iLuminate in Saudi Arabia

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All over the cities signs and billboards were scattered to get everyone hyped about the upcoming shows their government was sponsoring.

Before the trip began, we knew that this would be no ordinary tour. The air about the
time and circumstance made us feel like this particular calling had a greater purpose in motion.

Our crew just returned from spending a month in Saudi Arabia where we were invited by the Kingdom to kick off the entertainment portion of a Government project called Vision 2030. Spearheaded by Live Nation, a series of family-focused shows will soon follow the path that we have pioneered. Live theater has created a public place where women, men and children can be together. In most countries around the world, this is commonplace. However, this event, in a country where all public life is segregated by gender, is groundbreaking.

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The entrance to Princess Nora University’s venue.

We debuted Artist of Light at Princess Nora University in Riyadh at a pristine theater that had never once been used! Anticipation was building up as we neared opening night for several reasons. iLuminate was the first to play non-traditional music publicly in Saudi Arabia. Our show was also the first place where single men, women and families were allowed to intermix. Lastly, it’s live theater. In the Kingdom, there are no cinemas. We were ready for anything.

When the house lights began to dim on opening night, the cheering voices of the people began to raise. The sound was booming, yet their voices pierced through the bass. By measure of audience interaction (and number of Snapchats) the people of Saudi quickly became our biggest fans. Each night almost every seat in the house was sold: that’s nearly 2,000! From opening in Riyadh to closing in Jeddah, we were in awe of the excitement that iLuminate had created. Children were so moved they began dancing in the aisle ways. Men and women buzzed with the joy of live entertainment in their home country.

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A group photo with one of the gracious families that invited us to dinner in their home.

During our stay, we were generously hosted by two families for evening feasts. Together we enjoyed traditional Arabic food (lamb, rice, um Ali) and many varieties of shisha. We were also introduced to Saudi Arabian coffee and the most delicious dried dates! We enjoyed sharing music, laughing and getting to know our new friends in the comfort of their homes.

Jeddah was the second city where we performed. There, we were in a similar routine of working, hanging at the hotel and visiting local markets. It is situated on the eastern coast of the Red Sea across from Cairo, Egypt. We spent a day off at a private beach in the King Abdullah Economic City. We swam with colorful fish in the nearly virgin sea! Recently constructed, KAEC is one example of many cities to be erected across the country as part of Vision 2030.

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Eager fans wait for the stadium to fill up so the show can start on the closing night.

On closing night, the entire team celebrated the success of this project that proved to be much bigger than us. This tour was thrilling, powerful and sobering. It is enlightening to be reminded of the humanitarian responsibility that artists behold. Saudi Arabia, until we meet again!