There is an old Arabic proverb – „Be patient and you’ll get what you want.“ It may seem a bit old fashioned, to evaluate a whole culture by single sentence. Yet this piece of wisdom somehow sums up our latest project for National Day celebration in Saudi Arabia.
Kingdom undergone some significant changes in recent years. We saw women drive cars on the streets of second largest city, Jeddah, regularly. Youngsters wearing western style outfits. Major fast food brands. And what else you can do to point this out than large spectacle consisting of laser shows, jets, battleships, dancers in LED suits (dancers! In a country where just recently you could be arrested on the street) and fireworks. We worked on three elements of the festival, namely laser show, Tron dance and custom LED Installation – The Gates and LED Swords.
From Central Europe to Middle-East, one would naturally expect to fly eastward, say through Cairo. But airlines works in mysterious ways and one of us, namely me, ended up flying alone through London. Luckily, the two flights were departing at around same time. Encouraged by colleague’s loud laughter, I went to solo 10-hour journey. I was even a bit exited. So, so naïve.
Never have been to Heathrow, thought that I would may even be able to have a quick trip to downtown London. Little did I know that Terminal 5 is for transfer only. And non-smoking. A friend waiting there since early morning told me there is a loophole, but you then have to go through security check again. Prior to 5 hour flight, I decided it is worth the risk.
Those who experienced the Red Sea climate before describe a certain moment when you realize this is going to be hard – you are getting of the plane and no matter what time of the day, you get a hit so strong it recoils you back inside.
Waiting is a virtue
Next two or so days we have spent cultivating virtue of waiting. Customs still held our equipment, despite the fact that it went long before our arrival. Soon we turned into nocturnal animals, venturing outside only when the sun sat down and the conditions switched from hellish to bearable.
Officers at the customs released portion of equipment and we could start working on installation we called “The Gates”. It was during those nights we found that locals are warm-hearted people, interested in our work and country of origin. On the contrary, their interest in proper English was often minimal, but who needs language classes when they have functional legs and arms and mobile phones? They were even asking if we can offer them some job!
Few hearth attacks and days later, we finally received our lasers. Well, at least major part. We had 800W of power total in some heavy cases. We immediatelly started to spread them along 4 kilometer beach. This was one of the few days we were actually working on a direct sun and it was painful. Our warmest thank you goes to Ethiopian crew that did some heavy lifting for us.
To sum it up, expected time for laser show preparation was 5 days. We did it in two! Both laser shows were created by our boss Michal POKLUDA and they looked stunningly good.
Client was so nice that we were asked last minute to do some LED swords for traditional Arabic dance. Although we broke some safety protocols, the swords were working perfectly! Until some dancers started real fencing combat and damaged few of them.
Nightlife during National Day
Locals were almost like ghosts during the day, because of the conditions outside of course. The sun sat behind horizon and people started to swarm the waterfront. Children, families and more children. Teenagers in Saudi arabia must promise their parents to be back home by 2 AM lattest, otherwise they will be grounded. We didn’t doublecheck with actual parent or a kid, we are just assuming from what we saw.
The only exception during whole two weeks was the day of the National Day itself. During 4 day festival, we saw attempt for largest fireworks in the world, half a million people on a street celebrating the national day and some bad-ass jets whirling ecstatically in the skies. Oh, and don’t forget battleships and huge hovercraft. Spectacural acrobatic show in the skies started at 4 PM and the beach was crowded until early hours of the next day. People, cars, basically everything and everyone was covered with national colours. Client even managed to do the same with our apparal – with white t-shirts and green vests we turned into walking flags.
To sum up technical details for National Day celebration:
The Gates – we used 6 Powered LED Controllers, 1200m of digital LED strips, 0,5kg glue gun sticks, 2 scaffoldings, apx 900 bottles of water and around 2K various carbonated drinks
VR Palm – 1 Powered controller, 50M of digital LED strip, one broken spirit
Laser Show – 800kW total, 60+ shows during 4 days
Tron Dance – 40 shows during 4 days, 10 per evening
Other – 10 light sabers, 20 dancing staffs