On Friday night, Doug and I went to see Zayed and the Dream, a musical detailing the creation of the United Arab Emirates. It was opening night for the production at the Kennedy Center, for which I wore a Calvin Klein cocktail dress and Doug a gorgeous three-piece Hugo Boss suit. To top off the evening, we received an invitation to a pre-show reception, sponsored by the Embassy of the UAE, on the top floor of the Kennedy Center, which offers up the most incredible views of the Washington, DC, day or night.
The production, aptly titled, tells the history of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the former president and “father” of the UAE, Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan. Zayed was the youngest son of Sheikh Sultan bin Zayed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, the traditional ruler of Abu Dhabi, until his assassination in 1926. Following the assassination of his uncle (his father’s brother), just two short years later, Zayed’s brother took over as the ruler of Abu Dhabi. At this time, after much bloodshed, their mother asked the brothers to make her a promise that they would not use violence against others.
Oil was discovered in 1958 and exported four years later. At the time, Abu Dhabi was under the rule of Zayed’s brother and many were disappointed at his lack of initiative. A bloodless coup was staged to oust the older brother, and shortly after, Zayed was appointed to the presidency post of UAE.
Having lived in the desert, and understanding the ways of the Bedouin tribesman, Sheikh Zayed was a man for the people, who allowed private media and showed religious tolerance of practicing Christians. He built schools, created infrastructure, resolved a border dispute with Saudi Arabia and promoted women’s rights. Using profits from oil, the country was created and built all while upholding his peaceful promise made to his mother, many years prior.
Through song and dance, the show highlighted the awesome advancements the country has made over the last 40 years, while using music, lights and video to create amazement. Towards the end of the show, we saw images of the former President Zayed (who died in 2004) with Bill Clinton, Queen Elizabeth and Nelson Mandela. With the production company only running two shows in Washington, the theatre was packed and both shows were sold out. The show was commissioned by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage, which is also financing its shows overseas.
Prior to seeing the show, I was looking forward to traveling abroad to see the Emirates Palace and to enjoy a Camel Milk Lattes (yes, for real!), as I have not yet been to the UAE. And after seeing the show, my mind did not change, rather it piqued my interest further. Clearly, the country has created something, where nothing once existed and is rightfully proud of how far they have come. An intriguing show to highlight an equally intriguing history.