“The minute I stepped in, I could not consider that is occurring right here,” she instructed CNN. “It is a huge transfer for Saudi to have one thing like that.”

Hussein was one of many many Saudis who dressed up and flocked to the coastal metropolis of Jeddah to have fun popular culture, comedian books, video video games, and movie between February 16 and 18.

The three-day competition was a part of a authorities initiative to deliver extra leisure to Saudi Arabia, which bans public cinemas and theater.

“Once you enter into the tent, you overlook that you’re in Saudi Arabia,” Abdul Rahman Bakhsh, 25, an engineer and an avid YouTuber, who got here to the occasion wearing rustic armor over a black fake suede pullover and armed with a spear, instructed CNN.

Along with his good friend, Ameer, he documented the Comedian Con expertise on YouTube video, beginning with their seek for costumes.

“There may be a whole lot of creativity in Comedian Con. Individuals actually interacted with the occasion and their costumes have been wonderful,” Bakhsh stated.

Gender mixing

Younger women and men crowded into the tent, mingling close to stands for comics and video video games — a exceptional scene for a government-sponsored occasion in a rustic the place gender segregation is imposed in lots of public areas.

People arrive at Saudi Arabia's first Comi Con.People arrive at Saudi Arabia's first Comi Con.

An extended queue shaped in entrance of the sales space of a bunch of gifted feminine artists who — with make-up — created scars, accidents and anime-inspired faces. “It was Hollywood-level creativity,” Bakhsh stated.

A separate female-only tent was arrange for girls who needed to take off their conventional abayas and exhibit their costumes.

A Lebanese woman poses for a selfie with a man dressed up as "Iron Man" during Saudi Arabia's first ever Comic-Con event in the coastal city of Jeddah on February 16, 2017.A Lebanese woman poses for a selfie with a man dressed up as "Iron Man" during Saudi Arabia's first ever Comic-Con event in the coastal city of Jeddah on February 16, 2017.

Saudis on the occasion additionally had the chance to attend panel discussions with Charles Dance and Julian Glover from “Sport of Thrones,” Giancarlo Esposito from “Breaking Dangerous,” and Mads Mikkelsen from “Physician Unusual.”

Different panels featured Saudi producers and actors, together with solid members from the upcoming Saudi superhero present, “Mas’hour” — which means “Bewitched.”

Comi Con historical past

Comedian Con occasions started in 1970 in San Diego and have slowly unfold the world over. However earlier than this competition, followers from Saudi Arabia needed to exterior the nation to attend Comedian Con occasions.

The Saudi model was organized by native firm Time Leisure. Its public relations supervisor Hisham AlSaeed stated that Comedian Con’s worldwide presence gave Saudi Arabia the right alternative to focus on homegrown expertise.

“There’s a whole lot of expertise (right here) in the case of comics, animations, anime (and) film manufacturing,” he stated.

AlSaeed stated the initiative was impressed by the massive demand for a Comedian Con in his nation, illustrated partly by the rise in folks holding their very own cosplay competitions at small, underground non-public occasions.

“(Comedian Con) has by no means been carried out publicly like this, it has simply by no means been arrange,” he stated.

Attendees dress up and genders mix at Saudi Arabia's first Comi Con.Attendees dress up and genders mix at Saudi Arabia's first Comi Con.

Establishing the occasion took over a yr, and a stability was struck to maintain the spirit of the Comedian Con whereas adhering to the nation’s spiritual laws.

Indecent symbols or logos that went towards Islamic teachings have been prohibited and attendees weren’t allowed to cross-dress.

Even then, there was uproar on-line towards what was thought-about a Western phenomenon within the conventional Islamic kingdom.

A hashtag calling Comedian Con a “satan worshipping” competition grew to become widespread on Twitter and a few referred to as for boycotting it.

Cultural reforms

A woman has her face made up at the event.A woman has her face made up at the event.

The occasion, which was supported by the Saudi Arabia’s Normal Leisure Authority, is a part of nation’s “Imaginative and prescient 2030” program, which is promising a wave of cultural reforms to diversify the dominion’s oil-dependent economic system.

AlSaeed stated his workforce is planning to make this an annual occasion.

“We’re contemplating this a gentle Comedian Con in Saudi Arabia, after which the following (one) will likely be manner greater.

“I am hoping by subsequent yr we now have a full solid of ‘The Strolling Useless’, however we even have a whole lot of casts of our personal films and TV exhibits,” he stated.