A Grand View: Highlights of Dubai

Northshore Technical Community College and CIEE brought me and a small group of fellow students to the United Arab Emirates for an engineering exchange program. These two weeks were amazing. From eating traditional dinners, to riding in trucks across the desert, and going sailing in the Gulf of Oman, everything we did on the trip was truly amazing and eye-opening. We learned about and accepted a culture and religion that is normally portrayed in a negative way in Western news outlets, and got to experience firsthand what the religion really means. Dubai is a great city with hundreds, if not thousands, of cultures to immerse yourself in. I know everyone who was invited on the trip was extremely excited to go visit Dubai because of all the luxury and wealth they have over there, but in the end, we all came home with lifelong experience and knowledge of other countries’ cultures and religions. This great city left a permanent mark on us that will last a lifetime.

 

On our first full day, we went to the Sheik Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding and had a traditional breakfast and listened to locals explain their culture and way of life. This was the most eye-opening experience for most of the group because it broke down so many stereotypes that we see on the news today.
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The Dubai Museum is located in the Al Fahidi Fort, the oldest building in Dubai. The house on the right is a traditional summer home used by people many years ago. The little box on the roof of the house is a type of air-conditioner that uses the wind’s downward force to cool the house, which worked surprisingly well.

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After a long first day in Dubai, I snapped this picture on the way home. It shows the entire skyline of this great city. No one knew what was in store for us, but we were all looking forward to what this city could teach us.
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The Dubai Mall was one of our favorite places to spend our free time. We would often go grab a bite to eat for lunch or catch all the year-end sales in the shops. We made the journey to the mall at least 5 times during our trip and we didn’t even seen half of the over 1200 stores. That leaves plenty more to do if we get the chance to go back.
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Our first up-close view of the Burj Khalifa, as we exited the Dubai Mall. It’s the tallest building in the world, and we were blown away. No words or pictures can do justice to the sheer size of this building; it’s just one of those things you have to see with your own eyes to get the full impact.
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Just a day before we arrived, the Address Hotel Dubai seemed to be the center of the
world’s attention as it lit up in flames on New Year’s Eve — you could even smell the smoke in the air. It was pretty cool to be standing at the spot that everyone in the world was watching as the fireworks went off on the Burj Khalifa, and right next door a high rise building was completely engulfed in flames.
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Dune bashing was the highlight of the trip for most of us. We all had a blast and most of us were convinced a couple times that we were about to roll over down the dunes. During our night in the desert, we enjoyed things such as sand-boarding, riding camels, and eating a traditional meal followed by a performance of traditional dances.
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Taking a pit stop while we were dune bashing in the desert, it was cool to get out and see the vast desert sand dunes.  Most of us had never seen anything like it before.
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The Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi is a beautiful place built from marble and semi-precious stones, and all the minarets are capped with gold symbols. The founder of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, is also buried on the grounds of the mosque.
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One of the world’s largest chandeliers hangs just inside the main doors of the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, weighing in at around 12 tons of crystal. It hangs over the world’s largest handmade rug, with roughly 2.2 billion knots.
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A view from below, into another chandelier inside the Sheikh Zayed Mosque. It is a smaller copy of the larger one, and the only one visitors are allowed to walk under.
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On our boat trip into the Gulf of Oman, we stopped in a small, secluded cove on the shoreline. The water was crystal clear and there was plenty to see while snorkeling. This was a big highlight of the trip.
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When you Google “Dubai,” one of the top results is Palm Jumeirah and Atlantis resort.  To actually see it was amazing.
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It would be hard to choose my favorite moment of the whole trip, but there was one excursion that was truly “the pinnacle,” our visit to Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world.  The view of Dubai from the top was breathtaking.
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Dubai was a lot bigger than we all had expected, and we learned a lot more than we had hoped. It’s a beautiful city filled with great people and a great culture, and everyone in the group was glad and grateful for the opportunity to go there and experience it ourselves.

Story and photos by Anderson Russell.

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