10 October 2004

Comments on the Annual Armenian Ball in Abu Dhabi

AZAD-HYE (10 October 2004): The Annual Armenian Ball took place in Sheraton - Abu Dhabi on Thursday, 30th September 2004. The event was well organized by the members of the Armenian Community of Abu Dhabi. The efficient valet parking was a nice touch considering the on going construction of the Hotel surrounding. The ballroom was nicely decorated with exotic flower arrangements, which added a touch of class to our community's formal event.

The buffet was rich and inviting, not to mention conveniently located within the ballroom. The committee members have taken the attendees feed backs of last year into consideration and upgraded the quality and quantity of the food.

Unfortunately the number of attendees for this year's Gala Dinner was about 150. The absence of participants from Dubai, Sharjah, Qatar and Oman was quite obvious. Even some of the Armenian families, who live in Abu Dhabi, and had made a potential presence in the past, were not present. None of the members of the Armenian Cultural Association of Abu Dhabi was present.

Ambassadors of Armenia and Jordan along with their spouses were present (the latter was personally invited by a non-Armenian guest). As usual, no media or press representative was invited to cover this important social event.

The event commenced at 10:30 p.m. The Master of Ceremony, Dr. Vartkes Arzoumanian, invited the Chairman of the Council of the Armenian Community of Abu Dhabi, Mr. Harout Kojakian, to the podium to address his welcoming speech. The Chairman made a brief and concise welcoming speech based on a written text.

At a very early stage of the event, the MC urged the guests to purchase the instant win raffle vouchers worth AED 250 and AED 500. This premature announcement set the guests in an uncomfortable mood, as if, they are there mainly to contribute for a cause rather than enjoy the festivity of the evening.

Following the raffle announcement, singer Mrs. Shake Baghdasarian entertained the attendees with her classic Armenian and English songs, which was the appropriate ambience for dinner. During which the selling of the raffle vouchers was at a full swing by pushing the guests to purchase vouchers repeatedly, and yet once again, to sell the lottery tickets worth AED 25. Considering the gift list, many people were hesitant to purchase the instant win raffles. Looking back at predecessors' technique, to promote raffle vouchers the gift provided should be attractive and at a higher value than the price of the raffle. In which case the guest would remain satisfied and perhaps would purchase an additional voucher and most importantly, come back the following year. When it was time for the raffle draw, it was a one-man show. The MC read the winning numbers and presented the gifts to the winners.

Around 11:45 p.m. the MC introduced the main guest singer, Mr. Hratch Gaydzagian, who was invited along with his band from Beirut to entertain the guests with his well known dynamic presence on stage. As usual technical sound problems were encountered during the introduction, and what appeared to be a very warm welcome was left unheard by the attendees. Nevertheless, Mr. Gaydzagian entered the ballroom like a lightning while singing a lively
Armenian song. He provoked the guests into dancing along with him the traditional Armenian Falk dance. This went on for about for 20 minutes. Then he switched to Arabic songs. Peoples' thirst for some modern songs was left unquenched with his medley of the 70's and 80's songs. By 1:30 a.m., he was going back and forth to Armenian and Arabic songs. Finally he started
singing a nice variety of English songs, but unfortunately by that time not many people were left to enjoy it.

Community dancing parties raise some important issues: It has become customary to say that they are the only income source for the Community. It is time to have a close look to this. Why are we almost one hundred percent dependent on the Annual Gala parties? Shouldn't we sit down and find out other sources for income. The pressure is so big on these parties that at the end the atmosphere is getting so tense and exhausting. This is true for both the organizers and participants. Let aside that such parties do not provide any particular cultural or traditional Armenian values. Socially weak families are not able to attend them. Many other who attend say that there is a sort of fake mood in the air, stemming mainly from the 2002 Community elections.

The number of donors of cash sums was limited this year compared to other years. The reason could be the economic crisis or situation in the region or lack of attention provided by the organizers to donors of previous parties, who did not receive any sort of invitation or even telephone calls during the year.

It is getting harder to attract foreigners to these parties, because no systematic public relations contacts are achieved between one party and the next. The foreigners are feeling that they are approached only on time of need, far from what etiquette requires. We need to satisfy the Armenian individuals, who encourage their foreign friends to attend the Armenian parties. Actually they undertake the social obligation to keep in touch with their foreign friends throughout the year (sometimes preserving business alliances for this sake). So if the Armenian host is not satisfied he will not enter into this kind of heavy commitment.

It is a fine tradition to publish a booklet on the occasion of these parties, where the activities of one year are recorded. The booklet includes also the advertisements of the sponsors and the list of the gifts and donations. This year only Community photos were published. There were no texts. May be because one photo stands for one thousand words. If this was true we rather have published one big photo in place of this article. Anyway the front cover of the booklet this year did not serve this policy.

The youngsters of the Community were very active and they added flavor and action to the Party. A circle of teenagers and young Armenians exist in our Community, who make their presence felt in social occasions. Unfortunately the Armenian Youth Organization of Abu Dhabi, with its aimless and monotonous meetings is far from attracting the new generation.

As we said last year, it is pity that such occasions are left unnoticed by the Media and no effort is made to invite any editor or photographer of social pages in the several dailies and periodicals that are published in the UAE. It seems that the organizers do not need free publication and do not believe that a photo in a magazine can serve as a good promotion for future parties. Two priests attended the celebration, one is the priest of Armenians of UAE and the other is a guest priest from Beirut.

Last year we published some comments on the Annual Gala. Some members of the organizing body were extremely unhappy with our views and thought that we do not appreciate their dedication and sacrifice. We cannot deny that the members are working hard, devoting many hours a day for this purpose. May be all they need is some coordination, reflection on previous faults and communication with the public during the year, such as organizing open discussions and inviting people to express their thoughts on this and other matters. We are still working with the spirit of the 20th century. Quality is getting an important factor. We cannot simply hear someone saying "we have been doing this on and on for many years" and then think that he knows what he is talking about.

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