Egypt – The Cairo Stadium
By October we were back in Egypt. The invitation we had received to perform in the Cairo stadium had turned out to be a real thing.
We received overflowing appreciation from an Egyptian audience of approximately sixty-thousand on October 17, 2003 and all our expenses were paid for.
We had played our first show on one of the smaller stages outside the main stadium. We began more or less on time after watching delightful selections of children’s dances and Saidi folkloric music and dance: a girl dancing with two boys dressed in a horse costume… a troupe of mizmar and percussion players and a tumbling costume which appeared to be two midgets wrestling but in reality is a costume worn by only one dancer…
Happy with the reception from the crowd during our first show, we began looking forward even more to our performance on the main stage. After delays in the scheduled performance lineup had
cast doubts for a while on whether there would even be time for all of us, we were invited up to the main stage in the center of the Cairo Stadium.
We were extensively introduced as “the Americans who chose to go to Baghdad armed with Iraqi music instead of weapons.” We felt very honored and we felt that our intentions were easily understood by Egyptians.
The stacks of speakers stood thirty-feet-tall on both sides of the huge stage and my oud, since it is not a modern electric instrument and it still has a hollow resonating body, nearly jumped out of my lap as waves of sound would pass from it through the microphones and speakers and then back into its body.
We could hear the crowd singing along with us and during our improvisations there were moments of ecstatic appreciation when the crowd erupted with appreciation as they heard our voices… They clapped and sang along at the climactic moments in the music.
We began with ‘Habibi Aini,’ a sensual Egyptian dance favorite which had been made famous by the female pop star Warda. I sang a vocal improvisation in the middle which allowed me to pour full expression out into the crowd… They screamed with appreciation.
We then played ‘Daret el Ayam’ and Kristina’s voice carried the crowd into their deep love for Um Kolthoum. We could hear even more voices from the crowd… tens of thousands of them singing along with us during this song.
We finished with an Amr Diab hit: ‘Habibi ya Nour el Ayeen’… We sang it too fast and the guitar, which I had purchased for $60 from my friend Nasser on Mohammad Ali Street only the night before, sounded terribly metallic. But we felt welcome and we felt appreciated.
We wove our path from one TV interview to the next in the deafening arena surrounding the stage. We signed autographs and shook hands in the crowd.
Our energy was now reverberating in ways that could help the fundraising for this Children’s Cancer Hospital being constructed in Cairo.
And we could help Americans understand how the US, as a nation, could be reaching further out toward the vast majority of Arab world peoples who work toward the common good. We would do everything we could to help other Americans overcome the fears about the Arab-speaking peoples which had become so exaggerated.
Egypt – The Cairo Stadium