Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Sky is Cryin'

Kuwait City, Kuwait
Robbie Mack and the Al Heshemi II
We departed Jeddah and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on Monday afternoon, April 12th for our flight across the vast Arabian desert to Kuwait. The Radisson Blu is our new home in Kuwait City. This hotel was nearly destroyed during the Iraq invasion in 1990. The great news is, the Radisson has been rebuilt into a fantastic facility featuring two gigantic full scale reproductions of ancient sailing ships. Kuwait has long history of nautical expertise and is still a major port in the Persian Gulf. At the hotel, the smaller of the two reproduction ships has a five star restaurant on board and the big ship ''The Al Heshemi II” has a museum and grand ballroom on-board. This ship is in the Guiness Book of World Records as the largest wooden dhow ever built in the world. It weighs a massive 2500 tons and has the length of 85 m. The ballroom has 5500 lightbulbs in fixtures covered in 24 karat Italian gold leaf. It can accommodate up to 1000 people. Fantastic!! A private beach and spa on the Persian Gulf, as well as three fine restaurants, round out this beautiful hotel.

On Tuesday morning I awoke hearing the sound of distant thunder. I thought, this must be the sound of a jet but a few moments it started to rain! To understand the uniqueness of this event, it is important to know that it only rains a few days a year in Kuwait and usually not this time of year. April is reserved for big sand storms. We left our hotel and only had to go a few meters to the Al Heshemi ship, located on the property, for our first TV interview with Al-Watan television. We set up in the huge ballroom, played some music and talked about our cultural exchange mission. The host said she would attend the evening concert at the US Embassy to get more film for the feature on the Rhythm Road to be broadcast the first of next week. After the TV interview we drove across town for a FM radio interview promoting our big concert on Wednesday night at Othman Abdul-Malek Hall at Kuwait University on the Shuwaikh campus. The radio studio was located at one of Kuwait's shiny new shopping malls. Our Public Affairs Officers from the US Embassy, Hatem and Rachael, are making sure we are at the right place at the right time and are more than willing to show us the wonderful sights of Kuwait City.

Won't you let me take you on a sea cruise!
By midday, we returned to our hotel to prepare for the big outside concert at the Embassy in a few hours. The evening presented cloudy and cooler weather as we drove to the Embassy. Security at the gates was the most comprehensive of our tour so far. In fact I was not allowed to take my camera onto the grounds, hence I don't have any photos of the concert for this posting. Fortunately I was able to wheel my equipment case in with no problems, but the camera had to stay at the guard house. The concert was scheduled as a garden party at the Embassy.  The Embassy's tennis courts were transformed into a posh dining area with cloth tablecloths and astroturf carpeting covering the court. The stage and sound system would rival any festival stage in the world. As we set up we could not help but notice seeing more lightening and hearing thunder approaching. Unbelievable for the desert! As the guest started to arrive and be seated it started to rain! Now a few drops here and there in Tulsa, it would be considered just a close call, but in Kuwait it was almost a show stopper. Will and his sound crew managed to cover all the gear (220 volts and H20 are not good friends in any part of the world) and after a few minutes the sprinkles stopped and we were introduced. US Ambassador to Kuwait HE Deborah K. Jones gave everyone a very warm welcome and Joey chose "I Get The Blues When It Rains'' as our first number. Very fitting . Despite a wee bit of dampened spirits we delivered our musical message and a good time was had by all.

Tonight is the big University show. It’s still cloudy today, but our show is inside. We hope to be deliver the message to lots of young Kuwaitis tonight.

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