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27.02.2024, Words by Sam Nahirny, Photos by UNTOLD

UNTOLD Dubai - The City's First Ever Mega Festival

"Somewhere between happiness-inducing, and outright joyous"

The annual Untold Festival in Romania (Cluj-Napoca specifically) is pretty much universally agreed to be one of the most ‘impressive’ festivals in the world.

It feels like there is never any question, challenge, or idea that feels impossible. Hence why it made a lot of sense that they decided ‘hey, why don’t we do the first ever mega-festival in Dubai’?

And that’s just what this past (long) weekend set out to do - bring 185,000 plus humans to the stunning Expo City Dubai, to share memories, giant ice creams, and some incredibly unique musical experiences.

In a nutshell, Untold exceeds at bringing world-class stadium electronic music artists, random (in the best way) pop artists, and often forays into other genres such as techno and hip-hop.

That continued in its first Dubai edition. Four main stages, each with its own unique flavour and energy.

The Main Stage, as you would expect, is a spectacle saved for some of the best electronic music artists in the world such as Tiesto, Major Lazer Soundsystem and Sebastian Ingrosso. There’s fireworks and an unexpected highlight in the form of PSY (yes, Mr Gangnam Style), which brings a joyous K-Pop explosion.

The Alchemy Stage, which, as a Brit made me feel incredibly proud and… almost patriotic. This stage is mostly reserved for hip-hop/rap, with undoubtedly standouts being a full-band set from Loyle Carner, Children of Zeus’ RnB bliss, plus UK rap star Knucks. Oh, and let’s not forget a set from American legend Freddie Gibbs.

The Galaxy Stage, mainly for your techno and house fix, is situated in one of the most beautiful buildings in Dubai - the Al Was Plaza. A dome reminiscent of something out of a sci-fi movie, with full 360 projections and an unreal sound system. Hot Since 82 and Mahmut Orhan both bring very different, but very euphoric highlights at this one.

And then the Time Stage, situated quite literally within a half-waterfall, half-light show, was one of the most unique festival stages I have ever seen. Mostly reserved for artists with more of a minimal sound, as well as a bunch of local artists, it was a unique way to witness what is connecting musically in Dubai right now.

Potentially the most interesting thing to point out with this festival are the cultural differences - not just to Cluj, but to the majority of festivals I’ve attended across the world. First, the cleanliness. No matter what time of day/night, no matter main stage or out at the food courts, you would not see a single piece of trash on the floor. Weird accolade - but this was easily the cleanest festival I have ever been to.

On a similar vibe - every single person both working the festival and attending was so…nice? It was almost disconcerting. Being so used to rude, aggressive, and often chaotic festival attendees, having such warm, welcoming energy from everyone around us was a very unique experience.

And that leads into one of the elephants in the room. If you’d look at any of the social media posts or announcements in the build-up - people were concerned that due to Dubai’s stricter-than-usual alcohol policies, people would struggle to enjoy themselves (note: there’s a broader point on society as a whole there, but that’s for a different day).

So, it genuinely was somewhere between happiness-inducing, and outright joyous to see one hundred and eighty five thousand people dancing and screaming along to their favourite bangers without excessive alcohol consumption (alcohol was permitted, it’s just culturally less significant, and also, expensive).

Oh, and let’s not forget that swearing was advised against - so watching artists do live radio edits of their own tunes they’ve performed hundreds of times was quite entertaining too.

The Untold family not only successfully put on Dubai’s ‘first mega-festival’, but they also managed to capture the majority of the magic that has earned Untold Cluj its respected name, whilst bringing some of the biggest artists in the world to a stunning, unique venue. An unqualified success.

Read Next: Mega music festival UNTOLD Dubai unveils its five spectacular stages

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