Samba show shakes up Saudi Arabia

Updated 10 Jan, 2022 11:40am

Authorities investigating a samba performance by dancers 'too scantily clad' for the country.

Authorities in Saudi Arabia were investigating on Sunday after a samba performance by dancers some considered too scantily clad for the conservative country, which has been diversifying its entertainment options.

Over the past week videos on social media have shown three foreign samba dancers displaying their moves in a main street of Jazan, in the southwest.

The women, who were taking part in the Jazan Winter Festival, wore coloured feathers emblematic of the Brazilian tradition with their legs, arms and bellies uncovered.

But they did not show as much flesh as samba dancers during Rio de Janeiro’s annual carnival parades.

State-run El-Ekhbariya TV aired footage of the festival, but blurred images of the women.

“Shows are for entertainment, not to attack good ways and to go against religion and social morals,” one Jazan resident, Mohammed al-Bajwi, told the channel.

On social media many others were indignant, demanding punishment for those responsible for the event.

One Twitter user, Ahmad al-Saneh, said however that he did not consider the dancers’ dress excessively immodest.

In Saudi Arabia, most local women still wear traditional cloak-like robes in public.

Faced with the conservative backlash Jazan’s governor, Prince Mohammed bin Nasser, early on Saturday ordered an inquiry and “necessary measures to prevent all abuse.” He did not elaborate.

For the past five years Saudi Arabia, where two-thirds of the population is younger than 30, has been introducing a wide range of entertainment and sporting events from music concerts to cinema and a Formula One Grand Prix auto race.

Originally published in Dawn, January 10, 2022