The Kingdom is sinking billions into tourism, but should intrepid travelers—especially women—be making travel plans so soon? And is responsible tourism here even possible? Sarah Reid takes a test run.

“How are you feeling tonight Saudi?!”

The tone of the Swedish DJ’s voice gives me the impression that addressing the crowd felt as surreal for him as it feels for me to be among it.

But as flame cannons shoot ribbons of fire into the night sky to the soundtrack of legendary electronic music trio Swedish House Mafia, the frantic tangle of chunky sneakers, glow sticks, and glittery abayas (kimono-like gowns) surrounding me couldn’t care less. And it’s hardly surprising: This the first electronic dance music festival most ticket holders have ever attended.

This gig was the last place I expected to end up on my first weekend in Riyadh, Saudi’s capital. Yet the social transformation of the Kingdom is unfolding so quickly that many locals admit they’re struggling to keep up themselves. “I used to have to leave the country just to go to the cinema,” one young female punter tells me. “Now I can take a taxi to a world-class music festival. I never thought this would be possible.”