Year 1: Winter Break Week 1

Hello all,

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!

I survived my first semester of college! I'm pretty happy about that. I've learned so much, experienced so much, and met so many incredible people from all over the world even through the ups and downs of college life. Also, my family is here in Abu Dhabi to spend the winter break visiting me, which is awesome. It has been so fun to make memories together and show them around a bit, doing all of the touristy things again while having them experience it for the first time. I think we have done a pretty good job of seeing as much of Abu Dhabi in as little time as possible!

I'm loving the Christmas decorations around the city.

After finishing finals, my friends and I went to Mushrif Park to celebrate. They have a fast food truck called Salt out front, so we stopped there for lunch. One Middle Eastern drink that I really like is lemonade with mint leaves stirred in. Photo credits go to my friend who edited this photo; I wish I could make photos look this awesome:

Yes, the guys are holding a giant plastic cheeto. Don't question it
Not sure why this mint lemonade was coloured green, but it was good
Friends! I will miss these wonderful people during the winter break!

The park is so pretty and so peaceful! It's a nice place to go when I start missing greenery, and a fun place to randomly wander around and talk. There's a tower in the middle, and the view of the park from the top is quite nice.

My family arrived that night, and I got to go meet them at the airport. My younger brother is even taller than when I left, but everything else is as if we've never been apart. Love them even though they drive me crazy sometimes :)

Since it was their first time in the U.A.E. (and my mom and brother's first time outside the U.S.), we had to take them to the desert. We went to a camp pretty similar to the one from Candidate Weekend. It's definitely touristy, but it's a fun way to get in all of the unique U.A.E. sort of things, like camel rides, falconry, sand boarding, dune bashing (riding a jeep/SUV through the sand dunes), henna art, trying on traditional clothes, eating Middle Eastern food, etc.

Falconry show

Henna art

Dune bashing

I'm cringing at how touristy this photo is, but if we're going to be touristy, I guess we might as well go all the way. Hopefully appreciating the culture, not appropriating the culture. Traditional clothing and such, featuring His Highness Sheikh Khalifa. 

My brother rocking the kandura

Camel rides (again)
My mom and I spent some time relaxing under the palm trees

One of the most stereotypically "U.A.E." things here is Ferrari World. It's essentially what it sounds like, an entire theme park based on Ferraris. It's completely indoors and air-conditioned, except for the roller coasters, which start indoors but have tracks going outside. As if to carry the stereotypes even further, it's attached to a huge shopping mall. And for Christmas, it's full of artificial snow and even a fake sledding hill for the kids. It's full of rides, driving simulators, Ferraris on display, and shops. It was my first time going, and it was really enjoyable!

I'm not very interested in cars, but these were pretty sweet.

Mini Ferrari go karts... also the only time my brother has driven me anywhere

Ferrari World contains the world's fastest roller coaster, Formula Rossa, which goes 240 km/hr (150 mph). I got to ride it with my dad and brother.

Actually though, the other big roller coaster in the park is (in my opinion) even better. It has the world's steepest cable lift for a roller coaster (51 degree incline), and the world's biggest loop on a roller coaster (52 meters). I didn't get a picture of it because, the way the park is set up, you actually can't see the track beforehand. You board the roller coaster inside a closed room, then the doors open to show the initial ascent almost straight up, and the rest is sheer g-force-laden awesomeness. I rode it twice.

I also took my family to dinner in the city and to Central Souk/walking along the Corniche.


Decorative pitchers
Carpets, carpets, more carpets

The weather was perfect for a trip to the beach, so we did that as well. I still can't get over the fact that it's Christmastime and the weather is so nice. Summer seems to last all year long.

Also, I showed them around the Grand Mosque. I've posted pictures of it before, but this building never ceases to amaze and inspire me.

Today we spent the day at Yas Waterworld! It's a pretty big waterpark with a lot to do. Luckily, we got there early enough that there weren't any lines and we were able to ride pretty much all the rides in the park.

I feel so blessed to be able to have this time bonding with my family. Even with all the fun adventures, the best part is just getting to relax and talk with my family, play games, pray together, make shared memories, laugh at the dumb inside jokes that we have, and just be in the moment with them. Christmas is one of my favorite times of year, to focus on the things that matter most and remember the birth of Jesus Christ, the greatest gift to the world.

If you've never listened to Handel's Messiah before, you should. It always gets me in the Christmas spirit.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night from Saadiyat Island!