JEDDAH: Three young women from different backgrounds have had their friendship tested in dramatic fashion as part of a reality show filmed amid the striking landscapes and scalding heat of AlUla.
Saudi Amy Roko, Egyptian Hadeel Marei and Sudanese Maha Jaafar have been friends for years, but were forced to face individual challenges under extreme conditions in “Dare to Take Risks,” which is due to stream on Discovery+ on Oct. 18.
The show is set against the backdrop of different Middle Eastern countries, with Dala Najjar, one of the producers, saying: “MENA’s fast-growing industry inspired us to do something related to this region. Warner Bros. is committed to further bringing its presence in MENA by increasing its resonance with the regional audience.”
Nahla Elmallawany, another producer, said that the choice of locations plays a big part in the show.
“We wanted to have unique locations in the Arab world that have their character, so here it was. We wanted to bring all the elements together — it should be adventurous, beautiful, and interesting. If we could get a visually beautiful place, then the content will also be beautiful and will attract the audience.”
The show follows Roko and Marei, who are given a certain amount of money, while Jaafar set out to make their journey through the challenges as difficult as possible. They are asked to solve puzzles and face their fears — and if they fail to complete a task, Jaafar takes away the money.
The puzzles are organized so that each leaves a clue to the next stage of the game.
“We started the planning process with one thing in mind, where we wanted the girls to reach in the end,” Aimane Zaimi, the designer behind the puzzles, told Arab News.
“The approach wasn’t of an escape game; it was a treasure hunt.”
The puzzles were also tailored to make use of the environment and landscapes in which the show was filmed.
The Arab News team saw the production unit at work during the shooting of one puzzle in which Marei and Roko searched through clues in a bid to find a mystery object.
Zaimi said that the process of designing the game took almost four months.
“Emotions were at the backdrop of each puzzle; they were designed in a way that certain emotions were prompted out of the participants. We also tried to create puzzles that would enhance something in their personality or push them to do something which was not the norm for them,” he said.
Zaimi described it as the best experience he has ever had, adding: “When I work with shows, my presence is not required. This is the first time I am traveling with them. It is a big show, so it is all new and I am learning a lot.”
Mahmoud Abdallah, the show’s director, said that filming with real personalities can be more challenging than working with professional actors.
“You never know what reactions you will get or what conversations will happen. These can take the show in a very different direction, and you will have to be agile in adapting to keep it authentic,” he said.
Abdallah said that the challenge is the “unpredictability and not having complete control over what is coming next.”
Despite the physical and mental challenges, the three young women emerged from filming saying their friendship had only been strengthened.
Jaafar, who is also a UNICEF goodwill ambassador for Sudan, said that “Dare to Take Risks” has had an “extremely positive” effect on their relationship.
Marei and Roko also praised each other’s contributions “in the face of fear.”
Roko said: “For me, it’s just that every single day we spend together, we learn something new about each other. But if there is something that got solidified and crystalized in front of my eyes is that Hadeel is a warrior. Her burning passion for bringing the right energy to the set made me realize how lucky I am to have a friend like that, and that inspired me.”
The three also discussed the individual challenges they faced.
“For me, it was coming down with the ropes, I never thought I would be able to do that,” Marei said.
“I don’t see a lot of representation of plus-size people doing these things; it is always the athletic, fit adrenaline junkies. I never thought that my body could withstand that kind of a challenge.”
Jokingly, she added: “Would I do it again, though? That is a question.”
Roko said that being authentic, remembering their core values, and being respectful and accepting of each other’s cultures helped their friendship survive the test in the desert.