Saturday 16 March, 2014

“Today” we arrived at the airport at 7:30 am. I say “today” because it has actually been quite a struggle keeping track of the days (since we left technically on Friday morning, but I woke up at 4:30 that “morning,” which to a college student still kind of feels like Thursday evening).  

Anyways, we were greeted at the airport by many of the Dubai HCAP delegates – Wael, Jalal, Sara and Nada. It was so great to see them again! They had come to get us from the airport us in an AUD (American University of Dubai) bus, and that bus took us to our hotel.

We’re staying at a Holiday Inn Express, and I’m in room with Brenna – a junior in Mather who, like me, is very tall and constantly hungry! We actually designated our room to be the “brunch room” for today and the two of us just started eating our (amazing) “brunch” as soon as it arrived.  The food was called Zaatar with Zeit and it was delicious – like a grilled cheese sandwich in a thick pita wrap.  

After brunch, I was able to shower and it was glorious after that long travel day! Then I headed down to the hotel lobby and had some time to kill with Nada and Chiragh. Nada French-braided my hair (something that she greatly enjoyed doing and I equally enjoyed receiving during the January conference!) I informed her that I literally scheduled my haircut around her/this conference – I decided to get my haircut in early February instead of March so that it could start growing back again so she could braid it during this conference! We then rounded up the other Harvard delegates and headed over to the Mall of the Emirates. 

One of the interesting things about this trip is comparing and contrasting the different environments that we (students from Harvard and AUD) come from. Most of the Dubai HCAP students live at home and commute to school, meaning they have cars (and, since it’s a Saturday, they generously offered to drive us around today!) Of course having a car would be a nightmare in Cambridge, and it’s often interesting to remember that not everyone lives in the housing system that Harvard has!

The Mall of the Emirates, like many things in Dubai, is literally out of this world. What would you do if you lived in Dubai, a lovely warm place, but desperately wanted to go skiing? Turns out you would head straight to this mall! That’s right, there is legitimately a full indoor ski slope in this mall, complete with snow, A CHAIR LIFT, and live penguins! We had a quick lunch in the food court, and then were off to other adventures. 

Next up was the Madinat Jumeirah, a lovely souq (open-air market). This place was beyond beautiful. There are so many places in Dubai that I could describe as “awesome” or “beautiful” and this was no exception! We wandered around here for about an hour and then headed to the beach!

The beach was like no beach I’ve ever seen before. Sure, it had sand and small (somewhat bay-like waves) but the real contrast to all the other beaches was a) the camels just walking along the shore and b) what was behind it. When you stand with your back to the water, you can see the incredibly high (and modern) Dubai skyline. The beaches on the coast of Long Island and even the ones in Cape Town did not have this feature, and it was odd being so close to such HUGE buildings!  

Some of the other delegates wandered off towards the shops near the beach, but Katini (one of the other Harvard delegates) and I were exhausted so we ended up just napping on the beach! When we woke up, we had a nice long chat about our different life experiences, long-term goals and other random topics (like the current state of the US education system!) It was really nice to just talk with her, without the pressure of the midterms and other stressors that seem to be omnipresent at Harvard. We then headed off to dinner.

While sitting at our lovely outdoor restaurant, we heard music playing in the distance and the Dubai skyline was right in front of us – it was truly amazing for all senses! Instead of bread and butter, we were served pita and hummus and it was so delicious. However, about halfway through the meal, we all started getting really chilly. We were soon well taken care of, though, because out came the waiters with thick cape-like garments for us all to wear! They were super-heavy, but we welcomed the warmth!

After a lovely dinner, the HCAP Dubai students drove us back to our hotel and we pretty much went right to sleep!

TGT: 1) Much-needed nap at the beach (and then talking with Katini). 2) Delicious outside dinner 3) Getting my hair braided by Nada

Until next time,
~JK 

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