Comic-Con opens in Saudi Arabia: A chance to be ‘free’

Nobody gave Ahmed al Dainiy a second glance as he walked among the youthful crowd on the opening day of Saudi Arabia’s first Comic-Con event, wearing a horse head mask.
Dainiy, 18, was among thousands of people who filled a recreation centre in the Red Sea city of Jeddah for the international pop culture event.
The three-day festival of anime, pop art, video gaming and film-related events is part of a government initiative to bring more entertainment to Saudi Arabia.
Comic-Con had different male and female entrances but inside the darkened hall, where conversation was drowned out by rock music, there was barely room to move, and men and women were side-by-side.
Some young men dressed in the costumes of their favourite Japanese anime characters but most wore Western clothes. “You’re free here,” said Dainiy. “You are yourself.”
Comic-Con began in 1970 as a convention of a few dozen geeks who swapped superhero magazines in the United States.
Tens of thousands of people now descend on San Diego in southern California every July for Comic-Con International where they don costumes and see previews of films by Hollywood’s Marvel and Warner Brothers. Other Comic-Con events occur around the world, including in Saudi Arabia’s Gulf neighbour Dubai.
Iron Man, Captain America and other members of Marvel’s Avengers took to the Comic-Con stage in Jeddah. “Raise your hand if you are bad,” one of the Avengers asked the audience, provoking enthusiastic hoots.
The government’s General Entertainment Authority said it supports the event organised by Saudi firm Time Entertainment.— AFP