Eat.Pray.Love: United Arab Emirates
Its always been a hesitation of mine to fly far, ALONE.
Last week I decided to tackle a big thing on my bucket list and close out the singleness chapter of my life. Check out my post 36 Things: Dear Destiny, I’m Ready! to see the list and the singleness chapter I’m referring to.
Anyway, this post is all about my adventure in the United Arab Emirates! Thanks to a tip from my sorority sister, I was able to capture a fare glitch and take this adventure for pennies on the dollar – my kind of trip! I flew SOLO to the Middle East. It was my first overseas flight, my first time on the continent of Asia (duh!) and one of the most mind-blowing experiences I will forever cherish!
Upon embarking on this trip, I was a ball of emotions. Nervous, excited, hesitant, hopeful… it was crazy all the things running through my mind. I was on Pinterest, Google and in a few groups on FB and IG asking questions and scouring through pictures, blogs and posts.
How much should I assimilate to the culture?
Should I downplay my nationality?
Where should I visit?
What should I do?
Of all my thoughts, I did know 3 things – GOD is always with me and he will see me through this journey, two: I have to visit the Grand Mosque and three: I have to EAT some traditional foods. I am so infatuated with culture and experiencing the REAL culture of places that I visit on trips. This by far was one of the most rewarding. The people there are so dedicated to their nation and most of all their faith! Although I am not Muslim, I was able to totally respect and appreciate their reverence and dedication to what they believe, which is actually very hard to find in America, no matter how many scriptures or church check-ins people post.
So before going, of the most common advice, I was told to dress modestly and pay attention to the places where my hair and shoulders needed to be covered – especially places like the mosque I so badly had to visit. (I love architecture!) Since I was in the midst of sewing things for friends, I took some time to make myself a few things, caftans, my version of an Abaya, and a wrap dress. I wanted to be sure I was appropriate and covered up.
Well lets get into this journey!
During my trip I was able to visit Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Al Ain.
Abu Dhabi – While in Abu Dhabi, on my first night there I landed at 8pm – a Thursday, which is to them like our (American) Friday, so I ventured to the club wearing a dress I made, but that covered me. I went to a place called “One Club” on Yas Island, near Ferrari world. Upon entering the club, I thought I was AT a car show. Lamborghini’s and Porsche’s as well as BMW’s and Mercedes were lined outside with “normal people” getting out. Right then and there I knew this was different. Never have I ever seen that amount of money, in the form of vehicles, in one place besides the DC Auto Show at the Convention Center! Going to the club I met some American teachers, 4 women. They gave me a few pointers about the culture, what to do and not – Don’t drink too much because alcohol is illegal, ignore and refuse anyone who asks if I was from Kenya or Sudan because that wasn’t a compliment given my chocolate skin and long legs and to have fun! It was like a Rave mixed with a House Party! I actually had a blast!
The next day, besides admiring the architecture, I went on a desert safari. This excursion included sand dunning, henna, shisha, camel riding, belly dancing and food! I was also able to put on a traditional Abaya and a Niqab. It would definitely take some getting used to, to wear the niqab. The Abaya I made for myself doesn’t compare to the one I wore and don’t get me started on the kanduras the women wear – beautiful! Besides the sand getting in my eyes and mouth, the dunning was awesome! ShoutOut to Groupon for the deal, it was a STEAL and so much fun.
Dubai – Dubai was similar to Abu Dhabi as far as the magnificent architecture. The people were very accommodating and hospitable. I had the opportunity to visit the Dubai Mall, the worlds biggest mall – wearing my homemade NOT SO traditional Abaya with a tank top and leggings I had made right before leaving. I promise I should’ve worn sneakers instead of flip flops. The mall was HUGE. There was an adventure park with skiing, an ice skating rink and even an aquarium you could scuba dive it! Crazy! I had a ton of fun going in and out of the stores which ranged from “Not in my budget right now” to “oh I could get that” LOL All high end stores intermingled with lower end stores and all those attractions. It was definitely worth the half day experience.
Right outside the mall the mall was, of course, the pièce de résistance – better known as the Burj Khalifa. Its the tallest building in the world. It was breath taking, no seriously. I didn’t even venture to go that close because of my fear of heights LOL
Al Ain – I was invited by a teacher I met my first night there, to come visit her classroom for a day. Their week starts on Sunday, so I was there bright and early. She teaches an 1E and 3E grade children in Al Ain. This school has students who are Emerati as well as students from the neighboring country of Oman. The school has teachers that are local Emerati as well as American, British, Egyptian, etc. They all work under Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) through the “Teach Away” program.
All day I kept hearing “Miss!! What is your name?” Or “Miss!!! Where do you come from?”
The students were so fascinated with me as I was with them. I even ate school lunch alongside them LOL It’s like a dual language program where the students are taught in English as well as learn Arabic. It was quite similar to westernized public schools except the gender separation. Once students get in 1E, the boys are taught separately from the girls. I got the chance to talk to 5 different teachers and gave a few suggestions based on what I observed. We discussed inclusion, Special Education, mainstream classrooms, looping, curricula and the adaptation it takes for one to teach in a different culture.
Pretty interesting as an educator, it was amazing to see how classrooms function in other parts of the world. I thought it would be very different. The students were awesome, but typical kids, just like in America. I’m almost jealous of her time there. She is definitely enriching those young peoples minds and they in turn, by hosting her, are enriching her life and career.
The people & culture – talk about DEDICATED!
I totally appreciate the fact that these people are so dedicated to their faith and that the Shake and their government make sure its incorporated into their daily lives and accessible. Its hard to falter when its all around, even the gas station there is a mosque when its time for prayer. I respect that they take it so seriously. The people were so nice to me. They all said that Americans are so wealthy and so nice. I was cautious because I was alone, but I was able to communicate walk or take a cab everywhere. I wanted to try out the public transportation – the subway and bus, but maybe on the next trip.
Driving through the neighborhoods to see how they live, Emerati in these big houses, knowing the government gives them to live. It was different. Understanding and learning about how they dress and why they wear certain clothing was interesting. Even going into the “Souqs” or stores for fruit and merchandise, being able to eat how they do and explore was awesome!
The food – yup, all awesome! I tried Shish Tawook, Tikka, Lamb Chops, Arayes, Hommos, Tabbouleh, a Chicken Scwharma, Leqaimat & Fattosh! All of it was very, very good and that Arabic bread was amazing. I’m definitely going to see if I can recreate some of these recipes.
The Grand Mosque – talk about jaw dropping. My time at the Grand Mosque was just as amazing as I had dreamed. The architecture, the fixtures, the dressings – the overall detail! It was so beautiful. I prayed a simple prayer “Thank You Lord.” and on my way out I extended that prayer to “I’m so grateful for the opportunity to have these experiences. Please keep them on my path.”
I was about to Eat good cultural food, Pray with others of a different faith just as much as they did, if not more, and LOVE: love the solo experience! Its definitely an experience going to an unfamiliar place alone. You have to be open to the opportunity, trust yourself while experiencing the adventure and allow yourself to take in everything the opportunity presents you. If I wasted my life waiting on other people to take an adventure, I’d probably would never/rarely go anywhere!
Thank you LORD for this opportunity!