Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority (GEA) preemptively shut down what was expected to be the opening of the first-ever “halal” pop-up nightclub in the conservative Muslim country, arguing that it had never given the green light for the event in the coastal city of Jeddah.
In a statement posted on its official Twitter account, the Saudi agency announced the opening of an investigation into the videos disseminated online purportedly advertising the interior of what was to be the nightclub’s venue, Al Jazeera reported on Thursday.
Via Twitter, the GEA wrote, “According to information provided to the GEA, the event (Project X) is in violation of the legal procedures and regulations in force, and has not been authorized by the body.”
The GEA had “originally issued a license for another event,” it reportedly continued. “Its contractor then took advantage of an extension of that license to commit these serious and unacceptable violations.”
GEA reportedly put the breaks on the event, scheduled for last Thursday, ahead of the arrival of its headline act: American singer Ne-Yo.
Before the decision by Saudi authorities, Arabian Business (AB) described that pop-up event as a component of the nightclub White, which also has venues in Dubai and Beirut
In April, AB indicated the Jeddah venue would open “as a high-end café and lounge” on the waterfront.
“White café will be more high-end … with high-end decoration,” the CEO of the company that owns White — Addmind Hospitality Group — said at the time.
On Thursday, Al Jazeera reported:
US singer Ne-Yo was going to perform in the opening night on Thursday, according to the White Saudi Arabia Facebook page advertising the event. As per the ad, the club’s opening times would be between 10pm and 3am, with tickets priced between 500-1,000 Saudi riyals, or $133-$266.
The reported opening drew a wide range of reactions on social media, with some users applauding it as part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s reform plan to modernize the conservative kingdom, despite a severe crackdown on activists and human rights defenders.
Others had scoffed at the idea of a “halal nightclub”, calling it an oxymoron, despite the venue being touted by its apparent organizers as an alcohol-free club. Several reports had said that photography would be strictly prohibited inside the venue, as well as revelers under the age of 18.
Some social media users agreed with the strict Sunni kingdom’s decision to shut down the event, arguing that it violated Saudi Arabia’s Islamic identity and traditions.
“The dress code was listed as ‘smart casual,’ indicating that attendees would not need to adhere to the country’s strict regulations on clothes, including the abaya worn by women,” Euro News noted.
Under an Arabic-language hashtag that translates to “I don’t accept forbidden acts on Jeddah beach,” people on social media decried what they described as exotic imports corrupting the Sunni kingdom, home to the holiest city in Islam, Mecca.
Some news outlets described the pop-up event as being part of e reforms promised by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, or MBS.
“The plan calls for opening the Saudi kingdom to the world. Saudi Arabia has recently allowed women to drive and lifted the ban on cinemas and artistic festivals,” Morocco World News noted.
It appears that GEA officials, however, did not get the memo about MBS’s so-called reforms.