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Arabian (Days &) Nights

By: Camey VanSant

By Izzie

After spending 3 months in Israel at the Bar Ilan Israel XP program, starting formal classes, traveling through Israel and meeting new friends, I had the opportunity to travel to the UAE and Oman. Even though it was just 3 hours by flight, from the minute I got off the plane, I felt like I had been transported into a different universe. Over 10 days, I visited Dubai, Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Oman.

The most striking part of Dubai was the juxtaposition of old and new. The first place I visited was the Burj Khalifa – one of the tallest buildings in the world.  It was an incredible way to see the modernization of Dubai. Dubai’s economy is driven by commercial real estate and tourism. In just 20 years, the city was transformed from desert to the most modern city, with some of the coolest architecture I have ever seen. The Museum of the Future and The Frame were incredible. We visited Palm Island and learned how the Island was created in the middle of the Arabian Sea. We also visited the Gold and Spice Souks – to better understand what Dubai looked like for centuries. I even got to practice my haggling with some of the shopkeepers.

On another morning, we traveled to the sand dunes in Sharjah – less than an hour drive from Dubai. Understanding the topography of the UAE emphasized to me the incredible development of Dubai in recent years.

One evening I went to Global Village – which reminded me of Disney’s Epcot – but I was able to “visit” countries that I have never been to – such as Iran, Yemen, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, India, Pakistan, Korea, and Japan. In one night, I tasted honey from Yemen, mochi from Japan and rose water from Iran. While only getting a “taste” of many of these places, it further reinforced my wanderlust. There is so much to see and learn.

While in Abu Dhabi, the financial capital of the UAE, I visited the Grand Mosque and the Presidential palace. Both were overwhelming in size and beauty. I have never been anywhere like it. On another day I got to visit Ferrari World, race in go carts and get a behind the scenes tour of the Formula 1 race track. I even got to drive a Camaro in a drag race.

Then I traveled to Oman.  It was truly fascinating to be in a country (technically one of two sultanates in the world) that was untouched by colonial influences – due to its vast desert and mountain range. We visited the opera house and mosque in Muscat and stayed in a converted palace.

One day I hiked Wadi Shab – a 1.5 hour drive from Muscat and swam in a sinkhole.

But perhaps the most lasting feeling I had from this trip was recognizing how many more cultures I want to learn about and places around the world I want to visit. Sitting in the airport in Dubai, waiting for my flight to Muscat, and seeing the departure board, I was struck by how many places I have never been. Dubai was truly a gateway to so many other parts of the world that are now added to my bucket list.

Categories: Izzie