The New Arab

Lebanese pop diva Nancy Ajram arrives in Saudi Arabia

Ajram was announced as the bestselling Middle Eastern female singer of the 21st Century [Instagram]

Date of publication: 14 June, 2019

Nancy, one of the most popular female singers across the Arab world and known for her flirty lyrics, arrived in Jeddah Thursday to take part in the city's summer festivals.
Lebanese pop star Nancy Ajram has arrived in Saudi Arabia ahead of her first ever performance in the ultra-conservative kingdom, which has launched a controversial effort for social liberalisation that critics say focuses on entertainment at the expense of substance.

Nancy, one of the most popular female singers across the Arab world who is known for her flirty lyrics, touched down in the Saudi Red Sea city of Jeddah on Thursday to take part in the city's summer festivals.

Social media users shared videos and images of the singer arriving in her hotel and greeting fans, amid tight security.  Tickets to her concert will cost between $250 and $500, suggesting the organisers are targeting middle class Saudis

Ajram became famous after the release a controversial Egyptian smash hit single "Akhasmak Ah" in which she adopted a public image as a sex symbol.

"Meet me at the Jeddah Season event on June 13th," she Tweeted on Saturday.

In 2010, Ajram was announced as the bestselling Middle Eastern female singer of the 21st Century's first decade, and she was recently declared the most popular regional star on social media, with almost 18 million followers on Instagram.

Ajram will not be the first female singer to perform in a public concert in the ultra-conservative kingdom.

In April, Lebanese pop star Elissa took to the stage in Jeddah, where she was banned from dancing during her performance.

A clip circulated on social media platforms showing the diva asking permission to dance from the organisers, but being turned down.

"Salem can I dance a little? No? He told me no," Elissa said.

Last year, Saudi Arabia's entertainment authority warned that "dancing and swaying" was strictly banned at concerts.

Despite that, the kingdom has recently been relaxing its decades-old ban on entertainment and fun.

The entertainment drive is seen as a way of bringing in cash for the struggling economy by encouraging Saudis to spend money at home, lure foreign visitors, create jobs for young Saudis, and cement the young prince's power.

While the government put on concerts, including a performance by the Black Eyed Peas and Nelly last year, the reform push has been accompanied by a crackdown on dissent, including the arrests of women's rights activists, clerics and intellectuals.

The murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last October has also tarnished the country's image and scared off some potential investors.

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