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RIYADH: Organizers of the Wasla music festival have canceled the entire two-day event due to high winds and sandstorms in Riyadh.

The festival, the first of its kind in Saudi Arabia, was scheduled to take place March 4-5 in the Hidden Valley of Riyadh.

Wasla was launched in Dubai, but this year was to be held in the Kingdom for the first time. The two-day festival showcases Arab and Saudi alternative and indie talent, including headliners who have dominated the Middle Eastern and North African music industry for the past decade.

A total of 15 bands were to play genres such as rock, alternative, indie rock, indie pop, jazz, soul, funk, electropop and fusion.

On Friday, winds in Riyadh reached speeds of 50 kilometers per hour, causing dust storms that blanketed the entire city.

The gates to the festival were due to open at 3 p.m. Friday, but event organizers initially delayed the festival until 6 p.m. However, due to persistent sandstorms, the Wasla media team shared on Instagram that the first day of the festival has been postponed for security reasons.

On Friday evening, Wasla’s media team announced that they were canceling the festival completely “due to weather conditions and to ensure everyone’s safety”.

Located 80 kilometers from the center of Riyadh, the festival has been deemed unsafe for participants. Sandstorms can cause serious breathing problems for people with underlying respiratory conditions.

Initially, organizers aimed to postpone the first day of the festival and continue as planned on March 5.

Festival-goers have taken to Instagram to demand refunds, with many having traveled from Jeddah to see numerous artists such as Skeleton Crowd, Souad Massi, Aziz Maraka, Cairokee and Hamza Namira.

On Friday evening, the Saudi National Meteorological Center reported that wind speeds reached 29 kilometers per hour in Riyadh, which is considered unsafe for travel. The traffic department has warned motorists to drive slowly with headlights on as dust makes the roads difficult to navigate.

Event organizers have informed media that the event will remain “cancelled until further notice” and that they will make an announcement once a decision has been made on a potential future date.

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