Saudi women arrive to watch Saudi short movies during the "Short Film Competition 2" festival on October 20, 2017, at King Fahad Culture Center in Riyadh. The rare movie night this week in Riyadh was a precursor to what is expected to be a formal lifting of the kingdom's ban on cinemas, long vilified as vulgar and sinful by religious hardliners. / AFP PHOTO / FAYEZ NURELDINE

One of the world’s most conservative Islamic nations — Saudi Arabia, has announced an end to a long standing ban on cinemas. Cinemas will open to the public from next month, with 40 different cinemas planned to be opened nationwide over the next 5 years. The controversial ban — which dates all the way back to the 1980’s, is one of many prohibitions which has been placed on various simple pleasures that are taken for granted in western nations. Laws which prevent women from driving cars, the consumption of alcohol, and acts of homosexuality, are just a few examples of the authoritarian restrictions which currently exist in modern day Saudi Arabia.

The decision comes as part of a set of wide ranging reforms, which have been introduced by Saudi Arabian crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. Salman’s plans for a modernised Saudi Arabia form part of what has been referred to as ‘Vision 2030’ — an initiative which aims to re-brand the Islamic nation in order to make it a more attractive location for overseas investors and tourists. The program will attempt to bring about reforms that will make the Saudi Arabian economy less reliant on its oil reserves, and instead diversify its economic interests across other industries.

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