Saudi Arabia Launches Its First Comic Con, Allows Public Gender Mixing

The Middle East has had an annual comic convention in Dubai since 2012, but now Saudi Arabia is getting in on the action. As documented by CNN, Saudi Arabia launched its first pop culture convention this past weekend.

The event, which took place February 16 through 18 in the city of Jeddah, was organised by local company Time Entertainment and sponsored by the Saudi government in an attempt to bring more entertainment opportunities into the Kingdom, where public cinemas and theaters remain illegal.

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Despite being a country where strict gender segregation is imposed in most public spaces, comics fans mixed freely at the event's main venue, although there were separate gendered entrances and a female-only tent for women who wanted to shed their traditional abayas and show off their cosplay skills.

The con also boasted a number of high-profile international guests, including Charles Dance and Julian Glover (Tywin Lannister and Grand Maester Pycelle from "Game of Thrones"), as well as the "Doctor Strange" star Mads Mikkelsen. There was also plenty of hype for an upcoming Saudi-produced superhero-themed show, "Mas'hour."

Judging from the response from fans and Saudi Comic Con's website, this may very well become an eagerly anticipated regular event. "We're considering this a soft Comic Con in Saudi Arabia, and then the next (one) will be way bigger," said public relations manager Hisham AlSaeed.

Saudi Comic Con is part of Saudi Arabia's General Entertainment Authority "Vision 2030" initiative to introduce cultural reforms and diversify the country's economy. Saudi Comic Con is intended to become an annual event.

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