Saudi Arabia did the unexpected over the weekend by hosting a giant rave party. The four-day electronic music festival with psychedelic lights and international DJs was held in the deserts of Riyadh with the blessing and money of the Saudi royal family.
The House of Saoud fully supported and sponsored the carnival. Artists from all over the world attended – Tiesto, Martin Garrix, David Guetta and others as the world’s greatest DJs performed at the rave.
“It was the first time that there was going to be women and men who could dance together and you know it was also a very historic moment and I was happy to be a part of it,” said the DJ. David Guetta.
There was no segregation between the sexes, neither long dresses nor veils, because the country knew a “huge evolution”.
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There were also no religious restrictions. This was unthinkable earlier in Saudi Arabia just a few years ago. The rave party follows the International Red Sea Film Festival, the first of its kind to be held in Saudi Arabia.
The festival was a star-studded affair. He saw women strutting the red carpet in sleeveless dresses. A female director won the award for best director and an openly gay man took home the award for best actor.
The sands are clearly moving in Saudi Arabia. The socially conservative kingdom is trying to shed its regressive image while limiting the role of religion in public life and is presenting itself as a modern, liberal and tourism-friendly kingdom.
It’s a welcome change although critics of Saudi Arabia call it a facade. They insist that Saudi society is not experiencing any fundamental and significant change.
Since Mohammed bin Salman was appointed crown prince, he has embarked on a campaign of liberalization while relaxing gender segregation rules, reopening cinemas and allowing women to drive and enter stadiums. The crown prince even allowed women to undertake Hajj without a male guardian.
Prince Salman dismantled the country’s religious police which, not so long ago, dictated all facets of daily life.
However, these are half measures and they came very late. Some very problematic issues still persist in Saudi society.
The country continues to arrest dissidents and extend prison terms for activists. He also held the wealthy on corruption allegations.
There is also a constant tinkering of power structures, an arbitrary reshuffle of staff and lawmakers that the Crown Prince sees as potential challengers.
Political reform remains taboo in Saudi Arabia, even though women are now allowed to drive. Yet activists continue to languish in Saudi prisons.
The country has promised to end the death penalty, but it remains a world leader in the death penalty. The regime has tried to improve the freedom of society, but it has yet to punish those who made dissidents disappear.