No place like here

This city is crazy.  That’s all I can think to say whenever I learn something new about Dubai.  Just 30 years ago this place was straight up desert, and now it’s home to the world’s tallest building.  I can’t wait to share more of it with you as I discover all the unique things it has to offer.

I know you’re wondering, so I’ll cut to the chase.  Yes, it is hot and very humid here, but I think spending a summer in LA has helped me adjust to the climate easily.

One week in Dubai just isn’t enough, especially when you spend most of your time settling in, getting a student visa and starting classes.  The campus here is small but very nice and modern, and the people (students, staff and professors) are so welcoming and friendly.

moving in to the all girls’ housing

I share a cozy dorm room with an Egyptian who is so sweet.  She and I are having a fun time bonding over how much we have in common.  I’ve also had the chance to meet other visiting students (mostly from the US) and a good number of cool locals.  I can’t wait to get to know more people, especially native Arabic-speakers.

This semester I’m taking Middle Eastern Studies courses:

  1. Introduction to Middle East History
  2. Islamic Art and Architecture – we actually have art projects as a part of our class!
  3. The Qur’an:  History, Text and Meaning – with everyone’s favorite professor
  4. Iraq:  Reinventing the Nation – I’m the only American taking it
  5. Arabic Proficiency – by far the hardest class I have this semester, considering most of the students are native Arabic-speakers

Actually there’s a funny story about that last class.  It’s pretty obvious to everyone here that I am a visiting student (I’m white with dark blonde hair) so everyone speaks English with me.  Well I showed up a little early, and some girls in my class introduced themselves to me (in English).  They were surprised that I’m studying Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies but also very encouraging.  Then they turned around and continued their conversation in dialectical Arabic.  It was the first time in a few years when I didn’t understand most of what was said.  When it came for me to speak in posh, old school Arabic I was still disoriented by the constant bouncing around of different dialects and jokes I must have missed the punchline to.  But after class the same girls approached me in awe.  “We didn’t know you can speak Arabic!  Where did you learn?!”  When I told them I’ve only been studying it for two years they were shocked.  s/o to U of A’s Arabic department.

Also, s/o to the Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa,

in front of the world famous Dubai Mall fountain
the world’s tallest building on a Monday night nbd

…and the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, which welcomed us in true Emirati style.

SMCCU in Bastakiya, Al Fahidi Historic District

I even got to try on the traditional women’s clothing:  an abaya (long black dress),  hijab (head scarf) and niqab (veil).  We normally call this outfit a burka, but (who knew?) that’s actually incorrect.  A burqa is a gold face mask, like the one Krishna is wearing in the second photo.

Krishna and I modeling the traditional dress

And s/o to family friends who have been generous enough to show me around and help me get settled in.

So far it’s been a good start to the semester and such a blessing to meet new people and have new experiences.  I’m excited to continue exploring this crazy city that I live in.  And by crazy, I mean crazy in a good way.  There’s no place like home (for four months).  No place like Dubai!

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