The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music

Except this time it was not the was the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Baghdad

The first event the Emabssy has held in the Red Zone! The Ministry of Culture in conjunction with our Embassy hosted a concert for Peace and Friendship in honor of Ambassador Crocker.

I managed the guest list (aprox 1400), final set up of the stage, traffic flow patterns for arrival and departure, flowers, VIP seating and the meet and greet of VVIPs. I spent the day before in the redzone at the Sheraton praying that everything would go as planned, on time, safely.

The stage was built for this event; satelite via Iraqi contractors.

VIP Seating

The Concert was also an art exhibition for local Iraqi artists. It was one of those typical weekend affairs that we take for granted, proving monumental for Iraqis and U.S. partnership with the Government of Iraq (GOI). Though unfortunately the Minister of Culture got sick the night before the concert, two of the three Deputy Ministers attended, a few other Ministers and a handful of Diplomatic Corp, along with many students and local Iraqis who filled the seats. I estimate almost 500 people. SUCCESS.

This is the sculpture I fell in love with. I did not buy it, but one day when I have a home I will track it down, Insha'Allah

Performers. An Iraqi band.

Dancer Troupe.

It's hard to explain what going into the redzone is like. Anytime we leave the Green Zone (GZ or IZ-International Zone) we have to wear helmets and kevlar (ballistic) vests, so not only are you traveling in a thick convoy, but you also stick out like a soar thumb in mismatched, heavy gear. I plead to remove my helmet asap because it's often embarrassing. You're traveling in a city where 300,000 people live. They operate everyday as usual. Sleeping, shopping, cooking, living; and here I arrive in an armored motorcade in a helmet. "Hi!"

As you swallow the fact that life as usual is ongoing outside of the security of the IZ, there is this intense looming threat. As movements are made, PSDs and DS agents are calling out on the radio, "that guy's texting someone" "3rd floor balcony" "what's he doing?!" "look on your left" which keeps my adreneline gushing and my heart pumping a zillion miles a minute. I breath a sigh of relief when we safely enter the IZ. I always return ever more appreciative for the security detail & military forces that map the course ensure my safe and sound return.