When I accepted my offer to attend NYU New York, I was determined to take advantage of the university's global network. But when I decided to spend a semester abroad in Abu Dhabi, I received a lot of comments from confused friends. Why Abu Dhabi? You’re from India, the UAE is practically your backyard! Why would you choose the desert heat instead of NYU London or Florence?
Despite all the second-guessing and questions, it was the pursuit of knowledge about an intriguing part of the world that drove me to the UAE for a semester and has resulted in an incredible shift in perspective. During four months here, I've been fortunate enough to travel outside Abu Dhabi and Dubai to other parts of the UAE that are not so well known and discover the distinctiveness of each city and Emirate.
Al Ain is a large city hidden in the heart of the desert about an hour from NYU Abu Dhabi. Al Ain which translates to “The Spring” is a sprawling city with a mix of both quaint and local culture and developed infrastructure. We explored the city on foot and saw the Oasis, incredible museums, and hiked up Jabel Hafeet which had breathtaking views of the entire city. We also saw the date harvest and tasted fresh dates. The city zoo has some of the rarest animals on earth, including two majestic white tigers that were awake and alert during our visit. Another highlight was the camel market, which despite the unpleasant smell actually allows you to see camels at their finest!
Musandam is just beyond the UAE border in Oman and has stunning natural landscapes. We spent the day on a Dhow Cruise and hiked up a mountain to overlook a scenic valley that connects the gulf and land. The cruise itself was probably the most memorable experience of the semester because it was nice to relax, sunbathe, and forget about school work. We anchored the boat and dove into the cool water to swim and snorkel. This was a personal victory for me as I had never swum in open waters before and overcame my fear of deep water!
I spent one night in the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah and walked the family-friendly Corniche area. There is a larger Emirati population here than in Abu Dhabi or Dubai, which gives the place an authentic and local feel. We visited the Calligraphy Museum in Sharjah, learned about Islamic calligraphy, and got our names written on beautiful Arabic scripts. We also rode Sharjah's Etisalat Eye to take in spectacular views of the city, and could even see the Dubai skyline!