Dubai, Sharjah, and IXO Adventures

10 days have passed since arriving in the United Arab Emirates there has been a sandstorm whirl of activity. Since stepping off the plane, I have been to three different Emirates, experienced the wonders of the souks, still doubted every moment that I am living in a foreign country. It was not until I traveled to Ajman that I realized how truly in the desert I was and how powerful a civilization can be. With their extreme wealth, Dubai and Sharjah are pristine and gorgeous modern marvels in the desert.

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View from the water of the Sharjah Skyline

Day in Sharjah

The International Exchange Office (IXO) has been an incredible host. The advisors are now some of my close friends on the campus here because of the adventures they have lead us on. Our first major trip took us to downtown Sharjah. Originally, many people told me how boring and how little Sharjah had to offer in terms of entertainment. I found tons to be entertained by. The magnificent views of the Persian Gulf, incredible museum collections, and massive souks (markets) were all the entertainment I needed. Sitting in local coffee shops and tea houses, I realized I actually like tea and Arabic coffee. More importantly, I enjoyed the relaxed nature of the coffee house, especially when the loukomades were delivered to our table while we played tavli. I plan on spending a lot of time in places like this… I mean in the library, Mom. Yeah totally the library. Following the coffee house, we explored the waters of Sharjah on small ferries, my personal favorite part of our trip. The view was phenomenal, the cool breeze felt amazing, and the entire town seemed to open up to us. It was a good taste of what was to come.

The Sharjah Skyline from the Blue Souk

The Sharjah Skyline from the Blue Souk

The IXO Group in front of the Eye of Sharjah

The IXO Group in front of the Eye of Sharjah

Days in Dubai

Out of all the cities I have ever been to, Dubai is the first city to make me question if there is any limit to mankind’s perseverance to thrive and adapt their surroundings to the needs of humanity. Dubai is a massive combinations of beautiful beaches and resorts, massive buildings and malls, highway systems unlike anything I have experienced before, and pride in the Arabic culture.

We began the day at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding for a traditional arabic breakfast. Their motto “Open doors and open minds” should really have been “Open doors, open minds, and open stomachs”.

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A delicious meal of chicken and peppers, pita bread, noodles, chick peas, and loukamades was served to us while we discussed with the curator about the different social issues that the Western World does not understand. He talked at length about the traditional dress for both men and women. When asked by one of the students why women had to wear head coverings, he responded with “Have you ever tried to get your wife or girlfriend to wear what you wanted her to? She would never listen to you.” After the roar of laughter, he explained the original practicality of the coverings and how it became adopted into a fashion. I am slowing starting to pick up on the subtle differences in dress by region for both men and women. Following the breakfast, he escorted us to a mosque and spoke on the Islamic religion. The calligraphy within the mosque was incredibly beautiful and a talent I hope to learn while I am here.

The sightseeing began after that. The spice souk, the gold souk, the Atlantis Resort and many other places rose before us. We also made a stop to the Mall of the Emirates which easily could have been in the States with the exception of the stores dedicated to Abayas, the traditional woman’s garb. The sheer volume (and price) of everything in Dubai was mind boggling. The biggest wow factor was the Burj Khalifa. I have plans to go to the top of this building in 12 days so stay tuned for pictures from the top. The beauty of the building at night is unparalleled and none of the surrounding buildings even come close to the height of the Burj.

The Burj Khalifa at Night

The Burj Khalifa at Night

Back to Reality

Classes started today so I am writing this entire blog post from the library. The vacation is done and now its time to actually begin what I came to do- learn in a classroom. However, my sprint course of life in the UAE is one I am not going to forget.

William Dimas is a student at Miami University studying abroad with API in Sharjah, UAE.

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