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