WATCH: Saudi singer Tamtam on her new single written during the pandemic

Time: 05 August 2020

DUBAI: Born in Riyadh, Tamtam has gained a following for her socially conscious music that explores the challenges she faces as an unapologetic Arab woman. In an exclusive interview with Arab News, the LA-based musician opens up about her latest single titled “Heartsick” in collaboration with Saudi music producer Saud and her hopes for the music industry post-pandemic.   

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The future of the entertainment sector in Saudi Arabia

02/08/20

Many analysts expect that most countries, including Saudi Arabia, will reopen their skies during this quarter. However it is widely anticipated that traveling for tourism, hospitality and entertainment will not be as it was before the COVID-19 pandemic, as precautionary measures and restrictions remain in place in various destinations.
With that in mind, local tourism and entertainment will be an obvious destination for millions of nationals and residents these days and probably until the end of the year. Obviously, until giga and other projects are fully developed and completed, as most of us are in the country this summer celebrating the Eid Al-Adha break and with such hot weather too, there are a limited number of places we can escape to such as the beaches on the Red Sea or Arabian Gulf, and the breathtaking mountainous landscape of Asir.
In addition to the new entertainment centers announced by the Public Investment Fund including Qiddiya Entertainment City, the Red Sea Project, Amaala, AlUla, King Salman Park, Diriyah Gate Development and Riyadh Sport Boulevard, the Saudi Entertainment Ventures Company (SEVEN) was created.
SEVEN, which is headed by Bill Ernest, has a mandate to develop theme parks and entertainment centers around the country. Plans include 20 entertainment destinations, 50 cinemas and two large theme parks in prime locations across the Kingdom.
Each complex will feature entertainment and leisure choices including waterparks, cinemas, play areas, rides, other attractions and more. The complexes will position the Kingdom in the post COVID-19 era as an entertainment, culture and tourism hub for the region.
As part of its strategic business development activities to support key government initiatives and plans to boost economic drivers such as SEVEN and the $20 billion Tourism Development Fund headed by Qusai Al-Fakhri, BMG Financial Group is undertaking a comprehensive study for the capital structure to create world-class water parks in key cities across the country. The plan is to create water parks which meet the social demands of different family members. The branded product could be franchised by different public or private entities.
Furthermore, this initiative will be structured as a public-private partnership vehicle in association with local contractors and international operators coupled with an exit strategy via public listing. In my opinion, even though COVID-19 has had an unprecedented negative impact on many sectors, including hospitality and entertainment, over the next few years these sectors are expected to regain their market share and will benefit from local demand as well as an international one. I still believe that Saudi Arabia remains one of the game changers in the entertainment and tourism sectors.

Basil M.K. Al-Ghalayini is the chairman and CEO of BMG Financial Group.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News’ point-of-view

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Saudi filmmakers ‘The Godus Brothers’ premiere debut film

27/07/20

The cast and makers of Shams AlMa’arif during premiere night on Saturday in Riyadh. (AN Photo/Bashir Saleh)

Faris Godus. (AN Photo/Thamer Alfuraiji)

Speaking to Arab News, Alem told of his experience of playing the main character, and how he felt bringing the story to life on screen.

“Faris wrote an incredibly personal story, in more ways than one. You can imagine the character of Husam as an amalgamation of both of us, in a way. Reliving ten years’ worth of past experience, my passion for cinema and filmmaking, and the mischief we used to get up to in school, was an incredibly personal experience,” he said.

He hopes that viewers would leave the film feeling like they can relate to the characters, or that they could consider the characters in the film their friends.

“It’s basically a character film. The story is great, but you can’t help but fall in love with these characters first,” he said.

Baraa Alem. (AN Photo/Thamer Alfuraiji)

Though the “movie-within-a-movie” premise is hardly a new one, the film offers a refreshing twist on an old trope. The film is a glorious, nostalgic romp through Jeddah in 2010, during the golden age of the Saudi YouTube movement. Peppered with references to Saudi pop culture and offering an interesting take on the history of Saudi cinema and television.

The film also features moments that are poignant, emotionally taxing, and familiar to any Saudis who dreamt of working in the creative industry ten years ago. It also highlights the often-vicious comments that are the bread-and-butter of Saudi YouTubers, in one of the film’s most emotional sequences.

The laughs are almost non-stop, even interspersed with surprising moments of tenderness and wisdom. The film perfectly encapsulates the complex feelings of an entire generation of Saudi youth, who struggled before the current era to imagine a future when creative professions could ever be taken seriously.

Shams AlMa’arif showcases the trials and tribulations of becoming a filmmaker in Saudi Arabia in an age where actors and directors needed to be creative in order to see their visions achieved, battling a lack of resources, support from society, and access to locations for filming.

Shams AlMa’arif is now available to watch in MUVI cinemas across Saudi Arabia and will be available in all cinemas by July 31st.

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Screen scene: Films, series to stream at home this week

14/04/20

Toy Story 4 

Woody, Buzz and most of the rest of Andy’s ex-toys take a road trip. (Supplied)

Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Tony Hale

Where: OSN Movies, April 27, 11:40 (Saudi time)

Woody, Buzz and most of the rest of Andy’s ex-toys (who are now Bonnie’s toys) take a road trip, along with a new addition to Bonnie’s toybox, Forky. Woody meets an old friend on the way, who makes him reassess his sense of duty — to himself and others.

Tigertail

“Tigertail” is on Netflix. (Supplied)

Starring: Lee Hong-chi, Tzi Ma, Christine Ko

Where: Netflix

The story of Pin-Jui, a Taiwanese factory worker who decides to leave his homeland — and the woman he loves — to seek a better life in America. Years later, after a miserable arranged marriage and a hard and unsatisfying career, he struggles to connect with his past and his daughter.

Love, Wedding, Repeat

The film stars Sam Clafin, Olivia Munn and Joel Fry. (Supplied)

Starring: Sam Clafin, Olivia Munn, Joel Fry

Where: Netflix

Ever wished for a remake of the time-loop comedy “Groundhog Day” but set around a wedding instead? No? Well, someone did. So now we’ve got this film, in which Jack tries to ensure his little sister has the perfect wedding day, and gets multiple goes at it.

The Innocence Files

This docuseries covers eight cases of wrongful conviction uncovered by non- profit organization The Innocence Project. (Supplied)

Creators: Liz Garbus, Alex Gibney, Roger Ross Williams

Where: Netflix

This docuseries covers eight cases of wrongful conviction uncovered by non- profit organization The Innocence Project. Netflix says the show “exposes difficult truths about the state of America’s deeply flawed criminal justice system.”

The Main Event

Leo discovers a wrestling mask that magically grants him superhuman strength. (Supplied)

Starring: Seth Carr, Tichina Arnold, Adam Pally, The Miz

Where: Netflix

In yet another WWE spin-off, 11-year-old Leo discovers a wrestling mask that magically grants him superhuman strength. With the support of his feisty grandma, Leo sets about becoming a pro wrestler.

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COVID-19 and the power of social media influencers: Are they more important than ever?

13/04/20

PARIS, FRANCE – OCTOBER 02: Models take a selfie, outside Chanel, during Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Spring/Summer 2019 on October 2, 2018 in Paris, France. (Photo by Edward Berthelot/Getty Images)

Influencers may play a significant role in helping to combat the spread of the virus. (File/Getty)

DUBAI: As the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues to afflict thousands worldwide, influencers have been forced to rethink their perfectly curated aesthetics. Gone are the brightly filtered snaps of avocado toast and ‘Outfit-of-the-day’ posts. Instead, quick workout videos and makeup-free selfies are flooding our social media feeds as people practice social distancing in a bid to curb the spread of the virus.

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“It’s time for us to utilize our platforms to voice concerns, spread awareness, share lighthearted humor, engage with our viewers and create content to lift people’s spirits,” Dubai-based Zeynab El-Helw, known as “Fashion Pirate” to her 1 million Instagram followers, told Arab News.

UAE-based fashion influencer Ola Farahat, who boasts 1.2 million followers on Instagram, agrees. “I think there is something empowering about sharing positivity, especially because the world is so saturated with depressing news at the moment,” she noted.

View this post on Instagram

For a good cause! #FIGHTFORHEROES CHALLENGE: HOW MANY PUNCHES IN 60 SECONDS? It only takes #60seconds to show appreciation to real heroes. So listen up! @Masafi and I have launched a fitness challenge to show our gratitude to the heroic nurses and doctors fighting for us every day. The more posts we put out there the more gratitude we send them and @Masafi will provide free water to nurses, doctors and their families across the UAE. It’s simple! Check my upcoming story and join me in saying THANKS! Pick up any 2 bottles of water and start throwing as many punches as possible in 60 seconds Tag 3 of your friends and challenge them to beat your number! I nominate @lynjawharji @lubzfitness @mayawilliamz @rafalhabib @zarahzamira #FightForHeroes #FitnessChallenge #Masafi #NaturalWater #AlkalineWater #AskForNatural #StayHome #StayFit #knowyourwater

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But can they do more?

According to Dr. Stephanie Alice Baker, lecturer in sociology at City, University of London, influencers may also play a significant role in helping to combat the spread of the virus by using their platforms to enforce the worldwide stay-at-home mandates.

Indeed, a big part of the fight against COVID-19 is getting information regarding government guidelines and regulations out to the public as quickly and efficiently as possible — and encouraging audiences to adhere to them. Just last month, a fitness influencer was detained by Dubai police for mocking the UAE’s stay-at-home rules on Instagram.

“Influencers play a particularly important role in encouraging the younger demographic to comply with lockdown rules and social distancing measures,” Baker said.

“Given that younger generations appear to have a relatively low risk of mortality from the virus, social media personalities are instrumental in using their influence to communicate the importance of such rules and measures,” she explains.

Social distancing rules mean that people are required to spend large amounts of time at home physically isolated from others, so those with a large social media following can also provide some much-needed entertainment while encouraging their followers to comply with the rules.

On the whole, social media consumption is soaring as more and more people around the world go under lockdown.

“We are seeing a move towards posts that portray how influencers are coping during the lockdown, which can be both informative and a source of entertainment,” explains Baker.

“Influencers have been able to turn these restrictions into opportunities to market products related to the domestic sphere including home workouts, DIY beauty, and cooking and cleaning items. The influencers who have stood out during the pandemic are those who use their brand to provide strategies for their followers to cope during the enforced lockdown.”

https://www.instagram.com/chiaraferragni/?utm_source=ig_embed

Baker went on to provide examples of public figures who have adapted their social media strategies during the pandemic, such as fitness guru Joe Wicks who is using his platform to provide free at-home workouts to children amid school closures.

“Fitness and wellness influencers have used their fame to promote health and diet advice on how to improve the immune system, for example, and avoid being more susceptible to the virus. There have even been instances of beauty bloggers and fashion influencers providing health advice.”

Korean beauty blogger Carey gave his followers practical COVID-19-related tips, including which disinfectant to use to kill the virus and how to choose a face mask.

Hady Hajjar, co-founder of the Dubai and Beirut-based Humanagment, coined the term “edutainment” — a portmanteau of the words education and entertainment — to describe how influencers can provide valuable information to their followers in an entertaining, lighthearted way.

“If you only take the entertainment route, you will potentially garner negative feedback,” Hajjar said. “On the other hand, your followers might get bored if your feed is solely dedicated to educating them on the pandemic. You have to balance it out.”

Hajjar believes that it is those who are able to generate creative content amid such uncertain times that will remain relevant after the pandemic.

Meanwhile, as the virus rages on, anxiety is rendering people increasingly susceptible to misinformation, with a flurry of conspiracy theories gaining traction in recent weeks. In particular, a conspiracy theory linking 5G wireless technology to COVID-19 has been spread by celebrities, including singer Kerry Hilson, as well as other known influencers.

Zaineb Al-Hassan, co-founder of Dubai-based PR agency Pop Communications, believes that those with large followings must use their voice to tackle misinformation and prevent the spread of baseless and often dangerous theories to a wider audience.

“Influencers can also be helpful in advocating for campaigns against fake news, especially if the majority of their audience does not consume news through traditional mediums,” Al-Hassan said.

El-Helw agrees.

“Ultimately, influencers need to work together to initiate supportive campaigns to share useful and correct information as much as we can. It’s our responsibility to our community, to ourselves, our families and our global network,” El-Helw said.

“We can use our platforms to share information from WHO and other trusted organizations for kids following us,” Farahat added.

One thing is for certain: Whether you love them or hate them, with the ability to communicate instantly with millions of people worldwide using a single hashtag, the role of an influencer is more important now than ever.

Hams Saleh contributed to this report.

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How online streaming is shaping Saudi pop culture — at the push of a button

12/04/20

ASEEL BASHRAHEEL

JEDDAH: Ever since streaming services became available in the Middle East, leading online sites have been dictating people’s tastes and preferences, their mass media effect influencing Saudi Arabia as it does the rest of the world.

Sara Al-Rifai, an English instructor in Jeddah, believes that streaming services are gaining influence in mainstream culture simply because younger people are unwilling to watch cable TV and sit through ads, or wait a week or more for new content.
“Competition on quality and cost is another factor in favor of streaming services. Neflix’s monthly subscription is affordable. The quality of its shows is rapidly improving, and many of its films and series have won prestigious awards such as the Oscars,” she told Arab News.
Renad Flimban, 26, from Jeddah, said that movies and TV shows have the ability to set mainstream culture in areas ranging from food to fashion and even hairstyles long before streaming became available.
“New streaming services have just made it easier to consume the media and the culture behind it,” she said.
The popular HBO series “Game of Thrones” is perhaps the best example of pop culture “spread,” with local fans joining a global audience in their love for the show. Many viewers in the Arab world watched the series on OSN, while it was also available on HBO.

New streaming services have just made it easier to consume the media and the culture behind it.

Renad Flimban

“I think it blew up here even though it was on HBO, which isn’t that popular here, because people seemed to really like/dislike the characters and the writing. They had extremely strong feelings on both ends of the spectrum,” Flimban said.
Popular shows in the 1990s and early 2000s have been reinvigorated after streaming services acquired the rights to reshow them for viewers. Many popular shows that used to air on MBC2 and Saudi TV, such as “Friends,” “Full House” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” have won new fans following recent exposure.
“Most of these shows’ themes — friendships, families and relationships — are still relevant today, and having easy access to these shows on current media platforms certainly helped to introduce them to a new audience and reconnect with an established audience,” Flimban said.
Al-Rifai agrees, saying these shows have become more popular among a younger generation due to their availability and a desire to understand the hype surrounding them.
“‘Friends’ is still the most-watched show on Netflix, yet it has been criticized for tolerating sexism and body shaming,” she said. “The generation gap and viewers’ beliefs affect the way they perceive a show, no matter how popular it was in the past.”

HIGHLIGHTS
• Fans of popular shows and films in Saudi Arabia behave just as worldwide fans do.

• Young Saudis collect merchandise and organize character-themed parties.

For Razan Sijeeni, a Jeddah university graphic design instructor, the pinnacle of pop culture in the Kingdom would be “Tash Ma Tash,” which aired every Ramadan for 18 years, often tackling conservatism and racism, among other controversial social issues.
“Unfortunately, there is very little authentic representation of our culture in our own media nowadays, and whatever there is, even when it’s well executed, it is being Westernized and viewed through a Western gaze,” she said.
However, Sijeeni has Netflix to thank for her favorite series, “Star Trek,” which she discovered on the streaming site.
“It was fascinating to me, watching the visuals of an explosion or space in the 1960s, and how the series progressed and improved considerably as the years went by,” she said.

Sijeeni said that online streaming also offers people from around the world an introduction to different cultures, languages and beliefs at the press of a button.
“I’ve seen a Saudi influencer meet the cast of “Money Heist,” and people were reacting to it — it’s like they know these people and it isn’t just a show.”
She said that in an age where the internet has a growing place in people’s lives, even individuals who don’t watch shows such as “Game of Thrones” and “Friends” still know who the characters are, and go as far as creating memes to help cope with the coronavirus crisis, for example.
Fans of popular shows and films in Saudi Arabia behave just as worldwide fans do, collecting merchandise, holding character-themed parties and recreating recipes from fictional universes.
Flimban’s favorite show since 2010 has been “Gilmore Girls,” and she admits to owning a few show-inspired items and attending a “marvelous” Gatsby-themed party.
Sijeeni had not been as lucky with her “Star Trek” obsession, however, and said that she was envious of fan events she saw happening worldwide. “My favorite mug was given to me by a friend,” she recalled. “It has the main ‘Star Trek’ six and they transport as you fill the mug with boiling water.”
Now she is on the hunt for a “Star Trek” pilot jacket. We recommend Etsy artists for fan-replicated items.

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Screen scene: New films, series to stream this week

04/04/20

In part four of the popular Spanish crime drama, the gang is in chaos. (Supplied)

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

BROOKLYN NINE-NINE — “Debbie” — Episode 705 — Pictured: (l-r) Andy Samberg as Jake Peralta, Vanessa Bayer as Debbie Fogel — (Photo by: John P. Fleenor/NBC)

It starrs Andy Samberg, Terry Crews and Andre Braugher. (Supplied)

Where: OSN Comedy

Mondays, 18:00

Catch up with the seventh season of this popular Emmy-winning cop comedy on OSN. NYPD detective Jake Peralta continues to demonstrate his crime solving chops and wind up his colleagues with his childish humor.

Coffee & Kareem

 

It starrs Ed Helms, Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Little Gardenhigh. (Supplied)

Where: Netflix

Helms plays police officer James Coffee in this action-comedy. Coffee is happy in his new relationship with Vanessa, but her son — Kareem — isn’t impressed. He tries to break them up by hiring thugs to take Coffee out. The plan goes badly wrong.

Money Heist

It starrs Ursula Corbero, Itziar Ituno, Alvaro Morte and Paco Tous. (Supplied)

Where: Netflix

In part four of the popular Spanish crime drama, the gang is in chaos. The Professor believes Lisbon to be dead (the gang use the names of cities instead of their real names). Meanwhile, Rio and Tokyo have blown up a tank and Nairobi is in serious trouble.

Nailed It!

It starrs Nicola Byer, Jacques Torres and some terrible bakers. (Supplied)

Where: Netflix

In an amusing twist on reality-TV baking shows, ‘Nailed It!’ invites

some shockingly bad home bakers to try and recreate edible masterpieces in front of the camera — competing for $10,000. The results are some of the ugliest food you’re ever going to see.

Sunderland Till I Die

Where: Netflix

The second series of this compelling docuseries delving behind the scenes at Sunderland football club in the north of England. Can a new owner save the club?

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Rihanna talks life and wanting kids after high-profile breakup

Time: 01 April, 2020

Rihanna seemed to confirm her split with Saudi businessman Hassan Jameel in a recent interview. (File/AFP)

DUBAI: For the first time since Rihanna’s rumored split from Saudi businessman Hassan Jameel, the multi-hyphenate has spoken out on her life post-breakup.

In a recent interview with British Vogue, the singer and beauty mogul told the magazine about her fresh perspective on life. “Since I turned 32, I’m realizing life is really short,” she stated. “You don’t have a lot of time to tolerate sh*t, you know? You put so much on your plate. When you’re overwhelmed, you need to start cutting things out. And I’m overwhelmed too much. What’s happening now is that I’m going back to black and white. My grey area is shutting down.”

In the piece, journalist Afua Hirsch confirmed the break-up, writing “her long-term relationship with the Saudi billionaire businessman Hassan Jameel (conducted largely away from the media’s obsessive gaze) recently ended.”

According to US media reports, Rihanna and her Saudi beau reportedly went their separate ways in January, after nearly three years of dating.

Rihanna gave no indication of an upcoming break up in a 2019 conversation with “Ocean’s 8” co-star Sarah Paulson for Interview Magazine. Paulson grilled the Fenty owner about her personal life, at one point asking her who she was dating, which she answered: “Google it.”

Paulson then asked her if she was in love, and she said “Of course I am.”

During the interview with British Vogue, Hirsch asked the singer about the possibility of having children, to which the multi-Grammy Award winner revealed she wanted “three or four” children — with or without a man in her life.

“I feel like society makes me want to feel like, ‘Oh, you got it wrong…’ They diminish you as a mother if there’s not a dad in your kids’ lives,” she explained. “But the only thing that matters is happiness, that’s the only healthy relationship between a parent and a child.”

The singer added, “That’s the only thing that can raise a child truly, is love.”

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SEA 2020 brings the best of global entertainment to KSA

Time: 30 January, 2020 

dmg events launched the Saudi Entertainment and Amusement expo in April 2019.

Saudi Arabia’s announcement to invest $64 billion into developing its entertainment industry over the next decade as part of Vision 2030 has energized the sector as the Kingdom follows its planned social and economic reform programs spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

In line with the Kingdom’s zealous plans, dmg events launched the Saudi Entertainment and Amusement (SEA) expo in April 2019 in Jeddah and interest in the event has almost doubled in size this year with the event due to be held from Feb. 3 to 5 at the Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Center.

Nathan Waugh, portfolio director at dmg events, said that dmg events got SEA out to the market at a time when the entertainment and leisure sector in Saudi Arabia is blossoming with the aim to make the country a leisure destination not just locally but globally. “From a start of practically zero, there are things like cinemas booming across the country, concerts, sporting events and other entertainment complexes, so the focus is there on getting the big banner attractions. Relaxing social rules, especially for women, and encouraging entertainment and leisure activities is helping hugely, moving the country toward modernization. All this puts us in a great position to bring international businesses that are looking at Saudi Arabia as a new and thriving market.”

Ready for its second edition, SEA expo has achieved 75 percent growth overall and the number of exhibitors has increased by 30 percent. The reach for exhibitors is global, with companies from the US and peaked interest from Europe, particularly from Italy. There’s also a delegation from the UK’s Department of Trade and Industry taking part along with two other international pavilions. In total there are exhibitors from 23 different countries. A growing list of exhibitors including Whitewater, Ropes Courses Inc., Polin, Warehouse of Games, Amusement Services International, Embed, IdeAttack, Vivaticket and Vortex is expected to increase visitor numbers this year from last year’s 4,000 plus.

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Riyadh Rocks! Highlights from Riyadh Season

17/01/20

It is Riyadh season’s first year. (Getty)
  • The Kingdom’s biggest entertainment season yet had more than 100 events taking place over the past few months

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.

MUSIC MANIA

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.

STAR SPORTS

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.

FAMOUS FANS

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.

WINTER WONDERLAND

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.

AWESOME ANIMALS

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.

STELLAR STAGESHOWS

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.

AMAZING AUTOMOBILES

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.

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