Undeniably, there was a rush in 2022 to make up for the disastrous effect the pandemic had on tourism, entertainment, and concert attendance in 2021 because of lockdowns. As the rest of the world’s economy struggles to recover from the global pandemic caused by the conflict in Ukraine, the energy-exporting countries of the Persian Gulf, led by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Qatar, are investing heavily in cultural projects.
With the hopes of increasing tourism, stimulating economic growth, and instilling a sense of national pride, these nations have spent billions over the past decade on cultural enterprises. For example, museums, exhibition halls, and concert halls. The Gulf states are experiencing a cultural renaissance that is being driven by both state-led and private patronage, suggesting that these investments are paying off.
The Future Of The Creative Economy
With the 2016 introduction of Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman prioritized cultural revitalization and the creation of a new creative economy. Aside from social transformation, the plan also included economic, educational, and administrative reforms to wean Saudi Arabia off its reliance on oil and gas.
Since its inception in 2018, the Ministry of Culture has been at the helm of an ever-expanding calendar of cultural celebrations across the Kingdom and beyond. It was reported that 25 new cultural organizations in Saudi Arabia put on 100 cultural events in 2021. The Islamic Arts Biennale on January 23 in the Hajj Terminal at King Abdulaziz International Airport, Jeddah, will open; the Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale will also return for another iteration.
According to the ministry’s Report on the State of Culture in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia 2021: Culture in Public Spaces, over 10.5 million domestic tourists visited the nation’s cultural sites in the first ten months of 2021, an increase from 2019’s total of 8.5 million.
The Ministry of Culture opened Fenaa Alawwal in Riyad in December. It is in the same building where the first commercial bank in the Kingdom used to be. Vision 2030’s goal is to “encourage culture as a way of life.” The institution opened the center as a step toward that goal. With its many cultural events, the center hopes to help artists from Saudi Arabia and all over the world work together.
Qatar, a neighboring country of Saudi Arabia, also pursues state-led cultural initiatives. Qatar hosted the FIFA World Cup in 2022, and the country has been investing billions in its cultural scene for over a decade. It, like Saudi Arabia, hopes to diversify its economy away from its economic dependence on oil and gas by attracting more tourists and hosting more cultural events.
There is a concerted effort on the part of these nations to expand their creative economies and lessen their reliance on oil and gas. As a result, they have poured billions into the industry and launched a slew of related initiatives.