Everybody knows that books are the perfect companions for rainy days. Fortunately, on one of the recent drizzly weekends in Abu Dhabi, the NYUAD Arabic department gathered students to visit the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair. There, students wandered among teetering columns of novels, magazines, and religious texts as they learned more about the world of Arab and international literature.
After browsing through the fair, four NYUAD students gathered at a discussion forum called The Tent in order to host a formal panel about the benefits and obstacles of learning Arabic in Abu Dhabi. The Intermediate Arabic students — juniors Daria Karaulova and Lucas Hansen, sophomore Hidaya Ibrahim, and freshman Emlyn Van Eps — alongside NYUAD Director of Arabic Studies Muhamed Al Khalil, answered questions about their experiences as language students living in the capital. The students then went on to display their honed skills by performing poetry, excerpts from books, and songs. Hansen recited a passage from one of the Harry Potter novels in Arabic with incredible gusto, taking on different voices and personas for the myriad characters. And Van Eps recorded a song to play for the audience, in which she sang in Arabic and played the violin.
Following their presentations, the students fielded questions from the audience. They touched on what it was like to study in Abu Dhabi, connect with Emirati culture through the language, and then to return home to family and friends who express endless support and curiosity.
Van Eps, who was nominated by her teacher to be a panel member, said the experience was an enriching way to connect to and pave common ground for others who are also interested in the Arabic language. "The panel was scary but pretty fun," said Van Eps. "I enjoyed answering all the questions. The audience was mostly NYUAD students, but I think it was really valuable to share [my knowledge] with other students of Arabic."
NYUAD sophomore Mohit Mandal also attended the fair, but did so separately from the Arabic department. Studying Social Research and Public Policy alongside Literature, Mandal had entered a short story competition hosted by both The National and the fair. He was surprised and happy to discover he'd won fifth place.
"I thought of the contest as a fun outlet, never thinking I would actually place," said Mandal. "Though I'm glad I entered, because I'm starting to see how my two majors can actually play into each other in a fascinating way. Writing a story is a lot like conducting research — they both try to bring some order to this otherwise crazy world."
In addition to winning an iPod Nano, Mandal had his story, titled "The Puppet Master," featured in The National.
Taking place on an annual basis, the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair is said to boast around 500,000 titles. These titles, sourced from all over the world, are presented in stacks inside a white labyrinth of publishing stalls, winding in endless rows to form the exoskeleton of the fair. From companies from Egypt to Japan to Palestine, these publishing stalls offered books in an array of languages, with material ranging from editions of the Quran to pastel-colored children's books, providing plenty of selection for the students to pick out reading material for the rest of the rainy weekend.