RIYADH: Wasla music festival organizers have canceled the entire two-day event due to high winds and sandstorms in Riyadh.
The festival, the first of its kind in Saudi Arabia, was set to take place on March 4-5 in the Hidden Valley of Riyadh.
Wasla was launched in Dubai, but this year was set to be held in the Kingdom for the first time. The two-day festival features Arab and Saudi alternative and indie talents, including headline acts that have dominated the Middle East and North Africa music industry over the last decade.
A total of 15 bands were set to play genres including rock, alternative, indie rock, indie pop, jazz, soul, funk, electropop and fusion.
On Friday, winds in Riyadh reached speeds of 50 kilometers per hour, bringing dust storms that covered the entire city.
Festival doors were set to open at 3 p.m. on Friday, but event organizers initially delayed the festival until 6 p.m. However, due to the continuing sandstorms, the Wasla media team shared on Instagram that the first day of the festival has been postponed for safety.
On Friday evening the Wasla media team announced they were canceling the festival completely “due to weather circumstances and to ensure the safety of all.”
Located 80 kilometers from the center of Riyadh, the festival was deemed unsafe for attendees. Sandstorms can cause severe breathing problems for people with underlying respiratory conditions.
Initially, organizers aimed to postpone day one of the festival and continue as planned on March 5.
Festivalgoers took to Instagram to request refunds, with many having traveled from Jeddah to see many of the performers such as Skeleton Crowd, Souad Massi, Aziz Maraka, Cairokee and Hamza Namira.
By Friday evening, The Saudi National Center for Meteorology reported that wind speeds had reached 29 kilometers per hour in Riyadh — deemed unsafe for travel. The traffic department warned motorists to drive slowly with headlights on as the dust makes roads difficult to navigate.
Event organizers informed media outlets that the event will remain “canceled until further notice” and that they will make an announcement once a decision has been made on a potential future date.