A controversial samba performance has caused an outcry in Jazan, Saudi Arabia. A video posted on Twitter on January 11 showed a group of samba dancers performing on the street during the Jazan Winter Festival. Local news outlets in Saudi Arabia claim that the dancers were scantily-dressed and half-clothed.
#SaudiArabia : Controversy continues over troupe of samba dancers at festival in #Jazan - this & huge crowd of ravers at @MDLBEAST in #Riyadh have emboldened mainly silenced deeply conservative voices to speak out over MBS cultural shift #شتاء_جازان_2022 pic.twitter.com/USnaxhkron
— sebastian usher (@sebusher) January 11, 2022
According to The New Arab, the dancers appeared in revealing clothing and were met with “polarized” reactions. The video described by The New Arab’s article is no longer available, and the link directs to a “page doesn’t exist page” on Twitter. Bystanders and other spectators in the crowd were allegedly booing at the dancers.
Jazan, a port city in southwestern Saudi Arabia, is a conservative stronghold. The port city is directly governed by the crown prince Muhammad bin Nasser bin Abdulaziz.
Dr. Abdullah bin Muhammad Al-Saqr, the Undersecretary of the Emirate of the Jazan Region and the person directly overseeing the event, claims that one of the festival’s goals is to develop tourism. The festival aims to meet “the needs and aspirations of all segments of society, including residents and visitors,” Al-Saqr stated. However, the profoundly conservative city remains intolerant of stark cultural changes. The backlash of the incident prompted Muhammad bin Nasser to order an investigation and identify the dancers.
Mohammed al-Bajwi, a Jazan resident, in an interview with state television El-Ekhbariya TV was offended by what he had witnessed. “Shows are for entertainment, not to attack good ways and to go against religion and social morals,” al-Bajwi explained.