Best of the fests: from music to art and food, 7 must-try festivals
Saudi is buzzing with creativity and culture and there are few better ways to experience it than by attending a local festival. Whether you want to pay homage to the country’s eclectic art scene, dance the day away in the desert to electronic music, or be able to say that you’ve attended the largest date festival in the world, there will be a festival for you. Partake in traditional rituals, embrace the local way of life and celebrate the very best of Saudi at one of these seven festivals taking place across the country throughout the year.
Soundstorm Electronic Music Festival
Every year, Saudi’s desert transforms into the ultimate dance-fuelled fest at MDL BEAST’s iconic Soundstorm festival, taking place on the outskirts of the capital, Riyadh. Dance and two step your way through four incredible days of the hottest electronic music in the industry this December, with an iconic lineup of around 200 regional and international artists, serving up the very best of electronic dance music. Last year’s festival played host to over 700,000 attendees, and this year looks to be even bigger. A truly unforgettable experience.
Red Sea International Film Festival
Get to know the Saudi film scene at Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah’s UNESCO World Heritage Old Town, the ultimate festival for filmmakers and the global film industry. This event is one of the biggest of its kind in the country, bringing together film lovers and movie stars and offering them a glimpse into what’s happening across the industry. It’s also a great way to get a first look at some of the biggest blockbuster movies before they roll out on the big screen.
AlUla Arts Festival
This seven week festival is a celebration of all forms of art, from cutting-edge contemporary works to ancient art that’s been preserved for thousands of years. Past festivals have seen epic large-scale installations by local and international artists, interactive painting performances, immersive audio dance shows, and even a one-man band looping the sounds of clocks ticking and coins clanging. The event is a ceremony for all things creative and pays homage to the incredible performing arts scene that is prominent all over Saudi.
Saudi Feast Food Festival
Get acquainted with the local gastronomy, ingredients and food heritage at the Saudi Feast Food Festival in the historic area of Al-Balad in Jeddah. The festival, organised by the Saudi Culinary Arts Commission, is a place where Saudi chefs can showcase their creativity and culinary skills in an educational and entertaining environment. The event comprises interactive, informative workshops and experiences as well as talks alongside experts in the Saudi food scene. There’s also a dedicated dining space where you can sample more than 35 different traditional dishes for a true foodventure.
Al Janadriyah Festival
If it’s Arabian history and culture that you’re looking to sink your teeth into, then Al Janadriyah Festival just outside the city of Riyadh is for you. This event has been around since 1985 and is a celebration of all things Saudi, from camel racing and falconry to Arabian cuisine and traditional arts and crafts. The event runs for two weeks and attracts more than a million visitors from all over the world every single year. Soak up the Saudi way of life and sip on classic cardamom tea while enjoying incredible performances from folklore troupes and dancers.
The Historic Jeddah Festival
The Historic Jeddah Festival is an annual festival that takes place in the western historic Al Balad district in Jeddah, a UNESCO World Heritage recognised site. The festival brings an exciting energy to the beautiful old quarter and celebrates the rich culture and heritage of Jeddah and its people. The festival, which takes place on the first day of the holy month of Ramadan, aims to encourage visitors to explore this fascinating corner of Saudi as well as its ancient architecture and attractions.
The Buraidah Date Festival
The annual Buraidah Date Festival takes place in the agricultural heartland of Saudi in the Qassim region of Buraidah, and is a celebration of one of their most valuable natural resources. Wherever you are in Saudi, one thing’s for certain: you will not be short of dates. They’re in every single shop in every kind of way – soaked in molasses, stuffed with nuts and even covered in chocolate, and the palm trees they grow on are scattered all over the country. The festival is the largest of its kind in the world with more 1,000 traders parking up to sell and showcase their unique variations of the fruit.
From its diverse terrain to its thriving art and music scene, Insta-worthy food and natural wonders to travel for, Saudi is ready and waiting for you to discover. For more incredible, off-the-beaten track ideas for sites to see, experiences to try, and places to stay, check out Visit Saudi