Complex Made Simple

A lush Saudi lured early “Homosapiens”. Today it attracts all of humankind

People who are a bit skeptical about Saudi becoming a global tourism attraction in addition to already being a business magnet, history puts to rest any such hesitation.

Early man pointed a finger, literally, to Saudi’s appeal with homo-sapiens deciding to move out of Africa about 20,000-25,000 years earlier than anticipated and into what is now the vast expanse of the kingdom.

Will past and present merge?

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Good feel in bones

Gizmodo, a design, technology, science and science fiction website, recently published archaeologists finding a lone, boney middle finger that scientists later found is the oldest directly dated fossil of our species to ever be found outside of Africa and the Levant.

The discovery, made in 2016 in the Al Wusta archaeological dig in the Nefud Desert, the former site of an ancient freshwater lake, and what is now the Arabian desert, was compared to finger bones of “archaic” humans and nonhuman primates.

“Cambridge researchers concluded that the fossil, a 3.2 cm long adult middle finger belonged to a Homo Sapien some 88,000 years old,” said Gizmodo.

“It’s the first direct evidence of early modern humans venturing outside of Africa and the Levant earlier than some 50,000 to 70,000 years ago.”

At that time, the region featured humid and monsoonal weather conditions, extensive grasslands, rushing rivers, and sprawling lakes, as evidenced with fossilized traces of hippos and freshwater snails.

And while changing weather patterns is today subject to ongoing experimentations, making Saudi an attractive tourism destination has gone beyond the realm of research to becoming a reality.

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Opera and Orchestra

 Saudi Arabia said in February that it would invest $64bn to raise an entertainment industry literally from the ground over the next decade.

BBC recently announced that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s charm offensive delivered an agreement last Monday with the Paris Opera, to help set up a national orchestra and opera in Jeddah, the latest cultural powerhouse to sign up.

Saudi Arabia’s minister of culture announced another initiative after meeting his French counterpart: Saudi short films will this year for the first time be entered in the Cannes Film Festival.

“It comes as the first cinema for decades is due to open in Riyadh this month, with a home-grown film industry emerging, too,” said BBC.

“But the biggest cultural deal being signed in France is an agreement for the French to help transform a huge chunk of almost uninhabited land into an immense outdoor museum.”

BBC said the plan is to use the museum to house the country’s archaeological treasures, including prehistoric drawings, the remnants of the Hejaz railway and Madain Saleh, which is a compact version of Petra.

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During the recent US trip, a Los Angeles stop by the Saudi crown prince landed him with media mogul Rupert Murdoch who hosted a cast of major studio heads and Hollywood celebrities in his Bel Air estate, including Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, according to Forbes.

“Studios and small productions companies are now looking to the reforming Kingdom to help finance projects,” said Forbes.

“Saudi’s $230 billion sovereign wealth vehicle, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), is on track to invest hundreds of millions in Hollywood as the first new screens go up in the Kingdom.”

Saudi closed a $400 million deal for an estimated 7% in Endeavor, a powerful talent agency that hosts several live event brands and film production.

AMC theatres believes Saudi Arabian’s 32 million residents could generate up to $1 billion at the box office by 2023, putting it on par with Russia’s 2017 total.

In Riyadh, the first new cinema opens next week with Marvel hit Black Panther.

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Entertainment everywhere

Its newly formed Saudi General Entertainment Authority (GEA), recently announced a new Cirque du Soleil show in Saudi Arabia, plus partnerships with touring company Feld Entertainment, National Geographic Encounter experiences and festival promoter IMG Artists.

National Geographic Encounter (NGE) has announced plans to develop up to 10 new locations in Saudi Arabia for Ocean Odyssey, an immersive walk-through adventure across the ocean from the South Pacific to the coast of California, according to GEA.

NGE has partnered with KBW Ventures and the GEA, with Riyadh the first location to open in 2019