Dubai to Damascus

Dubai -– On Wednesday, 30 January around 7pm groups of people were entering AUD for a charity concert. The whole area behind E building was fenced around a grand stage with lights and a massive sound system.  Security guards in red t-shirts were securing the perimeter and only people with tickets were allowed to enter the concert area.

“From Dubai, Here is Damascus” was the name of this charity concert organized by the Palestinian Cultural Club in collaboration with the Libyan Club at AUD. It was organized to raise money for Syrian refugee relief efforts. And it was not easy.

Bright projector lights lightened the area, where people were awaiting for the beginning of the show. Etihad flags were waiving, showing their presence, nearby was a Red Bull “bar stand” where people were getting free Red Bulls. The weather was cool, perfect for an outdoor evening. The evening breeze carried around the smell of food from the food stations nearby, where hungry students were paying for shawarmas. 

In this atmosphere of anticipation, the organizers were running around and dragging tables and chairs in different directions. The only thing that distinguished this place from any other concert was the huge mountain of big white boxes with the symbol of the Red Crescent. These were the donations of blankets, clothes and other supplies.

 “It has been a hectic job. It was restless for all six months,” said Suzan Al-Saidi, one of the organizers and a member of the Palestinian Cultural Club, about organizing the concert.

“We started working on it since summer,” she added. “We had to find sponsors, contact the Red Crescent and the Islamic Affairs as well as get many approvals.”

Two weeks prior to the concert, the clubs were going to cancel the event, due to lack of sponsorship. However, continuing their desperate search for sponsorship, they succeeded in finding sponsors: Etihad Airways, Ceil Travel Agency, Itzza Pizza, Virgin Megastore, Dubomedy, Kilma Creative Studios, and Saeed Bin Kalban Events and Exhibitons (the last donated 20,000 of cash).  Dynamic Sound and Light, the company that set up the stage, set it up for half-price. Sukoon, a company that belongs to an AUD grad student Muhammed Abu Al Qumsan, designed the tickets and posters for free.

The performers of the show were Illmiyah of Desert Heat, Ed Hooligan, Khaled M, Tiny, and Mina Liccione, who emceed the concert. The star of the concert, however, was Omar Offendum.

Before the beginning of the concert Omar shared his expectations: “I am very excited about the event and I think we will raise a lot of money, especially for a university,” he said.

Crowd numbers peaked during his performance. He dedicated songs to Syria, Palestine and Iraq. It was a fusion of love for all these countries. However, most of the audience drifted away after Omar’s performance.

“It was perfect, enjoyable, amazing,” said Anastasia Babaskina, media student at AUD, speaking after Omar’s performance. “Plus we gathered for a good cause. But it’s sad that the amount of people who came wasn’t that large.”

Many people just bought the tickets to donate, according to attendees and those who did not attend. Some even enjoyed the show for free. The entrance into the concert area cost 50 AED for AUD students and 100 AED for people from outside the university. All proceeds went to Syrian refugees. Apparently that was “too much” for some students who chose to watch the performance sitting in the smoking area behind the fence, or standing along the fence near the stage.

A thing that caught the attention of AUD students was the lack of participation of the Syrian Club at AUD.

 “I had fun and it was for cause with a purpose. But I feel sorry that the Syrian Club didn’t participate at all,” said Abdullah Ojjeh, while sitting on the grass during the concert. “It’s a shame for the Syrians. Most of them didn’t even show up”

Well, some were there. Others chose the free smoking area vantage point.

“I saw many Syrians, I was expecting them to be here (at the concert) but they are sitting in the smoking area,” said Mohammed Kassem, another AUD student.

The concert ended at 11, with only a few staying till that time. However, in the end, the concert was a success.

“I am very satisfied with the concert,” said Suzan.. “We achieved our goal. We raise 40,00 dirhams and donations worth about 30,000 dirhams. It was amazing to see that the boxes were not fitting into a huge truck. It actually had to come back for the rest of the stuff,” said Suzan.



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