Iraqi musician Naseer Shamma plays the oud during rehearsals at the Iraqi National Theatre in Baghdad in a file photo. Image Credit: AFP

Cairo: Fans of the oud, a popular stringed instrument in the Arab world, are set for a major festival planned in the Saudi capital Riyadh this month.

The event, scheduled for March 9-11, will bring together prominent oud players as part of the Riyadh Calendar activities, head of Saudi Arabia’s state General Entertainment Authority Turki Al Sheikh said.

The official called on the oud players not to miss out on the event, saying it will bring together oud-makers from 13 countries.

“In addition, there will be a competition featuring big prizes [for professionals and amateurs],” he tweeted.

The oud is a short-neck and bear-shaped lute, which has been a salient feature of the Arab music heritage.

In recent years, Saudi Arabia has sought to boost its entertainment industry, staging a series of star-studded concerts, cinema and theatrical shows.

Last October, Al sheikh disclosed that a major entertainment zone will be launched in Riyadh as part of the kingdom’s vigorous efforts to diversify its oil-reliant economy.

Named Boulevard World, the facility will feature the world’s largest artificial lake with submarines and a village for superhero fans.

“Imagine you are visiting the US, France, Britain, Greece, India, China, Morocco, Japan, Mexico and Italy at the same time,” he told Saudi television Al Ekhbariya at the time.

In 2016, Saudi Arabia announced the establishment of the General Entertainment Authority.

In April 2018, Saudi Arabia reopened cinemas for the first time in nearly four decades.