Summer in Washington, DC consists of hot, humid days and not cool enough nights — but more than enough art to inspire and enlighten the mind. As a native of London, where summer typically lasts about a day, I was more than happy to pass the time in the air conditioned interior of the Smithsonian Museum of African Art as a curatorial intern working on an exhibition centered on Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy. Still, the sun, the heat, the humidity, and the abundance of pristine fountains sparked a certain nostalgia for Abu Dhabi.
Fortunately, the UAE Embassy in DC extended an invitation to those NYU Abu Dhabi students spending the summer in the US capitol and, at the end of June, I joined four fellow students, as well as Director Michael Ulrich and Assistant Director Tom McIntyre of the NYU Washington, DC Center, on a visit to the UAE Embassy.
The embassy sat at the end of a cul-de-sac, nestling comfortably in the midst of other embassies. Yet, there was something quite special about it — the severe gray façade of the building was studded with gleaming green-blue windows and patterned with architectonic elements reminiscent of the mashrabiya designs that are ubiquitous in Abu Dhabi. It seemed as if the embassy had been transported intact from Abu Dhabi and as we stepped into the cool, marbled interior, I truly felt like I was back in the Emirates.
We were greeted enthusiastically by a host of embassy staff who introduced themselves and then sat down with us to a late breakfast. Each staff member worked in an integral role, either as cultural ambassadors, lobbyists, or trade negotiators — all desiring to promote UAE interests in the United States. I was interested to hear about the many philanthropic activities of the UAE government, such as providing aid to weather-devastated communities in the US and in building parks in local, impoverished neighborhoods.
Talal Al Kaissi, chief of staff and advisor to the UAE Embassy commercial counselor in Washington, DC, kindly answered several questions about the economic growth of the UAE, the importance of the UAE's location, the country's approach to training and employing Emirati citizens, and the significance of the UAE as a political mediator.
The welcoming and generous approach of the embassy in opening its doors to NYUAD students reflects the welcoming and generous attitude of the UAE in inviting many diverse people to contribute to the country's development. NYUAD is one such contribution, one that reflects the rise of the UAE not only as a regional power, but also as a prominent country on an ever-shrinking global stage.