Saudi Arabia

An elite group of movie lovers in the Saudi capital Riyadh got a special treat on Wednesday — a screening of the Hollywood blockbuster Black Panther. The invitation-only event marked the lifting of a ban on cinemas that's lasted more than three decades. It also heralds a new era for Saudi filmmakers, who for years have faced harassment from Saudi authorities for pursuing a profession considered haram, or forbidden, in the ultra-conservative kingdom.

It was well beyond fashionably late to begin. But models finally took to the runway on Thursday in Saudi Arabia's first-ever Arab Fashion Week.

The event is one of the new entertainment opportunities opening up recently in the ultra-conservative kingdom.

The fashion show hit significant delays, with logistical problems forcing it to open two weeks later than planned. Designers and models had trouble getting travel visas, and the organizers had to change venues to tents on the grounds of the Ritz-Carlton hotel in the Saudi capital Riyadh.

The last time Saudis could walk into a commercial movie theater, buy a bucket of popcorn and settle in for a silver-screen spectacle, that film may well have been E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Or Tron, maybe — or Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan?

With Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman embarking on a nearly three-week road show across the United States, he will have one major hurdle: Americans don't like his country very much.

Despite a 75-year economic and military alliance with Saudi Arabia and regular royal visits, 55 percent of Americans have an unfavorable view of the kingdom, according to a Gallup poll in February.

Even longtime U.S. adversaries like China and Cuba have scored more favorably.

Those seeking five-star accommodations in Riyadh now have one more option available, after the Ritz-Carlton reopened its doors on Sunday, more than three months after being converted into an ad-hoc luxury prison for some of Saudi Arabia's most prominent prisoners.

Saudi Arabia has announced that it will allow cinemas to open in the kingdom for the first time in decades as part of social and economic reforms undertaken by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

"Commercial cinemas will be allowed to operate in the kingdom as of early 2018, for the first time in more than 35 years," the culture and information ministry announced in a statement on Monday.

It said that the government would begin issuing cinema licenses immediately and that the first movie houses would be open by March.

Updated at 10:20 a.m. ET

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri will be remaining in power, at least for now — despite the strange address he gave more than two weeks ago, while he was in Saudi Arabia, stating that he planned to resign.

Updated at 5:10 p.m. ET

Saudi Arabia has reversed its long-standing and widely criticized ban against women driving.

Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud issued an order on Tuesday that paves the way for women to obtain driver's licenses, according to Saudi state media.

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Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

As he concluded his visit to the Middle East on Tuesday, US President Donald Trump championed the Gulf states and pitted himself as the world’s chief antagonist against Shiite Iran and its proxies, ISIS, Hezbollah and Hamas.

The Israeli diplomats and officials invited to hear the speech live in Jerusalem were delighted, rewarding Trump's remarks at the Israel Museum with frequent applause and numerous standing ovations.

One of the more baffling cultural intersections to take place during President Trump's first overseas trip was a concert that took place Saturday night in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. It featured American country music star Toby Keith, who performed for an all-male audience.

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