Saudi Arabia’s capital hosted the Kingdom’s biggest entertainment season yet, with more than 100 events taking place over the past few months, from international music legends performing live to local theatrical shows. It’s been an amazing first year for Riyadh season, as our selected highlights show.
Riyadh Season saw a multitude of music stars visit the capital city. From superstar Arab acts including Amr Diab to international artists including K-pop legends BTS, US rapper French Montana and Belgian DJ duo Dmitri Vegas and Like Mike. But the headline attraction was the three-day electronic festival MDL Beast, which will long be remembered as the biggest party Saudi Arabia has ever thrown. Local stars including DJ Dish Dash got their opportunity to shine in front of thousands, while legends such as David Guetta, Steve Aoki (complete with remix of tracks from Saudi singer Mohammed Abdu), Tiesto, Martin Garrix and Sebastian Ingrosso brought a Soundstorm to Saudi.
October 31 saw the first female professional wrestling match to be staged in Saudi Arabia when WWE Crown Jewel took place in Riyadh. Natalya and Lacey Evans faced off in a match “clearly put in place to break barriers” according to Heavy.com. “And for that I have to give it the utmost props.” Elsewhere on the bill, British boxer Tyson Fury defeated Braun Strowman, Saudi wrestler Mansoor defeated Cesaro, and the WWE’s largest tag team “turmoil” match — with nine teams participating — saw The O.C. emerge victorious.
In November, the South American super classic football match between Brazil and Argentina was played in Riyadh for the first time, and local fans got to see Lionel Messi — arguably the greatest player of all time — up close and personal. And the Argentinian legend didn’t disappoint, scoring the only goal of the game to give his team bragging rights over their rivals.
Aside from all the talent on show at Riyadh Season’s myriad events, a whole host of famous names came over just to visit the country and take in some of the entertainment. US actors Armie Hammer, Wilmer Valderrama and Ryan Phillippe all visited the Kingdom’s capital, as did Egyptian-Jordanian actor Bassel Alzaro, Lebanese designer Eli Mizrahi, US singer-songwriter Teyana Taylor, and numerous well-known models including Megan Williams, Stella Maxwell, Neels Visser, Irina Shayk, Romee Strijd, Joan Smalls, Winnie Harlow, and many more. And sure, an all-expenses-paid luxury trip is rarely going to upset anyone, but they all seemed to be having a good time.
Riyadh had its coolest winter yet thanks to the importing (and expanding — according to the organizers, it was twice the size) of London’s Winter Wonderland — the famous Hyde Park Christmas attraction. The huge theme park proved a hit with visitors, thanks to its blend of simple kid-friendly shows, including clowns, and more thrill-packed rides and stands. It also included the Middle East’s largest ice rink.
The Riyadh Safari brought the African savannah to the heart of the Saudi capital. Visitors got to see elephants, giraffes, antelopes, wolves, parrots and a whole lot of other animals in the flesh, surrounded by lively animal-themed entertainment, rides and music.
HISTORY & HERITAGE
Nabd Al-Riyadh was the event to visit if you wanted a taste of some more-traditional Saudi Arabian culture. Every day, it showcased the cultural heritage of a different region of the Kingdom through a mixture of cutting-edge technology and old-school artisans. You could see folk dances and traditional music performances, handicrafts that have been passed down through generations, but also digital displays and laser shows. All based around the historically significant Al-Masmak Fortress.
There were some top theatrical performances during Riyadh Season too. The highlight was probably Cirque du Soleil’s “Bazzar,” inspired — as the name suggests — by the sights, sounds, colors and interactions of a bazaar. The performers wowed audiences with astonishing acrobatics, stilt-walking, dramatic fire-breathing and more.
“Thriller Live” brought the ever-popular magical music of Michael Jackson to the capital and was — as expected in a region where Jackson’s popularity remains sky-high — a huge hit.
The season closed with a performance of “Leila: The Land of Imagination” — a show in which a young girl dreams of travelling around the Kingdom in a single night. Elsewhere, Saudi comedian Nasser Al-Qasabi’s play “Al-Theeb fe Al-Gleeb” proved popular with audiences.
The Riyadh Motorshow 2019 brought together some of the world’s most-remarkable cars in the Saudi capital — including the electric GFG Style 2030, which was bought at auction for almost $855,000. From vintage vehicles and classic muscle cars to the latest supercar models, the motorshow was a huge draw for petrolheads from across the region and further afield.