Could Riyadh Be The Next Silicon Valley? In Bold New Plan To Modernize Saudi Arabia Mohammed Bin Salman Proposes More Lenient Penalties For Sorcery
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Something magical is happening in Riyadh. Everywhere you look Saudis are walking with a spring in their step in anticipation of Vision 2030, an ambitious plan to modernize the Kingdom. While the absolute monarchy still has a long way to go as it enters the 21st century, the future is as bright as an executioner’s blade shining in the raging sun. As Saudi Arabia diversifies its economy and passes sweeping social reforms, the gulf regime is becoming increasingly attractive for entrepreneurs, tech workers and the new jet-setting international “creative class”. But could Saudi Arabia become the next tech hub? The answer is yes. Just today, Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman proposed more lenient penalties for sorcery.
This. Is. Huge.
Only a few years ago public beheadings for sorcery were something akin to a national sport. Everywhere you turned there were beheadings for sorcery: a beheading here, a beheading there. If you were male and allowed to wander the streets without a chaperone, it was hard to avoid slipping in blood, what with all the beheadings. Much like bullfighting in Spain, beheading sorcerers in Saudi Arabia was a time-honored past-time and national tradition which is why the people have chosen to venerate the sword (the ideal tool for beheading sorcerers) by depicting it on their flag. But while beheadings for sorcery were commonplace, the practice tarnished the Kingdom’s reputation as many foreign observers considered the exercise barbaric. Bearing this in mind, MBS, tirelessly working to make his country attractive to foreign capital and tourists, outlawed the death penalty for practitioners of the dark arts and instead decreed that sorcerers shall now suffer merely 200 lashes.
Pack your bags: we’re going to Saudi Arabia!
But that is not enough for the modernizing Crown Prince. You can get more with a kind word and an electric drill than you can with just a kind word. Coming on like gangbusters following a “hostile takeover” in the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton last year, MBS wasted no time in his efforts to transform Saudi society. Ladies… start your engines! Following a major public relations push, women were granted the right to drive last year.
Lights, camera, action! For years, movie theaters were forbidden in the KSA, but now thanks to the forward-thinking Crown Prince, Saudis will be permitted to publicly watch films (subject to strict censorship, of course). The silver screen presents the nation with a golden opportunity. Sure, you won’t see La Dolce Vita playing anytime soon, but it’s a step in the right direction. “I’m ready for my closeup, Mohammed Bin Salman”.
It’s all part and parcel of Bin Salman’s plan to turn the desert nation into a cultural oasis. In a bid to diversify the economy, MBS has given special attention to promoting tourism and has begun funding projects to make the Kingdom an attractive destination for travelers. Work is already underway for an ambitious museum of Islam, which is sure to draw secular, western tourists chomping at the bit to learn about the wonders of the Abrahamic religion. What’s more, by 2030 MBS has pledged to construct at least five new universities which are sure to produce accomplished scholars in science, engineering and the arts: a welcome development in a nation whose main cultural export up to now has been flying fully loaded jetliners into skyscrapers.
But wait there’s more! It seems as if MBS has launched his own personal jihad to make his country a Mecca for tourists (non-Muslim tourists will not be permitted to visit Mecca, however). The daring hospitality flagship dubbed “the Red Sea” will see the construction of 14 luxury hotels across five different islands. It will be just like temptation island! Only in this temptation island unmarried men and women will not be permitted to be in the same room.
While it seems as if MBS is on a suicide mission to make Saudi Arabia a Mecca for tourists, the visionary royal is redoubling his efforts to make the Kingdom a Mecca for tech, a Teccha if you will. We caught up with Abdul, a software developer based in Riyadh. He couldn’t contain his excitement when he told us about his new app “Talon,” a program which matches falcon vendors with wealthy, dissolute Saudi princes. “Riyadh will be the next Silicon Valley for sure, man. It truly is an exciting time for entrepreneurs”. Before we left, he hinted at a new project he was working on. While he couldn’t go into detail, he described it to us as “Tinder, but for polygamy”.
While Vision 2030 is sure to be met with the occasional hiccup, MBS is a resolute leader with a determination to lead his country into an exciting tomorrow. TWhile his reforms have been met with skepticism not just among religious hardliners, and media figures rest assured, Saudi’s path to the future has already been paved and his critics will come along kicking and screaming if necessary, much like a certain nosy journalist who didn’t know what was good for him was dragged kicking and screaming from an embassy floor in Turkey. Will the Crown Prince succeed? This reporter sure hopes so.