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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Entertainment: The future of Saudi Arabia’s non-oil economy

13/01/20

The Quality of Life Program (QLP), a major component of the Saudi Vision 2030 reform plan, aims to improve people’s lifestyles by developing an ecosystem to support and create new options that boost citizens’ and residents’ participation in cultural, environmental and sports activities.
The QLP aims to create jobs, diversify economic activity, and raise the status of Saudi cities so that they rank among the best in the world. One of the program’s main objectives is to develop and diversify entertainment opportunities, including electronic games facilities, family entertainment centers, water parks, cinemas, theme parks, zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, public parks, theaters and an opera house.
To support the QLP, the government created the General Entertainment Authority (GEA) in 2016 for the purpose of organizing and developing the entertainment sector and support its infrastructure in Saudi Arabia.
With the support and cooperation of various government sectors and private entities, the GEA has managed to improve quality of life in the Kingdom. It has also managed, in a very short time, to diversify and enrich entertainment experiences nationwide.
The great success of Riyadh Season is a good example of the GEA’s outstanding ability to enhance the entertainment industry in the Kingdom, as evidenced by the 10.3 million people who visited the festival. Riyadh Season was able to generate more than SR1 billion ($267 million) for the GEA, and indirect revenues via the Saudi payments system Mada exceeded SR4 billion during the official period of the festival (Oct. 15 to Dec.15, 2019).
Riyadh Season was not only successful in attracting visitors to the capital, but also in creating 34,700 direct jobs and 17,300 indirect (seasonal and volunteer) jobs for Saudi men and women. Riyadh Season’s success is expected to be replicated in the series of current and upcoming festivals in the Kingdom.
I believe that Saudi Arabia can easily establish a strong entertainment industry that can support and diversify the economy, especially as the government is striving to reduce dependence on oil. A strong entertainment industry in the Kingdom will be able to support the growth of the gross domestic product, improve local content, support small and medium-sized enterprises, increase foreign direct investment and create jobs.

Talat Zaki Hafiz is an economist and financial analyst.

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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Second day of Riyadh’s MDL Beast music festival draws 150,000 visitors for blazing performances

22/12/19

The second day of the MDL Beast music festival attracted about 150,000 visitors, with big-league DJs playing for the mammoth crowd on Friday. (Supplied)

JEDDAH: The second day of the MDL Beast music festival kicked off with more impact than the opening gig, attracting 150,000 visitors on Friday.

Bandana-wearing people filed in with excited grins, ready to enjoy the best electronic music from around the world.

Total attendance to the festival’s first two days exceeded 280,000 visitors, and it is expected to continue witnessing massive crowds on its third and last day.

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Riyadh!!!! 150,000 people! A night all of us will never forget! Shukran Saudi Arabia ?????? this was magical! ❤❤❤ @MDLBeast

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The festival’s star-studded list of performances includes the big-league DJs Steve Aoki and J. Balvin, who performed their sets in five stages that attracted fans of different sorts who were free to dance to their hearts’ desire.

The ‘Big Beast’ stage was the main attraction of the festival, pulling in the biggest crowd even on the second day, and with good reason. The stage opened with Dish Dash hyping up the crowd, and followed by Camelphat.

The second day of the MDL Beast music festival attracted about 150,000 visitors, with big-league DJs playing for the mammoth crowd on Friday. (Supplied)

J Balvin, whose piece ‘Me Gente’ is the most remixed song of all time, also had the audience running to the stage when his name announced.

David Guetta meanwhile opened his stage appearance with the line: “Tonight we are going to celebrate the present and the future,” followed by a roar of cheers from the crowd.

“He is my most favorite DJ, I can’t believe I saw him perform live,” said Mohammad Harthi.

The night concluded with a collaboration stage that brought together iconic names in the industry, Steve Aoki and David Guetta, whose performances worked up the crowd, and managed to get a promise from Aoki to come back on the last day of the festival.

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Sayidaty’s lifestyle show ‘Girls Know’ reaches millions online

Time: December 17, 2019

Sayidaty’s lifestyle show ‘Girls Know’ on Snapchat targets modern Arab women.

Sayidaty’s lifestyle show “Girls Know” on Snapchat has amassed 2.1 million unique views from around the world, and 16 million overall views. The show targets the next generation of female readers of Sayidaty, a popular weekly Arabic and monthly English women’s magazine published by the Saudi Research and Publishing Company.

Known to be digitally savvy in its approach of engaging with its readers across all social media channels, Sayidaty discovered a huge untapped audience online and found a way to connect with them through this series.

Launched in November this year, “Girls Know” is the latest in Sayidaty’s portfolio of successful shows targeting young Arab women, between the ages of 18 to 25, providing them with light-hearted, bite-sized content on the issues that most affect them today.

The show prides itself on understanding exactly what the modern Arab girl wants, and covers everything from social issues, female health, fitness, lifestyle, mental health, empowerment, to education, relationships and much more.

“‘Girls Know’ is an essential show for the generation of Arab girls who will inherit Sayidaty’s core values and heritage. This further demonstrates the need for such a show for the next generation of Arab women as well,” a statement said.

The first five episodes have attracted 1.38 million views to date, with the number of unique views from Saudi Arabia on the rise. Some of the most watched episodes revolve around health and fitness.

“Sayidaty plans to continue producing the next season of ‘Girls Know’ in January 2020, as it looks to remain emotionally in touch with its valued audience — the strong Arab women of the future,” the statement said.

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Saudi movie industry looking bright but still needs push from government

03/12/19

Oscar-winning producer Andres Gomez speaks during a session at the Saudi Media Forum in Riyadh on Monday. (AN photo)

  • There is no lack of enthusiasm for filmmaking in the Kingdom, says Oscar-winning producer

RIYADH: World-renowned, Oscar-winning producer Andres Gomez spoke at the Saudi Media Forum over the weekend, where he spoke about his latest film, “Born a King,” and his upcoming movie “Champions,” which will start shooting in Jeddah in early 2020.

“One of the exciting things about working here is that we are not just making movies — we are creating an industry,” he said, adding there was no lack of enthusiasm for filmmaking in the Kingdom, but a lack of a strong infrastructure to facilitate it.

“Saudi Arabia has great potential to have its own content production industry — and it is in the hands of the government to help it,” he told the forum.

“The government needs to give a framework — there must be legislation, tax rebates, subsidies. There must be regulations in terms of what foreign films can come in and what foreign films cannot.

One of the exciting things about working here is that we are not just making movies — we are creating an industry.

Andres Gomez, Film producer

“Saudi culture must be promoted and protected, and foreign films and their themes should be limited. I’m very interested in helping and developing an industry here.”

Gomez said he was optimistic about the country producing its own content. “Saudi Arabia is a strong country that can create its own content and film industry.

“Saudi Arabia has the financial means; however, it needs to produce more movies and TV content. The moment you produce 50-60 movies a year you will be in the market and (international film) festivals.

FASTFACT

Andres Gomez’s upcoming film will be shot in Jeddah with an all-Saudi crew and cast.

“This is why I made a call to the Saudi government to help young people to create this industry. It does depend totally on the government.”

As for the talents he worked with, he said: “We have collaborated with 100 Saudis on ‘Born a King.” I know there is interest from many in becoming directors, producers, and actors.”

His upcoming film, “Champions,” is a remake of a Spanish film, and shooting will begin in Jeddah by January, with an all-Saudi crew and cast.

“We hope to open the film by September next year,” Gomez added.

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Riyadh ‘rocks’ as fireworks light up skyline

30/11/19

Firework by Riyadh Season on Thursday night at iconic Faisaliah Tower in Riyadh

The fireworks display was organized as part of Riyadh Season, which aims to promote the Kingdom as a major tourism hub. (Photo/Supplied)
  • Visitors, including citizens and expatriates with family and friends, gathered around the skyscrapers well in advance of the display

RIYADH: Riyadh Season delivered the “wow factor” for a large crowd of onlookers with a spectacular fireworks display at the Saudi capital’s iconic Al-Faisaliah Tower.

Visitors, including citizens and expatriates with family and friends, gathered around the skyscraper well in advance of the display on Thursday night and began applauding loudly as the fireworks illuminated the skyline.

Iffat Aabroo, who brought her children to see the show, told Arab News: “One of our friends saw the fireworks last week and was amazed, so we came here and saw this wonderful moment. We really enjoyed it.”

Another visitor, Abdullah Al-Suwailem, said: “It was a wow moment. We had great fun and really enjoyed the dazzling moment. Riyadh Season rocks.”

BACKGROUND

• Featuring 100 lavish events and more than 3,000 activities, the season brings people from all over the Kingdom to 12 locations in the capital.

• Displays also take place at the Kingdom Tower, the Boulevard Zone and Janadriyah Heritage Village.

The five-minute fireworks display was organized as part of Riyadh Season, one of 11 Saudi seasons that aim to promote the Kingdom as a tourism hub and improve residents’ quality of life.

Large turnout

Displays also take place at the Kingdom Tower, the Boulevard Zone and Janadriyah Heritage Village. Riyadh Season has been extended to late January 2020 due to high demand and the large turnout for events.

Announcing the extension, General Entertainment Authority Chairman Turki Al-Sheikh recently said: “We have reached 7.6 million visitors in a month for Riyadh Season, and under the crown prince’s directives, we’re extending the season until late January.”

The season began on Oct. 11 and was scheduled to end on Dec. 15.

Featuring 100 lavish events and more than 3,000 activities, the season brings people from all over the Kingdom to 12 locations in the capital.

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The ‘Clash on the Dunes’ boxing match will be at iconic venue

Time: November 25, 2019

On the night more than 2,000 staff will ensure proceedings run smoothly in the arena, 95 percent of which is reusable, and which will take a month to take down. (Supplied)
  • Andy Ruiz II and Anthony Joshua will match at the Diriyah Arena
  • Joshua will be looking to regain some of his belts after suffering defeat to Ruiz in New York earlier

RIYADH: A boxing match needs a spectacular venue and few can compare to the Diriyah Arena in Saudi Arabia which is now ready for the Clash on the Dunes as World Champion Andy Ruiz II takes on Anthony Joshua.

Earlier this week, Joshua has promised the world an ‘iconic evening of boxing’ as he flew into the Kingdom on Saturday night ahead of the bout on December 7.

The first-ever World Heavyweight title fight to take place in the Middle Easy will be staged in the custom-built 15,000 seat Diriyah Arena in the heart of the UNESCO World Heritage site, known as the home of heroes and kings.

“The arena and site are utterly breath-taking, with a theme park and concert the night before as well. It’s like nothing we’ve seen before in boxing. The Clash on the Dunes will be a night to remember. We can’t wait,” Eddie Hearn, Managing Director of Matchroom Boxing, said.

The Diriyah Arena has been constructed by 175 staff working tirelessly to transform the 10,000 sq m site, which includes 295 tonnes of steel, which would stretch 57km. Work began on October 7, just two months out, with 3,000 sqm of scaffolding needed to complete the work.

On the night more than 2,000 staff will ensure proceedings run smoothly in the arena, 95 percent of which is reusable, and which will take a month to take down.

Joshua will be looking to regain his WBO, WBA, IBF and IBO belts after suffering defeat to Ruiz in New York earlier this year, but the British heavyweight will have the backing thousands of UK fans join boxing enthusiasts from more than 60 countries.

Ahead of landing in Saudi Arabia on Saturday night to set up his pre-fight training camp, Anthony Joshua said: “It’ll definitely be a night people will tell their grandchildren they were at, one of those iconic evenings of boxing. Everyone from Saudi has been brilliant to work with.”

Fans will approach the Diriyah Arena via the Diriyah Oasis, a huge sprawling entertainment hub which includes ice-skating outdoors, sky diving, jetski-ing and ziplining among a host of activities on offer. The Diriyah Oasis is split into the four zones – Nature, Imagination, Reflection, Excitement- giving families a place to come together, and at its heart lies an astonishing grand installation by world-renowned Italian artist, Edoardo Tresoldi.

The Clash On The Dunes forms part of the Diriyah Season, epic month of sports which kicked off with Formula E at the weekend, the Diriyah Tennis Cup featuring eight of the best men’s players on the planet, and the Diriyah Equestrian Festival, an elite competition with Tokyo Olympics 2020 qualifying points on the line.

The Diriyah Season is also supported by the Diriyah Music Festival with huge concerts taking place around the event. On December 6, the night before the Clash On The Dunes, major artists who are yet to be announced will perform. So far artists such as Imagine Dragons, DJ Alan Walker, Clean Bandit and Maluma have performed to 40,000 concert goers.

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Riyadh Season attracts more than 5m visitors

Time: November 04, 2019

People attend the Colour Run event during Riyadh season festival, in Saudi Arabia, October 26, 2019. (REUTERS)

  • The season is one of the Saudi Seasons launched to transform Saudi Arabia into one of the world’s most important tourist and entertainment destinations

RIYADH: General Entertainment Authority (GEA) Chairman Turki Al-Sheikh said that Riyadh Season had attracted more than five million visitors since its launch on Oct. 15 and up to Nov. 1, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Sunday.
The GEA said that it had hit new records in visitor numbers, especially over the weekend, with the number of visitors exceeding 200,000 last Thursday and reaching 175,000 on Friday.
Riyadh Season runs until mid-December in 12 main zones of the capital and 6 branches around the city. The zones are (1) Riyadh Boulevard, (2) Riyadh Front, (3) Riyadh Car Exhibition, (4) Riyadh Winter Wonderland, (5) Riyadh Sports Arenas, (6) Diplomatic Quarter, (7) Al-Muraba’a, (8) Al-Malaz, (9) Wadi Namar, (10) Riyadh Beat, (11) Riyadh Safari and (12) Riyadh Sahara within the capital city of Riyadh.
The season is one of the Saudi Seasons launched to transform Saudi Arabia into one of the world’s most important tourist and entertainment destinations.
Saudi Seasons is also part of the Saudi leadership’s plan to strengthen the Kingdom’s position on the global tourism and entertainment map, as well as promoting entertainment within an economic system that supports Vision 2030.

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Al Akaria signs $5bn deal with Triple Five to build entertainment and commercial center in Riyadh

Time: November 01, 2019

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Al Akaria has signed an investment agreement with Triple Five worth $5 billion to develop American Dream, “an international tourist destination” the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) said on Thursday.

This brings the value of deals announced by SAGIA at the Future Investmnet Initiative conference to $20 billion, it said in a statement.

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Jackie Chan hopes to make films in Saudi Arabia

20/10/19

Martial arts actor Jackie Chan, who plays the voice of “Master Wu”, arrives for the premiere of The Lego Ninjago Movie in Los Angeles, California on September 16, 2017. (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP)

Jackie Chan thanked Saudi Arabia for inviting him to the country. (File/AFP)

  • Jackie Chan expressed hopes the Kingdom would become a leading center of regional film and television

DUBAI: Hong Kong martial artist and actors Jackie Chan, who was recently in Riyadh to accept a Joy Excellence award, is looking forward to filming movies in Saudi Arabia, Chinese press has reported.

The actor also told the crowd gathered at the Joy Forum19, which gathered entertainment promoters and industry pioneers along with global stars including Indian actor Shah Rukh Khan and Hollywood star Jean-Claude Van Damme, that he had found a location in the Kingdom to make another action film.

“It’s my first time in Saudi, and I know it’s a big country. After only a few hours [travelling] here and looking at locations I know there’s a good place for car chasing, explosions, action; so, next time, I hope to come back with my crew,” Chan said.

The movie legend also thanked Saudi Arabia for inviting him to the country, and expressed hopes the Kingdom would become a leading center of regional film and television.

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