Year 1: Summer Term Week 3

Hello all,

Life is good, although the next week or so is going to be crazy preparing for exams, packing, finishing up classes, etc. I got my student visa for China this week from the embassy, so that's exciting.

I had a few interesting adventures this week. One of these was getting to go to the public Iftar (sunset meal) at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. NYUAD took a bus full of students there, so I was with a group of my classmates. Every evening during Ramadan, The Grand Mosque provides free fast-breaking meals for thousands of worshippers, and anyone can come take part. The women went to one side and the men went to the other side, and we were shepherded into giant air-conditioned tents where boxes of food were arranged in rows on the floor. We claimed a box, waited there until the call to prayer that signals the end of fasting, and then ate our box meals of chicken, rice, dates, and vegetables while sitting on the floor alongside hundreds of other women and children.

Look closely behind the palm trees, you can see hundreds of people gathered

Afterward, we went inside the mosque. It is such an intricate and beautiful building, so there's plenty to look at when you have time to sit and think. Since some of my friends went to go pray, I came with them and sat toward the back of the prayer room and watched. The first time I came to the Grand Mosque, I was blown away by the extravagance of the gold and marble structures, but now I stop and look for the details and notice new things every time. Every room has stunning chandeliers, geometric patterns on the walls, ceilings, and carpets, and Arabic calligraphy.

In one of the rooms

Remember the World's Largest Book I mentioned a few weeks ago? I was back at Al Wahda Mall for a bit and got a few things from Lulu's Hypermarket (the U.A.E. equivalent of WalMart) , so I took a picture of the giant book. Gotta love the U.A.E.'s tendency to pride itself on arbitrary world records.

One of the foods I'm definitely going to miss when I'm away from the U.A.E. is shawarma. The meat is roasted on an enormous spit, and then sliced with a knife and eaten in a wrap or sometimes served on a plate with hummus.

You know a restaurant has good shawarma when these are out front

Some miscellaneous photos from city wandering:

City lights for Ramadan

These stunning desert sunsets...

After church this week, a few families headed to the desert for a campfire dinner, sandboarding on the dunes, etc. and they invited me to come along. Being in the desert in the middle of the sand dunes is so peaceful. We also found some camel herders living in the desert, and they didn't mind us coming up to see their camels.

The tents where the camel farmers stay

After the sun goes down in the desert everything gets so quiet, so many stars are visible and you feel millions of miles away from the city. You feel like you could walk forever through the sand and never come back. Sand can have texture, just like snow - sometimes your feet sink into a soft patch, sometimes there are places where the sand is packed firmly and it breaks off sharply underfoot. Sometimes the surface of the sand forms maze-like ripples, and in other places it's smooth and pristine. My favorite thing is to walk along the crests of sand dunes, letting my feet break that perfect edge of sand sculpted by the wind.

Campfire stories

Also Happy Father's Day tomorrow to my wonderful dad. He is my ultimate example of work ethic, faith, and strength and embodies everything a father should be and more. He taught me to appreciate everything I have, to work hard toward my goals, and to have the courage to explore the world. His hobbies include things like running marathons as a guide for visually impaired athletes, making homemade honey from our backyard beehives, and taking the family on countless outdoor adventures- whitewater rafting, hiking, kayaking, swimming, bike rides, etc. For the record, he also went skydiving with me last summer and was the first to jump from the plane. His support means the world to me.

My favorite childhood photo!

Anyway, hope you all have a great week! Sending my love to all!

Goodnight from Saadiyat Island,


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