SAUDI'S CULTURAL REVOLUTION
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is on a steep turning curve. There is a cultural revolution spreading slowly from the capital Riyadh to Jeddah, on the coast of the Red Sea. Last week, over the Eid festival to celebrate the end of the holy month of Ramadan, these cities rocked with concerts held for female audiences, in newly opened state-of-the-art entertainment complexes. The crème de la crème of the Arab music industry descended on Saudi Arabia to be part of the cultural revolution sweeping through the Kingdom as part of a colossal modernisation pull. These are heady days in the Saudi Arabia of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, aka M.B.S., who charged to the throne virtually just a year ago. Many people had doubt the 32 year old disruptor, could and would, achieve anything in a country linked to hardline Wahhabi extremism and human rights violation, around the world. But the young Prince is stopping at nothing to upend just about everything in the homeland. He wants to liberalise, at least culturally, and so demonstrate that Islam, in the nation of its holiest cities, Mecca and Medina, is not a dark, unbendable force based on intolerant scripture, but is rather compatible with modern society. Yesterday, the ban was finally lifted on women driving, thus, marking a new dawn in the history of Saudi Arabia. It is a loud and radical voice of women empowerment, but also a signal that the old way of doing things is no longer an option. Undoubtedly, it is the kingdom's way of sending out a clear message that Islam is a religion of tolerance, openness and intellectuality. It's important, because Saudi Arabia is the pivot around which the Muslim World revolves. Change it, and the rest will follow. The plan dubbed the "Quality of Life" will pump 50.9 billion riyals ($13.5 billion) into this mammoth cultural revolution, to encourage young Arabs to spend their leisure time in the Kingdom. In addition to liberalising Saudi society, however, the programme is also designed to create jobs for a generation of under 25s who form almost half of the population in the country.