But this was a deeply welcome culture shock. Everything was so unknown, so exotic. And best of all, it wouldn't completely stay that way because I had two amazing tour guides, Izzy and Steve, whose wedding I attended in England in June. How did I luck out this much? (By the way, you should have friends that live in other places- they keep you moving!)
So the adventure really began in Abu Dhabi where we visited the Grand Mosque, the third largest mosque in the world, at sunset. A mosque is the Islamic equivalent to a church (kind of) and the Grand Mosque is beautiful in this dramatic, sweeping way. Especially to a foreign eye, this beauty is unlike anything you've seen before, so it takes a while to absorb what you're seeing. I was drinking it in, in a sort of dazed way. As though if I looked hard enough I would see it for a painting. But, no, this amazing and beautiful place is very real.
After this adrenaline inducing ride, and a lot of picture taking, we were brought to a mock Bedouin camp, where we had a traditional meal (with traditional coca cola!) and watched some local entertainment. My favorite part of the evening, however, was that I got to hold a falcon! I had no prior interest in holding a falcon. It is far from having ever been on my bucket list. It's a bird. But it just was somehow one of the coolest things I've done. Maybe because they're so dangerous? Or so unusual? Anyway, they're really beautiful and shockingly heavy! I wasn't prepared for that and as it stepped onto my forearm, I nearly dropped it!
Somehow, the day, and my trip, ended with a dinner in a palace. There really are no words to properly explain that. I had dinner in a palace which doubled as a restaurant and hotel. That is the UAE. There are men on the side of the road trying to get work and they end up building the palaces that people have dinner in. Malls dedicated to couture and souks (markets) for everyone else. And this is just what I saw in three days. Imagine how much more is out there, how much more there is to see... I cannot overemphasize how much I recommend you travel to a place you don't understand. This was the most amazing trip!
The last thing I want to say is a big thank you to the lovely couple that showed me an incredible place! I couldn't have had a better way to end 14 months abroad. Thank you SO much!