Saudi fans at the electronic music festival in Riyadh. AFP
Tens of thousands of Saudis have flocked to an electronic music festival billed by organisers as the biggest in the kingdom since it began easing decades-old restrictions on entertainment.
Dutch DJ Tiesto, South Africa's Black Coffee and France's David Guetta are among the top acts at the three-day MDL Beast festival, which began near Riyadh on Thursday.
"This is the biggest music festival in the region," said DJ Cosmicat, one of a few female Saudi artists performing at the event.
Young Saudi revellers held their mobile phones aloft in front of one of the stages as lasers and spotlights lit the evening sky on Thursday.
The multi-stage festival attracted 130,000 fans on its first day, said organisers, calling it the "largest music, arts and culture festival Saudi Arabia has ever seen".
The Main Stage, ‘Big Beast’ was opened by Simi Haze, the Saudi born identical twin DJs who have been taking the fashion and music worlds by storm and have now returned to their home country to perform at MDL Beast. The 45,000-person capacity ‘Big Beast’ stage is the biggest built in the world this year, and the dynamic duo kicked the festivities off in awesome Saudi style!
The retail therapy district, MDL Town and Saudi Alley local food court welcomed men and women to sample the very best of local and international brands in food, fashion & design. Chefs from all over the world created bespoke menus and mocktails especially for the event, and designers were on site showcasing their amazing Saudi designs to the world.
On day one, 22 shows were put up by performers, all totally unique to MDL Beast.
The Arts Beast district featured a series of incredible immersive performances and visual spectacular effects, while street theatre performers roamed the grounds interacting with guests.
As night fell, The Arts Beast district visitors were treated to scenes of stunning light parades and illuminated drumming troupes weaving their way through the festival.
One festival goer commented, “I never expected to see shows like this here in Saudi, with so many performers travelling in from all over the world to put on special shows just for us. It’s an honour to welcome them, and I was absolutely in awe of all of them!”
John Rash, Creative Director, MDL Beast Festival said, “We are so proud of what we have been able to do here today and that we can showcase Saudi Arabia’s potential for more large-scale events like this in the future. MDL Beast will create a new, unique genre of international festivals going forwards. Watch this space - the Beast will be back!”
Saudi Arabia has eased restrictions on various forms of entertainment as Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman seeks to modernize country's image.
The relaxed social norms have been welcomed by many Saudis, two-thirds of whom are under 30.The reforms come as the OPEC leader seeks to boost domestic spending and diversify its economy.
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