Consider the fact that in Saudi Arabia it is illegal to perform music in public.
Consider also that the Arabain Oud - an unfretted stringed instrument - had its origins in this area of the world and travelled across Arabia through Northern Africa and into Europe. Once in Europe it became the lute which we believe to be the precursor to what we now recognize as a guitar.
So there is an historic culture of music deeply imbedded in the people of Saudi Arabia, but Islamic Sharia law doesn't allow them to play it in public.
That brings us to the Arabian Art and Culture Center in Dhahran. A center in which artists of all forms - art, literature and music can gather, commune and share their creative talents. If they can't perform in public, at least they can be here. Here is a pic of the outside of the center:
After our dinner in Dhahran, Chris took us to the Center to meet some talented local Saudi musicians. There may have been a language and cultural barrier, but music broke them down within minutes.
Thom noticed a Saudi playing some notes on his oud and commented that it sounded like "Hotel California" - and it turns out it was. I believe this may be the first Saudi - American version of the song:
During this amazing evening, musicians shared their musical creativity:
Then the Saudis gathered to play us an Arabic folk song:
And then it was the band's turn to tell them a little about a Red Neck Yacht Club:
With music we discovered that despite some cultural differences, we all have much more in common than we even realized. As the evening came to a close, many reluctant goodbyes were said, a few more measures were played and we left these beautiful musicians with an upbeat feeling that this was one of the most magical nights ever. And we believe that the Saudis felt the same way.
We have now returned home, travelling a little over 33 hours to get here. I am just now feeling a bit normal and ready to return to this wonderful life I have been blessed with here in the United States of America.
I'll be posting some closing thoughts in one more post after this. Thanks for being with us this whole trip. It meant a lot to everyone!