A four-day electronic music festival took place in the socially conservative kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Martin Garrix, David Guetta, and Tiësto were among the internationally famous DJs to perform.
Bloomberg reported that women wore "skintight pants," and the smell of marijuana wafted up from the crowd.
A four-day music festival took place in a desert in Saudi Arabia this weekend, and a Bloomberg report says it looked remarkably similar to its' Western equivalents.
MDLBEAST Soundstorm 2021 kicked off on December 16 on the outskirts of Riyadh, the socially conservative nation's capital, and it featured internationally famous DJs like Martin Garrix, David Guetta, and Tiësto.
The festival organizers say that 200,000 people attended on the second day alone, making it one of the best-attended music events in the world, the Saudi Gazette reported.
"Women and men danced with abandon" as electronic music blared, Bloomberg said, only for the rave to be temporarily put on pause for 15 minutes while participants responded to the Islamic call to prayer.
Bloomberg reported that the women at MDLBEAST Soundstorm 2021 wore everything from "skintight pants" to "full-length robes and face veils."
Saudi women are required to dress modestly, per The Week, meaning that tight-fitting clothing is generally prohibited. Traditionally, women were expected to wear the abaya — a loose overgarment — in public, but Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman relaxed this dress code requirement in 2018.
According to Bloomberg, other sights to behold were a sign of "pushing boundaries" as the kingdom transforms. Previously, religious police once punished restaurants for playing music — a far cry from this weekend's reported activities.
"Inebriated men stumbled through crowds perfumed with the distinct scent of marijuana," said Bloomberg, "alongside a limited but notable display of local queer culture."
Cannabis, alcohol, and homosexuality are forbidden in Saudi Arabia, but Bloomberg described a "carnival-like" atmosphere where these rules were apparently snubbed.
Critics have accused the festival organizers of "culture-washing." Resident Advisor journalist Joe Siltanen said it was an attempt to distract from the "authoritarian regime."
MDLBEAST Soundstorm 2021 was just one event in a roster of activities this month, spearheaded by the crown prince, to create the optics of a softer and more secular image of the kingdom. Recently, Saudi Arabia hosted a Formula One race and two art biennials.
An oil-themed amusement park is also being opened as part of Saudi Vision 2030, as Insider previously reported, which is a strategic framework to diversify the nation's dependence on oil and move towards entertainment and tourism.
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