The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi regularly organizes “Majlis” (assembly) seminars at his palace. I had the distinct honor of being one of those presenters January, 2020. (A previous presenter was Bill Gates.) It was a life-changing experience.
The event began as I was escorted to the palace by my private (!) driver. The palace “waiting room” was lined with handsome wood paneling and various artworks. If you’ve seen Versailles, you might imagine something of what I saw as I peered through an open door leading to other palace rooms. There we waited - “we” being the woman in black, who was to introduce me and ask some canned questions in case nobody else volunteered, along with several people who had charge of logistics. The woman (Maryam) and I both confessed a bit of nervousness, about to face royalty. To relieve that nervousness, we were told to jump up and down ten times. It worked -- absolutely.
After an hour waiting in that room, we were escorted to the rather formal lecture room, in an adjacent building designed expressly for Majlis lectures. The room was full; as was the backup room, where events came through by video. Some 700 people filled all seats in both rooms. They included sheikhs from all over the Arabian states, ambassadors, ministers, etc. -- and even a few students. Not surprising that it was packed since even the Crown Prince himself has been known to say: “Water is more important than oil.” His tweet (to three million people, I was told), brought so many attentive listeners.
The seating arrangements were formal - men in long white khanduras and ghutra headdress on the left; women in long black abayas, with black scarves covering all but their faces, on the right. All in fixed, prearranged in rows of white sofa-like seats. VIPs, I was told, sat in the second row. When I asked, who sits in the first row, the answer was “VVIPs” -- royalty, etc. I was informed that it was appropriate to begin my talk with “Good afternoon, your excellencies” (plural), and even better, to add: “Asalam Aleikum” (peace be unto you). It worked. They were wide open to listening, and I noted their rapt attention all the way through.
It seemed to go well, with intense interest from all around. Press interviews followed. I wore an unmistakable glow throughout the evening and day that followed. The ultimate sign of success: an upgrade to First Class on Emirates Airlines gifted for my return to Seattle. If you’ve never tried first class on Emirates (and have enough dough to cover the cost), I can highly recommend that mode of transport.
I felt almost like I was the Crown Prince, himself.
Watch part of the lecture here.
News articles here and here.