Riydah Jazz Festival
Source: Arab News

More than 2,000 people had attended Riyadh's first-ever jazz festival by Thursday night.

The Groovz Jazz Festival, which continued through the weekend, took place at the Riyadh Intercontinental Hotel, with bands from the United Kingdom, the United States and the Middle East performing at the event.

Organizers also expected the turn out to increase as the event went on.

“We are expecting many more people during the next two days and will be making special arrangements to accommodate more visitors,” Time Entertainment CEO Obad Awad told Arab News, explaining that the kingdom's General Entertainment Authority had fully-supported the activity.

Although the event was announced just five days before its launch, the organizers said it had easily drawn a full-capacity crowd of locals and foreigners.

According to Reuters, women and men could be seen swaying to the music on Friday, the second day of the three day event. Many even sang along as Lebanon’s Chady Nashef performed the Eagles’ “Hotel California”.

Saudi performers also stole the spotlight at the event, with some expressing their sincere excitement for taking part in the festival.

“I am so so happy I got up from bed this morning and went to a jazz festival and performed in front of a crowd like me, my countrymen,” Saleh Zaid, a Saudi musician from the band Min Riyadh, said. 

“It’s a feeling I just cannot explain to you.”

Many other Saudis expressed their excitement to have such an event in their country.

Saudi businesswoman Rana Al-Mohamed told Arab News that she liked how the the festival offered the kingdom's jazz fans "a rare chance to meet."

Omar Al-Ahsan, a graduate student, said that people are already excited about future events.

 “We are really happy about this event and expect many more like it in the coming months," he said.

Some also pointed to the festival as another sign of serious reforms taking place throughout the kingdom.

“This festival shows that the leadership here wants to let the people open up, to see more things, more cultures,” Salem al-Ahmed, a local who attended the event with his young friends, told Reuters.

The event was launched just following a major announcement from the General Entertainment Authority, revealing that Saudi leaders plan to spend a whopping $64 billion on such activities throughout the kingdom.

Beyond events, the kingdom plans to invest in impressive new cultural facilities, including an opera house.

“We are already building the infrastructure,” General Entertainment Authority Chief Ahmad bin Aqeel al-Khatib told The Guardian.

"God willing, you will see a real change by 2020," he added.

Maroon 5, Andrea Bocelli and Cirque du Soleil are among some of the major international acts Khatib suggested will be coming to perform in Saudi Arabia.

Since last year, there has been a major push to increase cultural and entertainment activities from the nation's leadership. 

Film festivals, music events, a YouTube fest and a Comic Con event all took place with support from the kingdom's leaders. A decades-old ban on cinemas was also lifted in December, with 300 expected to open throughout the kingdom by 2030.