Riyadh: The much-awaited Riyadh Season Festival has kicked off. The inaugural event marked the largest entertainment event the country has ever seen, with more than seven and a half million people flocking to witness it. As far as Saudi is concerned, this scale of public participation is a first in history.
As early as Wednesday afternoon, all the main streets leading to the boulevard in the north of the city were cleared of traffic under the direct supervision of traffic police to make way for the smooth functioning of the event. The pedestrian path was also organised to ease the rush to the entrance gate.
Those who booked their tickets in advance arrived at their seats hours before. There are 70 rows of seats around the venue. The audiences were allowed after they were given season badges. These badges are provided only after their immune status is verified on the Tawakkalna app.
Around 7 pm, luxury bikes carrying the country's flag sifted through the venue and started the parade, accompanied by musical performances. Shortly afterwards, a vehicle carrying a huge stage bearing the name of the festival city, made of wood and gypsum, passed by the gallery.
About 1500 artists took part in the parade, including both home artists and foreigners. About 2,500 drones flew over the stage like LEDs, creating amazing pictures across the sky. The first image to be formed by the rays of light in the dark sky was a picture of King Salman, the ruler of Saudi Arabia.
The gallery broke into celebration when their hero appeared across the sky. Prayers such as 'Allahu Yahfilak' and 'Amdalla fi Omrak' (May God bless you and may you live long) resonated. This time, the Riyadh season celebrations have begun with millions of witnesses at the grand venue, the chairman of the Entertainment Authority, Turkey Alusheikh, announced.
The LED beams have later painted the image of Saudi Crown Prince Amir Mohammed bin Salman. The atmosphere was filled with greetings from millions of voices such as 'Greetings to the hero of the youth'. The crowd greeted the crown prince's virtual entry with shouts of "hero". The chairman of the General Entertainment Authority, Turkey Alusheikh, displayed the models of all the 14 venues where the celebrations would take place. The performances ended with details on events to be held at all these venues.
Arda Muttu, a traditional Saudi art form, and other art forms graced the festival. After the first half of the performance, the American rapper Pitbull, who has thousands of fans in Saudi Arabia, took to the stage, turning up the enthusiasm in the crowd which included both the young and the old.
Fans from and outside the country were thrilled. They greeted the rapper by lighting their mobile phones and shaking their hands together with the music flowing from the stage. Pitbull thanked the country and fans in Arabic for the warm welcome and the opportunity to get on stage.
Various events will be held in 14 major venues in the coming days. Electronic games will begin on Friday in Riyadh, one of the main venues, and a show of arms will be held on Saturday in Compt Field. On Sunday, a food fair introducing modern hospitality style will begin at the Murabba Venue in Museum Park near Batha.
The much-awaited winter wonderland awaited by lakhs of foreigners including Malayalis will start on Tuesday. The city offers a wide range of attractions, including games and skyloops.
Boulevard will also host a musical night by renowned Saudi singer Mohammed Abdul later this month. The concert will be held on the 29th and 30th. The match will be played at the King Fahad International Stadium on the 31st of this month with the participation of world-class wrestlers including Malayalis.
With the arrival of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Killian Mbabane in Saudi Arabia, the organizers predict that the Riyadh season would be huge. The capital city of Saudi Arabia, including Riyadh, will be in the heat of the festival in the coming days as winter grips.