Saudi Arabia announces it will build its first opera house

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Saudi Arabia says construction will soon begin on the first opera house in the kingdom, where concerts have been banned for two decades, along with music in restaurants and stores.

The kingdom has been relaxing its decades-old restrictions on entertainment and fun, as part of a wider effort spearheaded by the young crown prince to boost the economy and increase household spending domestically.

Thursday’s announcement says the opera house will be built in the Red Sea city of Jiddah on the kingdom’s western coast. The city, a gateway for millions of Muslim pilgrims from around the world, is seen as more liberal and ethnically diverse than the landlocked capital of Riyadh.

Next month, the kingdom is planning to open the country’s first movie theater after a more than 35-year-ban.

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