Jeddah’s Entertainment Boulevard attracts more than 1million visitors
Jeddah’s Entertainment Boulevard attracts more than 1million visitors
The festival, which took place from Jan. 11 to Jan. 20 on Jeddah’s waterfront, is part of the General Entertainment Authority’s (GEA) effort to provide Saudis with activities and events to keep them rooted to the Kingdom during the mid-school year break, and to promote internal tourism.
The carnival-like event attracted more than 1,000,000 visitors five days into its Jeddah leg, and the number has continued to increase by the hour.
The one-square-kilometer space can accommodate up to 400,000 visitors, occupied by six different stages — including the Spanish stage and sailor’s stage, 100 booths and 600 organizers, as well as patrolling police to ensure visitors’ safety.
The event is supported by the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the GEA; Luxury KSA organized the event, having run 45 others throughout Saudi Arabia.
The festival brought together a variety of people from all over the Kingdom, accommodating the tastes of all music lovers — from violin covers of famous tunes to house music and DJ remixes of everyone’s favorite song.
The Boulevard includes dazzling lightshows, a dance performance by the Saudi Dance Crew, acrobatic performances, side games for children, as well as 16 food trucks to satisfy the hungry.
During the waterfront event, DJs rocked the main stage, garnering the crowd’s attention with uncharted beats.
Sisters Al-Anoud and Nouf Al-Oufi from Jeddah, who studied their master’s and bachelor’s degrees respectively in San Francisco, spoke to Arab News about their experience at the festival. “I didn’t know such performances were even possible in Saudi Arabia. It was very refreshing to attend. I did notice some people around me were a little reserved, but I enjoyed the performance seeing that it’s a new experience for me in Saudi Arabia.”
Al-Oufi said: “It was really fun. It reminded me and Al-Anoud of San Fransisco; it was an entirely different vibe in Saudi Arabia. The event was well-organized and we had a blast.”
The DJ-ing scene has changed for the better, according to music maverick, Hany Al-Banjary, who used to DJ for Panorama FM.
Al-Banjary told Arab News: “The DJ-ing scene has definitely changed since 2006 for instance; back then you could only make out 5-10 professional DJs. Not to mention, during such times, we could only DJ outside the country or in underground events, private events, ceremonies and occasions.
“Lately, though, when we’re performing publicly, people started taking videos and they look like they’re enjoying themselves — through that you can tell that their outlook has changed, that they’re growing to accept the idea. I remember during an event I did in 2007, some people were offended to hear music playing publicly, so we’ve come a long way since then.”
DJ Hassan Ghazzawi told Arab News: “People have gotten more curious about music. If you recall a few years back, people used to call house music ‘techno,’ but now they are aware there’s deep house, tech house — that there is more than one genre of music. People are getting more involved in music making and what goes on beyond a track — now, when they listen to a song they like, they want to know who the DJ is and what goes on behind the scenes and what synthesizers are being used.”
Hussain Al-Qadi, known as DJ Sain, agreed. “People started to understand the music you’re playing; surely there’s room for improvement and we haven’t fulfilled everything, but this is a dream come true,” he said, describing how he felt about DJs having the opportunity to perform at large-scale events like Entertainment Boulevard.
Sain adds: “The surprising thing to me lately has been the demand for DJs. I’ve had many ask me: ‘Why aren’t you doing anything’ and ‘why aren’t you playing here?’ People want this kind of vibe. DJ Hany and I were the opening act before the Nelly and Cheb Khaled concert, and the atmosphere and vibe during that night was unforgettable. We didn’t expect to perform for such a large crowd; 10,000 people came and listened to us. And even at the Boulevard, when you see all the work and set-up going into it, all of the people there, it’s just phenomenal: a beginning for greater things to come.”
Al-Banjary is discouraged by the rising number of young DJs who are accepting any gig or performance for free, just to make a name for themselves or seek fame.
For others, DJ-ing is a full-time career. “It’s definitely a successful career path, I’ve been doing this for more than 10 years but the younger DJs are going to public and private events for no charge, and we work hard, we compose and bring our own playlist and equipment, and I say we earned our pay. DJ-ing isn’t for fame, it’s a career.”
When facing odd looks and criticism from the public, Al-Banjary said: “Although it’s less pronounced, prejudice against DJs still exists and people retain this bad image about DJs, but DJ-ing is an art, just like any other. I think people need more time to become aware about the DJ culture and to learn how we create music from scratch.”
DJs all over the region have faced criticism that their music is fully Westernized. Al-Banjary rejects this: “We are exchanging cultures through music. You have people on the Western side of the globe Easternizing their tunes to create new sounds. Even in my playlist on radio live shows I try to add an Arabian touch into my mixes, which makes the experience unique to listeners. So, I’d say no, I’m not really helping Westernize my society or their music taste. I’m trying to reflect my own culture to others.”
“I don’t believe music has a certain country or nationality that it belongs to,” DJ Sain adds. “Music is a universal form of art, no matter what you play and the language you speak, people either feel it or they don’t: It’s a sensuous feeling.”
DJ Ghazzawi reflected on his residency in London, Italy and Egypt. With his brother they form Dish Dash, and they are two of the most influential DJs in the country.
“We still play with an Arabic twist no matter where we are; we still portray our heritage through an oriental sound. The genre we play isn’t really Arabic — it’s deep house and techno. When we perform outside Saudi, people enjoy our sets because they’re different, especially in London and Rome; when we play there, we vary from their sound and try to link our heritage. We’re called Dish Dash (which is the garment worn by Arab men known as thobe) and we often perform wearing mishlah (another garment worn over thobes) so we are not discarding our identity at all.”
“I feel that in a couple of years, DJ-ing will have a big impact as a job. If you’re good at it and you’re in it for the right reason, you can go big places,” he said.
“Five to six years ago when I used to host DJ events for Red Bull, I had a title attached to my name, and the looks I was compared to when I discarded the Red Bull brand ... it was stigmatized, definitely. But now, as a DJ/producer, I notice people’s outlook has changed and it’s gotten easier for an individual to go out and say ‘I’m a DJ’.”
Experience the aesthetics of Ramadan in Makkah
- The citizens of many neighborhoods near the sanctuary, such as Al-Shubaikha, Al-Gemmezah, Al-Tundobawi, Jarwal and others, compete to serve pilgrims during Ramadan
- The houses in Makkah during the holy month were painted on the inside and outside, welcoming Ramadan
MAKKAH: Makkah is famous for being a vibrant city throughout the year. Its long Umrah season, followed by the Hajj season, makes it a rich place visited by all nationalities from around the world. Makkah conforms to its culture, identity and profound heritage, especially during the holy month of Ramadan.
If you want to experience the aesthetics of Ramadan, Makkah is a Saudi city that’s wonderfully diverse. Citizens of different races were brought together by their love for Makkah, which they have chosen as a residence. This has characterized its identity and satisfied its customs and social patterns, making it unique among Saudi areas and cities.
The Mayor of Rea Zakher neighborhood, Fahad Al-Harbi, observes many traditions and historical features in Makkah, some of which have died out while others are still ongoing. Al-Harbi speaks of old neighborhoods that surrounded the Makkan sanctuary, and how they contributed to the culture of sharing and cooperating and laid friendliness in a small geographical area, linking districts and population centers of different races and spectrums.
Al-Harbi says Makkah witnesses an increased activity during Ramadan, one of the great occasions that reflect the cultures of this city’s citizens and how they create their own happiness.
The work in ful, Sobia, Arabic sweets and other shops increases and their owners are friendly with people. All owners of specific food sell their products with pleasure and ease. They sing beautiful tunes they inherited while selling balilah, fried dumplings and soup.
Al-Harbi also tells about districts in Makkah that become crowded every year owing to sports events and witness the residents of one neighborhood bringing lights and drawing the lines of football and volleyball playgrounds. Tournaments are also held during Ramadan where the neighborhoods’ mayors give away trophies in the final games.
“The citizens of many neighborhoods near the sanctuary, such as Al-Shubaikha, Al-Gemmezah, Al-Tundobawi, Jarwal and others, compete to serve pilgrims during Ramadan. They give them water during breakfast, guide lost people and help the elderly to get to the sanctuary, and these are traditions the citizens of Makkah are proud of, while considering them their duties,” Al-Harbi added.
Businessman and engineer Amin Hafez noted that throughout the years, the royal neighborhood has maintained its cultural value which reflects the spiritual and heritage side of Makkah. In its districts, the citizens of Makkah meet pilgrims and get to know each other, establishing a great brotherhood and beautiful friendship.
Hafez said the royal neighborhood included models of Makkan houses, popular cafés, small shops, old cars that were used in the past and the Makkan heritage and architectural museum. All this diversity has made Ramadan nights in the city incomparable with any other cities: they are old neighborhoods that were linked to the Makkan sanctuary, some of which have faded away with the commitments of widening the Grand Mosque.
One elderly man from the Jarwal area near the Makkah sanctuary, Faleh Al-Moutaweh, told of many Ramadan traditions Makkah was renowned for but have died out. People have become busier with the widening of urbanism in Makkah.
In the past, the houses in Makkah during the holy month were painted on the inside and outside, welcoming Ramadan. Lights were used and sessions set in the streets near the houses where men spent their nights during Ramadan. The curtains, mattresses and cushions were cleaned, and two days before Ramadan, preparing red and white Sobia was a must.
Al-Moutaweh added that young men and women used to compete to serve pilgrims. They used to go to the Makkan sanctuary before the evening prayer, carrying Zamzam water and dates in beautiful pots. They would communicate with pilgrims in the languages they had learned and serve them yogurt and coffee for the whole holy month.