This past weekend, 18 NYUAD students got a taste of local culture by staying with Emirati host families in Ajman, Sharjah, and Dubai, where they participated in a range of cultural activities such as shopping for local dress and taking a trip into the desert. Theo Patrick Ntawiheba, NYUAD Class of 2016, explains what he learned from the experience.
Why did you decide to participate in this experience?
I have always been interested in experiencing the Emirati culture. I find it very interesting and amazing how Emiratis remain true to their culture and traditions despite the presence of a very large international community in the UAE. I had so many questions about their culture, religion, and mostly how they distinguish between what is cultural and what is religious. These were a few of the many things I had always wanted to ask and I realized that the home-stay program was the best way of discovering the answers. Luckily, I was not disappointed
What kind of activities did you participate in over the weekend?
I find it so hard trying to describe all that we did with my host family. When we arrived we were taken to one of the charities in Ajman that cares for elderly people. As we visited some of these elderly folks, I felt the sense of community, not just because of this interaction but also because of how welcoming both the staff members of the center and our host families were. From there we went to the homes of our respective host families. I had the privilege of staying at the home of His Highness Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Ali al Nuaimi, who is also known as “The Green Sheikh.” Right from the moment that we arrived, he made me and the three other boys who were staying at his house feel at home. He introduced us to his lovely family and we immediately bonded. We played some ping pong, explored his house, and got to know more about his family. In the evening, we volunteered at the Al Ihsan Charity Centre. At his home that evening, we had dinner with his family played more games and got to know each other as we each shared our stories and backgrounds. One of the best moments for me was when we went to pray in the mosque the following morning. I had never prayed in a mosque before therefore I was very nervous. However, it turned out to be one the most serene moments in my life. Even though I did not know how to pray in Arabic or recite the Quran, I used that moment to reflect on how great of an experience I was having. We later went to have coffee in Sharjah and had a deeper conversation with our host. Here we discussed things from religion, culture, environment, and our roles as global citizens.
How would you describe your host family?
Caring, down-to-earth, and amazing are just but a few words that I would use to describe my host family. Right from the moment we stepped at his house, Sheikh Abdul Aziz made us feel at home. He constantly referred to us as his sons. We had a wonderful time with his three sons, Omar, Nasser, and Humaid. There was a sense of brotherhood among us and we totally felt at home.
What was one thing you learned about the local culture?
I learned that Emirati households are very caring and open to everyone, especially if you respect their culture and traditions.