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A New Dawn: Saudi Arabia's Journey Towards Modernization

  • Sanal Edamaruku


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In the vast desert kingdom of Saudi Arabia, winds of change are beginning to blow, ushering in a new era of modernisation and progress. At the heart of this transformation stands a visionary leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose bold initiatives seem to aim the nation towards a brighter future.


For decades, Saudi Arabia had been perceived as a bastion of conservatism, where rigid societal norms and strict interpretations of Islam overshadowed the aspirations of its people. However, with the new changes, the kingdom is embarking on a journey of reform, challenging long-held beliefs and paving the way for a more open and tolerant society.


Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, right, welcomes US President Joe Biden to Al-Salam Palace in Jeddah

One of the new Saudi Arabia's most notable endeavors is to crack down on extremism. Recognizing the detrimental effects of radical ideologies, the decisive plan to root out extremism from the kingdom is a step that deserves appreciation. Mosques once used as breeding grounds for radicalization are being reformed, and religious discourse is moderated to promote a more peaceful and inclusive interpretation of Islam. This shift not only bolsters national security but also fosters a climate of religious tolerance and understanding.


The new Saudi Arabia has started championing the cause of women's rights, aiming to shatter the barriers that had long confined Saudi women to the sidelines of society. One of the most emblematic reforms was the lifting of the ban on women driving in 2018. This watershed moment granted women the freedom of mobility and symbolized a broader push toward gender equality and empowerment. Subsequent reforms allowed women to participate more actively in the workforce, with many breaking into traditionally male-dominated fields such as politics, business, and entertainment.


The latest appearance of Miss Saudi Arabia, Romi Al-Qahtani, in the Miss Middle East contest.

The avowed commitment to modernization extends beyond gender equality to encompass broader societal reforms. The kingdom is embarking on ambitious projects aimed at diversifying its economy and reducing its dependence on oil. Initiatives such as Vision 2030 are seeking to foster innovation, entrepreneurship, and foreign investment, laying the groundwork for a vibrant and dynamic economy capable of thriving in the 21st century.


Mohammed bin Salman seems to spearhead efforts to liberalise Saudi society, promoting a more open and cosmopolitan outlook. The kingdom is witnessing a long-awaited cultural renaissance, with the lifting of restrictions on entertainment and the arts. Cinemas reopened their doors after decades-long closures and international performers graced the stages of Saudi cities, signaling a newfound openness to the world.


In addition to cultural liberalisation, the new Saudi Arabia pursues progressive interpretations of faith, encouraging dialogue and debate within religious circles. This approach challenges orthodox interpretations and fosters a more inclusive and pluralistic understanding of Islam, welcoming diverse perspectives and traditions.


Scores of Saudis lauded the opening of a nightclub in Jeddah in 2019, deeming it another significant step towards modernising the ultra-conservative kingdom. While others expressed disillusionment on the opening and flaked Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman for thrashing the "core Islamic values", the values on which the identity of the Saudi Arabia hinges.



A halal night club in 2019 was closed down soon as it "violated the legal procedures and regulations in force." Earlier multiple Arab news outlets reported the opening of Saudi Arabia’s first ‘Halal Nightclub’ on the waterfront of Jeddah. Videos of the night club were spearing fast all over Saudi Arabia. The reported opening of Halal Nightclub drew mixed reactions from people on social media.


Saudi Arabia recently opened its first alcohol shop in 70 years. Alcohol is "haram" in Islamic scriptures.

As the sun sets on the dunes of Saudi Arabia, a new dawn emerges, illuminating a nation transformed by the vision and courage of its leaders. Under the stewardship of Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom may embark on a journey of renewal and reinvention, embracing the values of tolerance, progress, and inclusion. Though challenges lie ahead, the spirit of change ignited by the crown prince inspires hope and optimism for a brighter future for Saudi Arabia and its people.

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