In Saudi Arabia, Twitter sometimes plays the role of cupid, and other times it plays the role of a platform for overly optimistic characters. The latter was the case when BTS touched down in Riyadh just days before their much-anticipated concert in the kingdom. Hashtags like #BTSinRiyadh and #RiyadhWelcomesBTS invaded the micro-blogging platform as soon as the seven-member band arrived in Saudi Arabia on Thursday morning. The city of Riyadh also lit up in purple in honor of the band's arrival.
The famous South Korean boy band is expected to take the stage for the first time in Saudi Arabia on Oct. 11 at the King Fahd International Stadium. The band explained that they were "officially invited" and that it's been a while since "we've performed in the Middle East - I guess the last time was 2015 in Dubai." They did so after they were criticized for agreeing to perform in the kingdom.
"If there's a place where people want to see us, we'll go there," one band member said in the aftermath of the backlash. "That's really how we feel."
Social media users have nodded their heads at the kingdom's hospitable and highly secure welcome.
"BTS arrived [in] Riyadh and it was so calm. No invasion of personal space, no mobbing, no chaos, nothing," one user tweeted. A video of the band being escorted into cars as they left the airport is being shared by a number of social media users.
"They treat them like kings"
"Kings in our country"
Wait, seven separate cars?
Welcome messages poured in
"Riyadh is so purple for you guys"
Others resorted to Photoshop to welcome the band
It wasn't an "easy" decision for BTS, especially considering other artists have canceled their performances in Saudi Arabia before
"I wouldn't say it was easy," BTS band member RM - whose real name is Kim Nam-joon - told The Hollywood Reporter last week about agreeing to perform in Saudi Arabia. Just months ago, rap queen Nicki Minaj was criticized for agreeing to perform in the kingdom. The backlash ultimately pushed Minaj to cancel her scheduled concert, which was set to take place on July 18.
In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press, the U.S.-based rapper from Trinidad said she won't be performing in Saudi Arabia following external pressures from one rights group.
"After careful reflection, I have decided to no longer move forward with my scheduled concert at Jeddah World Fest," she said at the time.