Saudi Arabia cancels charity gig by Egyptian pop star

Saudi authorities on Sunday cancelled a charity concert by Egyptian pop sensation Sherine Abdel Wahab, which had been hailed as a boon for the entertainment industry in the ultra-conservative kingdom.

The General Entertainment Authority said it cancelled the charity concert, slated for the end of October, after organisers failed to apply for the necessary license for the public event.

Saudi Arabia has created a government agency to support private firms organising entertainment events under the wide-ranging Vision 2030 plan, an economic strategy that aims to reduce the kingdom’s reliance on oil revenue. The entertainment authority is seeking to ease restrictions on entertainment, despite the risk of serious backlash from conservatives, as part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 programme.

American country music star Toby Keith performed in a concert in the capital in May, which coincided with a visit by US President Donald Trump. In March, hundreds of people attended a rare concert in Riyadh by Arab singers Mohammed Abdo and Rashid al-Majid.

The concerts parallel changes in different sectors in Saudi Arabia, which recently lifted a decades-long ban on women driving but still prohibits alcohol, public cinemas and theatres.

The Saudi guardianship system remains in place, under which a male family member — normally the father, husband or brother — must grant permission for a woman’s study, travel and other activities.

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