Top UAE mogul to lead musicians at papal mass

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Paul Griffiths started playing the organ at 10 years old. (Supplied)
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Griffiths uses his vacation leaves to play the organ. (Supplied)
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Girffiths will accompany the choir on Feb. 5, along with a 10-member brass ensemble. (Supplied)
Updated 01 February 2019

Top UAE mogul to lead musicians at papal mass

  • CEO of Dubai Airports Paul Griffiths is the lead organist at the papal mass on Feb. 5
  • When things go crazy at the airports, Griffiths said he turns to music to relax

DUBAI: Better known for his role as the CEO of Dubai Airports, Paul Griffiths, will be playing the organ at the mass lead by Pope Francis on Tuesday, Feb. 5, before a congregation of 135,000 people at Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Sports City Stadium.
It will be the first time a Catholic Pope has visited the UAE and the wider Gulf and a first for the 61-year-old British expat.
“It’s my first time performing in a Catholic mass with such large resources, and such a huge choir,” Griffiths, who is an Anglican, told Arab News.
“It will be a most historic occasion for the UAE. It’s just the most fantastic opportunity to demonstrate peace and tolerance, and I think, in the world, we need a lot of that,” he said.
Asked if he would be able to meet the pope, he replied: “I’m not sure that that is actually possible, but if it did actually happen, it would be an astonishing opportunity.”
“But just the honor of playing the organ at a mass, which he is celebrating, that’s quite an astonishing situation.”
Griffiths joined Dubai Airports as CEO in October 2007 – a year later he led the launch of Terminal 3 – the world’s largest – at Dubai International Airport.
On June 27, 2010 he was at the forefront of the opening of the emirate’s second international airport – Dubai World Central.
But Griffiths is not just a veteran of the airport business, he started learning to play the organ when he was a child.
“I was 10 when my friend asked to me to join the church choir. At the time, I wasn’t really interested in music, but he persuaded me,” he said.
The moment he saw the church organ, he said he had a “real moment” of self-discovery.
“For about the next 10 years after I started, all I wanted to do was be a cathedral organist,” he added.
But Griffiths said his father was less enthusiastic about him pursuing music as a profession.
“He persuaded me that music was a good hobby, but a very bad profession,” he said, adding that instead he chose a career path that led him to the top of the aviation industry.
“Although I didn’t agree with my father at the time, in hindsight, it was the right decision.”
But he did not give up on music, and now Griffiths manages a schedule of concert and recital engagements, including performances that have placed him alongside major orchestras.
“I am a great believer that life is about living to the full. I try very hard to give all my time and effort to running all the airports, and in my spare time, the little that I have, I do a lot of organ practice and preparations,” he said.
Griffiths is so committed to his music that he said he uses much of his annual leave for his favorite pass-time.
“I’ve got lots of things coming up. I’m playing in the UK in May, and I’m doing two concerts in the US in June,” he revealed.
When things go crazy at the airports, Griffiths said he turns to music to relax.
“I can have a really tough and long day getting everything together, but when I come home, I sit at the organ and practice quite tough music, and within a couple of pages, all the troubles of the day are gone,” he said.
Griffiths is even married to a musician, Joana Marsh, who works full time as a classical composer, working with orchestras and choirs around the world. The passion for music runs in the family, as his son is also a musician, playing the French horn.
The pope’s visit to Abu Dhabi coincides with the Human Fraternity Conference – an interfaith event that will bring together religious leaders under one roof – it is also the UAE’s Year of tolerance.
Although Christian, Griffiths is not a Catholic – he is a member of the Anglican church – that blending of faiths on the same stage, he said, was “an important statement for mankind.”
“It doesn’t matter what faith or religion we are, the fact that we can come together to celebrate such a historic thing and all be together in the same place… it will remind us that despite our differences, we are all flesh and blood,” he added.

Houthis back down over access to ‘ticking timebomb’ Red Sea tanker

Updated 13 min 41 sec ago

Houthis back down over access to ‘ticking timebomb’ Red Sea tanker

  • UN technical team set to board stricken vessel to avert environmental disaster from 1.4m-barrel oil spill

JEDDAH: Houthi militias in Yemen finally backed down on Sunday over access to a stricken oil storage vessel to prevent it from leaking more than a million barrels of crude into the Red Sea.

Engineers from a UN inspection team are now expected to board the FSO Safer in the next few days to assess the vessel’s condition and carry out emergency repairs.

The 45-year-old Safer has been moored 7 km off the coast of Yemen since 1988. It is stationary, with no engine or means of propulsion. The vessel fell into the hands of the Iran-backed Houthis in March 2015, when they took control of the coast around the port city of Hodeidah.

The militants have refused for more than 5 years to allow international engineers to board the Safer to carry out essential repairs, and as the vessel’s condition deteriorates there are fears that the 1.4 million barrels of oil it contains will start to seep out. A breach would have disastrous results for Red Sea marine life and tens of thousands of people who depend on fishing for their livelihood.

Apart from corrosion, essential work on reducing explosive gases in the storage tanks has been neglected for years. The Yemen government has warned the Safer could explode and cause “the largest environmental disaster, regionally and globally.”


  • The 45-year-old Safer has been moored 7 km off the coast of Yemen since 1988.
  • It is stationary, with no engine or means of propulsion.
  • The Yemen government has warned the Safer could explode and cause a regional and global environmental disaster.

 The latest problem came in May with a leak in a cooling pipe. “The pipe burst, sending water into the engine room and creating a really dangerous situation,” said Ian Ralby, chief executive of the maritime consultancy IR Consilium.

If the vessel ruptures, “you’re going to have two catastrophes,” said Lise Grande, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator for Yemen.

 “There’s going to be an environmental catastrophe that’s bigger than almost any other similar kind ... and it’s going to be a humanitarian catastrophe because that oil will make the port of Hodeidah unusable.”

Critics say the Houthis have been using the Safer to blackmail Yemen’s legitimate government into offering concessions in peace talks brokered by the UN and to enable them to sell the vessel’s oil. Yemeni Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed wants the proceeds from selling the oil to be spent on health care and humanitarian aid.

Crude stored in the Safer’s tanks is worth about $40 million, half what it was before prices crashed, and experts say it may be of poor quality and worthless.