Saudi Arabia hosting first rave with Armin van Buuren

Conservative Saudi Arabia readies for its first ever rave with DJ Armin van Buuren
2 min read
20 March, 2018
Saudi Arabia will soon host its first ever official rave, with one of the top names in trance music set to perform in the conservative kingdom.
Saudi authorities have announced plans to spend billions on flying in Western acts [Getty]

Saudi Arabia will soon host its first ever official rave, with one of the top names in trance music set to perform in the conservative kingdom.

Saudi authorities confirmed to The New Arab that Dutch DJ Armin van Buuren will play a concert on 17 June at the King Abdullah Economic City, north of the holy city of Mecca.

The show has the backing of the kingdom's General Entertainment Authority (GEA), according to promotional material for the concert, touting it as the "first DJ party ever" to be held in the country.

The New Arab has reached out to Van Buuren and the show's organisers for more information on the concert but have yet to receive a comment.

Some social media users have expressed shock over the announcement.

"Armin Van Buuren will have a concert in Saudi Arabia! The end of the world is coming soon," said one Twitter user.

While other have voiced concerns that organisers might only allow men to attend and will impose strict regulations during the event.

Earlier this month, the GEA banned party-goers from "dancing and swaying" at a pop concert.

Saudi authorities have announced plans to spend billions on building new venues and flying in Western acts to perform.

The introduction of live music concerts - particularly from trance DJs - would have been unthinkable not long ago.

Long known for its ultra-conservative mores, the kingdom has embarked on a wide-ranging programme of social and economic reforms driven by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

GEA chief Ahmad bin Aqeel al-Khatib said the kingdom is set to invest $64 billion in its entertainment sector over the coming decade.

Recent months have witnessed concerts, a Comic-Con festival and a mixed-gender national day celebration that saw people dancing in the streets to thumping electronic music for the first time.

Authorities have also announced plans to lift a decades-old ban on cinemas this year, with some 300 expected to open by 2030.

The newfound openness, which includes plans to allow women to drive from June this year, has been hailed by some as a crucial liberalisation of Saudi society.

Critics have pointed to continued restrictions however, especially on women who remain under a strict "guardianship" system that gives male relatives significant control over their lives.