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Lebanese Singer Hiba Tawaji Makes History in Riyadh With Her Concert

On Wednesday, Lebanese pop star Hiba Tawaji performed at Riyadh's King Fahd Cultural Center in a milestone, female-only concert to ease social restrictions placed on women in Saudi Arabia. The special evening, which would've been inconceivable until recently, was an example of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s reforms of ridding the country of extremism and restoring the kingdom to "moderate Islam."


Thousands of female concertgoers from near and far gathered for this historic event. Nafees Awad, a university student from the southern province, made the trek from 590 miles to attend the concert in the Saudi capital.

I came especially from Jizan to watch this concert. We are so happy to watch such a concert, it's the first time.

The women in the audience cheered and gave standing ovations for the singer, who performed covers of Celine Dion and Whitney Houston songs, as well as classic Arab songs. Some of the excited female audience members even liberated themselves from their abayas -- the long traditional robes women are required to wear in public, and they let their hair fall during the performance.

The master of ceremonies shared her enthusiasm, as she brought Hiba Tawaji up onto the stage.

This is a very proud moment for Saudi Arabia. All women should express their appreciation for a fact that a woman for the first time is performing at a concert in Saudi Arabia.

In one of many groundbreaking changes under the reform, this was the first time a concert was performed inside the kingdom. Public music events have long been prohibited, forcing Saudis to travel to other Gulf States to attend musical performances.

Previously, under the country's guardianship rule, male family members had to grant women permission for many activities, including, studying and traveling.

Starting next June, women will be allowed to drive and enjoy public sporting events inside stadiums for the first time.

Local Riyadh resident, Al Anoud, said:

Personally, I hope there will be more [concerts] and I am enthusiastic about this and we deserve to have more musical events.

A university student going by the name of "Salma," emphasized the impact of acknowledging a female's presence in society.

It's good to recognize women's existence. If women and their forms of entertainment have been recognized, then we will reach very important levels in life.

Just last week, Greek composer and musician Yanni performed along with other female artists at Saudi Arabia's first mixed-gender audience.

Yanni was so moved by the experience, he tweeted, "What an incredible night in Jeddah! There can only be one first time and tonight we witnessed and experienced a lot of firsts for KSA! It was beautiful to see! The people stole our hearts with their outpouring of love, enthusiasm, passion and acceptance."

Hiba Tawaji expressed her appreciation for the all-female concert.

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H/T - twitter, dailysabah, nbcnews