MDLBeast Soundstorm in Saudi Arabia 4-1640088966836
Revelers in party costumes at the MDLBeast Soundstorm music festival in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Thursday, December 16. Image Credit: Bloomberg

Record crowds of over 700,000 revellers flocked to Saudi Arabia’s MDLBeast Soundstorm music festival, authorities said Monday, at the end of the four-day event in the oil-rich desert kingdom.

The electronic music festival comes as Saudi’s leaders are pushing efforts to change its conservative image and diversify its economy, only a few years after the country lifted a ban on music and dancing.

International entertainers and musicians — including superstar French DJ David Guetta — performed at the event that ended on Sunday.

Over the four days, 732,000 people flocked to the event, “one of the largest music festivals in the world,” said Turki Al Sheikh, head of Saudi’s General Entertainment Authority.

The festival has since its launch in 2019 witnessed large crowds. “We’ve never seen anything like this in Riyadh before — crowds, music, VIP rooms, unconventional clothing for the kingdom,” one Saudi woman, who attended the festival, told AFP.

The rise of Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, in 2017 has ushered in a number of reforms.

A social shift in the conservative Gulf state has included the lifting of a ban on women driving and allowing mixed-gender concerts and other events.

“We are thirsty for music, entertainment, movies, laughter and outings. It’s like we’re rediscovering our country and that makes us very happy,” a young Saudi woman said on condition of anonymity.

Saudi Arabia is seeking to diversify its economy away from oil, investing heavily in recent years in the tourism, entertainment and sports sectors.