JEDDAH: After an 18-month break because of the COVID-19 pandemic, public entertainment and events are about to return to the capital in style, following the launch of Riyadh Season 2.
In 2019, authorities in the Kingdom introduced special seasonal programs of events, each focusing on a different part of the country. They included Sharqiyah Season in March, Jeddah Season in June, and Riyadh Season in October.
Plans for the second round of these annual seasons had to be abandoned early last year when the pandemic began. But with life in the Kingdom starting to return to normal as vaccination efforts continue, it has been announced that that the most significant event of the year will begin in the capital in the coming months.
Full details, including dates, are yet to be revealed but Riyadh Season 2 is expected to be bigger and better than the inaugural edition. Residents that Arab News spoke to were delighted and looking forward to the return of public entertainment following a year and a half in which it has mostly been absent.
Announcing the plans for Riyadh Season 2 on Sunday, Turki Al-Shaikh, president of the General Entertainment Authority (GEA), said that the city will be divided into 14 sections covering an area of 5.4 million square meters. The program will include 350 theater shows, 70 Arabic concerts, six international musical events, 18 Arabic and six international plays, 10 international exhibitions, a freestyle wrestling match, an international soccer match, 100 interactive experiences, and 7,500 other activities. In addition, 200 restaurants and 70 cafes will take part.
After more than a year with few entertainment options, residents said they cannot wait for the chance to attend a show or take part in an activity.
Abdulrahman Salah, 24, who is studying cybersecurity at university, said he is most looking forward to the concerts and other musical events.
“I am so happy that the events are back,” he said. “I’m so excited to see them, visit the pop-up restaurants only found in Riyadh and visit the activities, as they are of very high standards, satisfying all tastes and even all ages.”
He added that for people who cannot travel abroad because of the pandemic, or choose not to, Riyadh Season will offer a packed program of fun events and activities in the heart of the Kingdom.
“Yes, traveling is an unmatched experience, especially to enjoy the cooler weather,” he said. “But the list of activities will provide you with more things to do than if you were planning a trip abroad — and would anyone want to miss out on all these events? I don’t think so.”
Noura Al-Ajmi, a 22-year-old marketing student, plan to attend Riyadh Season with her friends.
“I’m so excited for the music concerts, hopefully Winter Wonderland, and games that give you an adrenaline rush, such as zip lines and the theme park,” she told Arab News. “I love the colors and festive details in Saudi Seasons; it gets you excited to attend just by looking at the posters alone.”
Sulaiman Mukhtar, a 30-year-old English-language lecturer, said that Riyadh Season 2 will help people to feel as if things are getting back to normal after more than a year of woe as a result of COVID-19.
“I’m beyond excited that life is easing back to normal and that there are outdoor activities that we can enjoy, as long as they are held safely per Ministry of Health guidelines,” he told Arab News.
Mansour Mohammed, 32, noted that the entertainment sector in the Kingdom had been growing rapidly before the interruption caused by the pandemic.
“It feels great to see the return of the Saudi Seasons because that also means the return of joy and smiles,” he said. “In 2019, Riyadh Season lit up the whole Kingdom with the events.”
He added that he is particularly excited to see what lies in store in Riyadh Boulevard and the Winter Wonderland.
The inaugural Riyadh Season in 2019 generated more than SR1 billion ($270 million), attracted 10.3 million visitors to the capital and surrounding areas, and created 34,700 jobs and 17,300 indirect employment opportunities.