Here are some highlights from the first Jeddah Season — from K-pop superstars to Shakespeare in Arabic.
The first Jeddah Season kicked off with a WWE Super ShowDown at King Abdullah Sports City. The event featured wrestling legends including Goldberg, the Undertaker, Triple H, and Randy Orton. It also included the largest Battle Royal Match in WWE history, with 50 stars scrapping it out simultaneously. Hometown boy Mansoor Al-Shehail (pictured) emerged victorious. “I can’t ask for anything better,” he said.
On July 12, British boxer Amir Khan claimed the WBC International Welterweight belt with a fourth-round stoppage against Australia’s Billy Dib. Khan has since claimed that he will return to the Kingdom in November to face Filipino legend Manny Pacquiao.
Music has been a major focus of Jeddah Season, and several of the region’s most popular performers visited the city over the past month to thrill their fans. Lebanese icons Nancy Ajram and ‘King of Romance’ Wael Kfoury (pictured), local legend Mohammad Abdo, Egyptian favourites Amr Diab, Angham, and Mohamed Hamaki, and Khaleeji stars Ahlam and Rashed Al-Majed were among those who performed.
It wasn’t just regional artists who took to the stage during Jeddah Season — numerous international A-listers also arrived in the city to put on a show. From K-pop chart-toppers Super Junior (pictured) and Stray Kids, through big-name DJs including Martin Garrix, Steve Aoki, Marshmello and Dutch duo Afrojack and R3hab, through Nineties hit-machine Backstreet Boys, to the final night’s Jeddah World Festival’s stellar lineup — which included Future, 50 Cent, ex-One Directioner Liam Payne, and Janet Jackson — Jeddah has witnessed some of the biggest names in music playing live over the past few weeks.
The light fantastic
Dazzling visual displays were a central part of Jeddah Season. The Flame, Fountain & Laser show in front of XJED was choreographed to regional and international pop hits and became a big hit with visitors. Elsewhere, the Glow Garden — “where art, technology and innovation immerse” — became equally popular, as the underwater world was recreated in Al Hamra. And rounding off most nights were the spectacular fireworks on Jeddah Waterfront.
Shakespeare in Saudi
For a shot of high-brow culture, Jeddah Season also saw a staging of William Shakespeare’s acclaimed tragedy “King Lear” about a monarch who — through his inability to accept criticism and only listen to those who falsely proclaim their love and respect for him — is driven to the verge of insanity. The play, which was translated into Arabic, starred Egyptian actor Yehia El-Fakharany (pictured) in the demanding leading role, with Heba Magdi, Rania Farid Shawki, and Riham Abdel-Ghafour also among the cast. In a press conference prior to opening night, El-Fakharany praised the “arts renaissance occurring in Saudi Arabia,” saying it would “surely inspire the new generation.”
Jeddah Season saw one of the oldest forms of mass entertainment making a splash — the circus. With the international stylings of Le Teatro Circus — magic, acrobatics, live music, and, as the name suggests, a healthy dose of the dramatic — and the US-based Circus 1903 — a dip into the ‘golden age’ of the traveling show around the turn of the century, complete with knife throwers, high-wire acts, and life-size elephant puppets — in town, Jeddawis were enthralled by this throwback to old-school entertainment.
Blue is the color
American performance artists Blue Man Group were one of the big hits of Jeddah Season with their trademark mix of weird and wonderful music and art — and no dialogue. Judging by the troupe leader Scott Speiser’s interview with Arab News, the performers enjoyed their time in the Kingdom just as much as the audiences did. “The Saudi people seem to have really embraced the show and that makes it even more fun and fulfilling for us,” he said. “The audience here loves to clap in rhythm with the music. We weren’t really ready for it. And, well, we just love it!”