Hoping to expand its income base beyond oil to showcase culture, Saudi Arabia is digging for help from Greek archaeologists and is to sign a partnership deal with Greece under a modernization plan for the Gulf State.
That was established by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who escaped American sanctions for what the US said was ordering the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi Arabia deemed too important a trade partner to antagonize.
The plans aim to contribute 3 percent or more to the kingdom’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $793 billion – almost four times that of Greece – and create 100,000 jobs for young Saudis, said the news agency Reuters.
The coming cultural agreement will include joint cultural weeks and focus on archaeological development of the historic Al Fao region, in the southern part of the kingdom, the report added.
Rakan al Touq, General Supervisor of Cultural Affairs and International Relations, told Reuters as he was on a visit to Greece that, “We had very good discussions around building a program of cultural exchange that will focus on exchange of cultural goods, services and personnel between the two countries.”
“Our international program, which is part of our strategic aspiration for cultural growth, was delayed because of the pandemic, but we are excited to start to engage in person with partners around the world,” he said.
The killing of Khashoggi hasn't hurt Saudi Arabia's international business and the reform movement has seen live concerts and sporting events allowed as well as movies, in a bid to get foreign talent and investors.
But Saudis still can't vote and the country relies almost solely on oil revenues as the world is driving toward more sustainable energies including wind and solar and trying to one day wean itself off petroleum.
The country is still being criticized by activists who said it has an abysmal human rights record and the death penalty and is waging a war in Yemen but with oil as a trade weapon has been able to be above the fray.