JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s first opera house is set to open in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah, Ahmed Al-Khatib, chairman of the General Entertainment Authority (GEA), announced on Thursday.
The announcement was part of the launch of the 2018 entertainment calendar at the Four Seasons Hotel in Riyadh, where Al-Khatib revealed a budget of $64 billion for the entertainment sector over the coming decade. More than 5,000 events in 56 cities in the Kingdom are planned for 2018.
Al-Khatib told Reuters last April of Saudi Arabia’s plan to open “a world-class opera house” as part of the Kingdom’s entertainment reforms.
The Saudi General Culture Authority will handle the establishment of the new opera house, Al-Khatib, who declined to give further information, told Arab News.
The General Culture Authority could not be immediately reached for comment.
According to Reuters, the opera house to be completed around 2022.
Speaking to Arab News, Sultan Al-Bazie, former president of the Saudi Arabian Society for Culture and Arts, described the announcement as a significant step toward enriching the Kingdom’s cultural scene and said it deserved “a warm welcome.”
Al-Bazie wondered, however, about the fate of the Royal Arts Complex and whether the opera house would be a substitute for it.
In 1869 the Egyptian Khedivial Opera House in Cairo became the first opera house in Africa and the Middle East. Designed by architects Pietro Avoscani (from Livorno) and Rossi, the opera house was built on the orders of Khedive Ismail to celebrate the opening of the Suez Canal.
In 2011, Oman opened the Royal Opera House in Muscat becoming the second Arab and first Gulf country to have an opera house. Other Gulf countries such as Dubai and Kuwait later opened opera houses.