By Uptin Saiidi
Rabat, Morocco - Rihanna made history on Friday night (May 24) at the kickoff of Morocco’s annual Mawazine Music Festival, performing for a crowd of 150,000 — a new record — in the country’s capital.
The coastal city has been hosting the festival for 12 years, attracting artists from around the world. Rihanna leads the way on this year’s lineup of performances, which span nine days and includes Jesse J, Mika, The Jacksons, David Guetta, Enrique Iglesias, Cee-Lo Green, Taio Cruz and more.
Rihanna began her set with recent tracks from Unapologetic, building up to major hits which the crowd — ranging from small groups of friends and couples, to plenty of families and kids — waved their hands in the air, many of them mouthing along word for word. Charming her adoring fans with “Morocccooo!” and “I missed you Morocco,” Rihanna lit up the crowd with her energy and confidence.
Toward the end of “We Found Love,” she jumped off stage to walk alongside the audience, while two enarmous screens showed the crowd gushing. Despite being a global phenomen and having performed in Morocco before, Rih still (supposedly) had the jitters, telling the crowd, “I’m from Barbados, which is such a small place on the map. To come here and be able to do this is blowing my mind right now.”
The stage eventually went dark — with no goodbye from Rihanna, but the crowd knew she’d be coming back. Sure enough, she returned to the sounds of her piano to peform, “Stay,” ultimately ending with “Diamonds.” Rihanna’s next stop is Spain, where she’ll continue on her “Diamonds World Tour” heading through Europe, Asia and the Middle East, before ending back in the U.S. this November.