Wednesday, September 12, 2012

United States of Arabia

Burj Khalifa - the world's tallest building
When AUD students ask how we Americans are adjusting to life in Dubai, they are always surprised when we tell them that it is really not that different from the US.  In fact, I would say that Dubai feels very much like being in Las Vegas.  Well, other than hearing the call to prayer over the mall's loudspeakers.  And of course there are a ton of men in kandoras and women in veils.  Well, and alcohol is only allowed in hotel bars.  Oh, and nobody here speaks English as their first language.  And of course there are the workers who clean our dorm rooms every week for us.  Okay, so maybe it's a bit different than life in the US, but it's certainly not the culture shock I expected moving to a country on the Persian Gulf!

An evening in Dubai.
The past week has been a whirlwind of activity - starting with last weekend.  Since this is a Muslim country, our week is Sunday through Thursday with our weekends being Friday and Saturday, something that definitely took some adjustment.  On Thursday night, some friends and I decided to do a bit of exploring and head to the world's largest shopping mall, conveniently located right next to the world's largest building.  We took some obnoxiously touristy pictures in front of the Burj Khalifa before heading to the mall.  I really underestimated what it would be like to be in the world's largest mall, and it probably goes without saying, but this place was MASSIVE!!  We spent four hours walking around the different souqs and shops and never doubled back on ourselves.  There was an aquarium, countless fountains, an ice skating rink (still blowing my mind that it's in the desert), and tons of fantastic restaurants.  We finally stopped at a Lebanese place to eat some dinner before we collapsed.  Out the window, we had a fantastic view of the Burj Khalifa fountains which are very much like the Fountains at Bellagio in Las Vegas.  Every half hour, there was a water, lights, and music show with the Burj Khalifa and a souq in the background.  It was a really fun evening!

Chillin' at JBR
On Friday, it was time to go to this beach that everyone kept talking about.  We took off for Jumeirah Beach Residence public beach, right at the base of the Palm Jumeirah.  I am going to get way spoiled with such a nice beach only a $3 cab ride from my dorm room.  The water was so clear that we could see our feet no problem, and there was hardly any wildlife near the beach, though I did get stung by a small jellyfish twice.  We ate a late lunch at a beach-side cafe before heading back to campus to escape the heat.  Later that afternoon, we met up again to go to the largest IMAX in the Middle East and Asia to see the latest Batman, which was just released in the UAE.  It was a strange trip, and I seriously thought I was being abducted.  The taxi driver left the main strip of the city and started driving into the desert.  I was pretty sure that he was taking us right into the heart of the Saudi Arabian desert, but fortunately, like a mirage in the distance, a huge structure appeared in the middle of the desert, just outside the last buildings of Dubai.  At a random camel race track, there was the giant IMAX.  I think that the trip out there was better than the movie itself.  That evening, all of the study abroad students ended up heading to our favorite local standard, conveniently located just behind the dorm, to hang out before calling it a night.

Dubai Mall keeping it classy with
some first class fountains
Though it had been a really fun weekend, I couldn't help but dread the coming week of classes.  Since I'm only taking 12 hours here, I get really bored in the afternoons and decided that I needed something to occupy my time since the homework load is incredibly small.  So, I decided to look for an internship and found a few through the career services office and by word of mouth through some of my friends.  I have a couple options, but for now only one carries a story to share.  I got called into an interview for a research intern position at a company on the other side of town and went to meet them yesterday.  After class, I suited up and took the Metro to the office.  I probably should have at least read an article about doing business in the Middle East before diving right into it, but that just wouldn't be near as exciting.  The interview lasted an hour and forty-five minutes and included intense questioning by the four people who work in the office.  It actually wasn't that different than an American interview; I just met with each of the office staff.  The office manager is British and absolutely hilarious.  He looked at my resume and noticed that I had spent the summer in Korea and spoke some basic Korean.  He pointed to me and said, "Give it a go!"  So, I commenced to give him a rundown of my daily schedule in Korean.  I was glad that I could remember some Korean language, because at the end, he told me that he had lived in Seoul for a decade and knew some basic Korean.  Regardless of whether or not I actually get the internship, it was quite an entertaining afternoon.

The midweek pick-me-up
 When I got back to campus, it was time to celebrate a good interview, and let's be real - it's college.  Do we really need an excuse to celebrate??  Fortunately, there were quite a few people who also needed a mid-week pick-me-up.  We went back to JBR's strip of fun restaurants to chill at a couple beach-side hangouts for a few hours, watching the string of ridiculously expensive cars parade down the beach-front road.  At least there are a few affordable restaurants there!  It was a really fun evening, but waking up for class the next morning was quite painful.  Fortunately, I had plenty of time for a three-hour afternoon nap after class!  Even though living in Dubai sometimes feels like living in the United States of Arabia, the people here are some of the most interesting I have ever met, and the experiences never disappoint.  It hasn't even been two weeks since I arrived, and so much has happened.  There is no telling what the next three and a half months have in store.


  1. Great update! I'm excited to see where your travels in the UAE take you next!

  2. Thanks Kindred! Glad you're enjoying the blog!