Today was a good day. Quite like Oman, we have two very fine guides for the country of the United Arab Emirates. Given that we have two buses on this tour, one for the choir and one for the “shadow group,” one guide is assigned to each group. After a very exhausting Carmina Burana performance on last night, the group was given some latitude for the activity for the first part of the day.
One group wanted sleep in and not have any formal commitments until our group dinner at 5:30 PM. This was an excellent suggestion as the City Seasons Hotel is the finest hotel of the tour, with exceptional amenities like free and fast Wi-Fi! Another option lobbied by the students was for one bus to go to the beach. The beach was a popular option among the students, however I could not understand going to the beach in this heat. I have not spoken about the temperature in these blog entries, but as you can guess, it is extremely hot in this area of the world in late May. Today the temperature reached 113 degrees Fahrenheit. The waters at the beach were hot and there was very little shade but the students still had a good time. The shadow group & I went to the Abu Dhabi Mosque led by our guide. One will see many photos of the mosque with extraordinary architecture and opulent appointments. Due to the oil money in this region, the Mosques that we have visited are much more opulent than any cathedrals that we have visited over the years.
We then visited the Emirates Heritage Club where we were able to purchase some souvenirs and learn a little more about the region. After the mosque visit and heritage club visit in 113-degree weather, we were determined to find some good air conditioning. We visited another mall – the Marina Mall – where we had lunch on our own.
The architecture of the buildings of the urban centers of this region is an architect’s paradise. Imagine being given the opportunity to design any building that you could imagine with your mind and have the funding to make it a reality. Individuals expect that to happen at both Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Many buildings had solar panels for energy on the top of the buildings with a slant towards the sun (which makes perfect sense given that the sun beams down virtually every day). Some buildings have retractable shells to reduce the sun in the buildings and reduce air-conditioning costs. The society in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi seem to be much more advanced (or better funded) than the US. Little things like escalators in the malls that only move when a person approaches the escalator (motion sensitive) gives a sense of an advanced civilization. There was also metro trains that are driverless but do not collide with any pedestrians or cars.
After the mall, we had a few hours to rest, eat and leave for our last concert of the tour at the Brighton College. Our last concert’s format was similar to others where the local choirs sang a small portion prior to our presentation. Tonight’s concert featured an all female group called Voices of Harmony called and a small mixed chorus named Blue Fever. Both were very good opening acts to our set.
Originally, there was concern over the sacred nature of our music. We did amend our program somewhat. However after a few concerts, we realized that the audiences really wanted us to sing our Gospel music! Tonight we added new music that we did not sing all tour. One of these new songs was an arrangement by one of the Morgan student’s Jasmine Barnes of Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You” with human percussion effects and all! We added two new Gospel favorites, “Celebrate!” and “Lord You are Good!” as well. See links to video below.
The truly amazing thing about tonight’s performance was that we were in an Islamic country, singing American Gospel songs, but all worshipping God (Allah) together… what a wonderful sight! One would never know that we were from different tribes as we were singing. It just goes to show that music is the universal language.
Tonight’s concert was special on many levels. It was quite an emotional experience for the choir as it was the last one for some that have been with us for four years!
Although we have enjoyed the learning Middle Eastern culture, we are all ready to get back home to our families.