has been closed to the world for decades and began issuing tourist visas in September 2019, a few months before the outbreak and destruction of the COVID -19 pandemic worldwide.
Saudi Arabia has introduced multiple entry visas valid for stays of up to 60 days for holders of the compulsory Haya card in the World Cup. Tourism Minister Ahmed Al-Khatib said on the sidelines of the “future investment initiative” in Riyadh that the number of weekly flights from Saudi Arabia to Qatar will reach 240 during the tournament, which starts next month and will last for a month duration, from six flights normally.
In addition to the music festivals and sports events that have started to take place across the kingdom in recent years, Saudi Arabia is also promoting new attractions such as AlUla, an emerging art center in the north of the country.
It is also building a Walt Disney-style theme park called Qiddiya, and luxury Maldives-style resorts along the Red Sea, at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars.
These changes have left some Saudis stunned and others angry, as the country is almost unrecognizable to foreigners and citizens alike.
The easing of some social restrictions has also been accompanied by a marked increase in political repression, with a crackdown on domestic dissent resulting in the jailing of hundreds of writers, activists and influencers on Snapchat as well as billionaires, clerics and royalty.
On social media, the government has used a combination of manipulation and control, leading to an increasingly unified rhetoric honoring the crown prince and his “Vision 2030” plan.
In private, some Saudis complain that the entertainment push appears to be a distraction from economic challenges, such as high youth unemployment, and political challenges, such as a lack of freedom of expression.