Akropolis in Abu Dhabi! Highlights from our 2-week tour in the Middle East

Fewer things make the ardors of life as a musician more satisfying than the trip of a lifetime. At last, Akropolis has taken us to the other side of the world, courtesy of Chamber Music Abu Dhabi. From the haunting beauty of the Empty Quarter, to the unwavering Emirati hospitality, not to mention the fascinating architecture, it’s hands down the most incredible place our music has ever taken us.

How did we end up in Abu Dhabi? It’s all thanks to CMAD Director, Jennifer Laursen (pictured below with us in the Empty Quarter), who has been a loyal listener since before our gold medal at the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition in 2014. We met again at Chamber Music Northwest in 2015 where she asked if we would be interested in journeying to the Emirates — we answered yes on the spot.

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During our two weeks, we gave 4 concerts, performed with 2 Emirati student poets, gave 2 physics of music lectures, taught 4 master classes, gave 4 coachings, hosted a composition reading, premiered 5 new works, worked with middle and high school students in 4 different outreach activities, not to mention exploring various cultural elements of the United Arab Emirates. Two weeks was a bitter-sweet length of time, just enough time to fall in love with a place, but not enough time to say goodbye.

We started out our residency at Khalifa University (جامعة خليفة), listening to a student’s traditional Arabic poetry in addition to working with the professors and students at NYU Abu Dhabi to host our first ever Physics of Music lecture. Following this, it was time to explore! We headed to Mina Port Fish Market where we saw some exotic and colorful fish. We had a Hamour cooked fresh for us! Throughout our journey, we had aromatic Arabic and Turkish coffee, and our absolute favorite coffee spot was at Shakespeare and Company at the downtown Central Market.

After getting the lay of the land (and recovering from serious let lag) we gave our first concert  at a stunning penthouse apartment that towered over the entire city and surrounding islands of Abu Dhabi.

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Day 6 in Abu Dhabi brought us one of the most remarkable experiences of our lives. We spent the day in the Empty Quarter, one of the world’s most expansive deserts. We drove down 350 meter bluffs on a 50 degree incline, made camel friends 🐫 and saw wild gazelle, played board games with a Pakistani man tending to the Liwa oasis, and watched the sun set from the tallest dune in the world.

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After returning from the vast emptiness of the Arabian desert, we gave our second concert at Khalifa University (جامعة خليفة) where we had the great honor of collaborating with Arabic poets Abdulrahman Al Humairy and Saeed Salem Al Mehrzi. We worked with them over the past week to pair their original poems with selections from Splinterby Marc Mellits. Check out this brief clip from the concert! 

For our third concert, we headed back to NYU Abu Dhabi where we gave an “ALIVE” new music concert featuring 4 reed quintet premieres by student composers Garreth Chan, Jacob Bartoszewski, Andrija Klaric and Leonid Kuzmenko, and trio by faculty member Matthew Quayle.

 After working with college students on the other side of the world, we had the pleasure of working with the incredibly enthusiastic middle and high school students of the American Community School of Abu Dhabi. We gave our final concert in their auditorium which featured our first performance of Nico Muhly’s new reed quintet, Look For Me. 

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On our last free day in the Middle East, we decided to visit Dubai! We went to the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, the Al-Fahidi-Fort and Dubai Museum, which showed the history of pearl diving in the region, and we crossed the Dubai Creek and went deep into the heart of old Dubai where we visited a Hindu temple barefoot, saw traditional shops and markets, and Kari got her bling fix at the Dubai Gold Souk!

We spent our final day visiting one of the most iconic landmarks in town, the Grand Mosque Abu Dhabi. Kari had the pleasure of wearing an intricate abaya and hijab while inside this breathtaking communal space. What a way to end this extraordinary adventure!

As you can probably tell, we took A LOT OF PHOTOS. To see all of our pictures from Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and more, check out our
Flickr Gallery Here!

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