How To Non-Awkwardly Greet People From Different Countries

How To Non-Awkwardly Greet People From Different Countries
Awkward European Kisses_Lizzy of Arabia
Greeting people can be just SO awkward

For all my friends, family and readers who have been the victims or the unwitting aggressors (I think I have been both) of the awkward foreign-kiss-kiss-on-the-cheek-thing with new friends from other places, the link below is for you. Even if you have just wondered at times if you are doing it right or horribly wrong, read on about how to non-awkwardly greet people from different countries. I offer this for a few reasons:

  1. It can be SO awkward when you get it wrong. I cannot tell you how many times someone has gone in for that extra one as I was centering to pull away and, well, you-know-what happens.
  2. It is so distinctly un-american to greet each other like this. We are just inherently not touchy-feely people. 
  3. Speaking here as an American, I suggest that we need our own style of kiss. All right, it can be “theirs.” We don’t really have to think of our own. It has never stopped us before. Just take it! We can just co-opt their style, call it something else and say it’s “American.” After all we take everybody’s everything else, change the name, make it SO MUCH BETTER (in our eyes) and then proclaim ourselves the very best at it, right?! That’s just what we do. You needn’t look any further than the realm of sports to find the most blatant examples of this: Baseball (World Series against ourselves?), Football and Basketball–games no one else in the world plays or cares about. Let’s do it with the embrace! What should be our unique, best-in-the-world American style of embrace? 

Before I go trying to change the landscape of the embrace as we know it, let’s try to get down what other countries do first, all right? So, read on… How To Non-Awkwardly Greet People From Different Countries.

UAE A-Z

UAE A-Z

UAE A-Z_desertAs promised, here is the briefly anticipated N-Z of the A-Z of influential people, amazing places, essential things of importance and oddities in the UAE. These selections represent my opinions alone. Please let me know what you think about my choices in the comment section. Let me know if there are places I missed. Do follow the links in each letter’s bolded title for links, pictures and further information: 

Sheikh Zayed_UAE A-Z
The Beloved Sheikh Zayed

N. The House of Nahayan The house of Nahayan has ruled the emirate of Abu Dhabi since 1793. The erstwhile Sheikh of Abu Dhabi, Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, was the principal driving force behind the formation of the United Arab Emirates. His wisdom, foresight and inspired leadership have made him a beloved leader. You can see his face all over town and just about every road is named for him—this can get very confusing. I have also heard that ruler of Dubai, the Sheikh’s relative, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, is very accessible and approachable. I have been told that all Dubai-dwellers have access to his direct phone number and they can call him anytime. He also drives around town on his own talking to everyone and checking his amazing city out personally. He is a very hands’ on leader.

Thar she blows!_UAE A-ZO. Oil. Almost everything in this list is brought to you by yes, you guessed it, OIL! Oil was discovered in the UAE in 1966. Not coincidentally, this country was forged a mere 6 years’ later. If you are interested in the History of Oil in the UAE, here’s a brief timeline. Oil: Americans, thank God (or who/whatever you believe in), you have the stuff to get around in your big ol’ trucks and live in your super-sized houses. Emirates, thank Allah you have the stuff to build all this cool stuff and live in your big ol’ villas. Truth.

Emirates' Palace Front_UAE A-Z
Emirates’ Palace front view

P. Palaces (Emirates)  / Palms (Jumeriah) & (Atlantis) The UAE is home to some pretty fabulous palaces. The Emirates’ Palace, I am told, was originally built for the Sheikh, but apparently is was just not, well, palatial enough for the big man, and it is now a Kempinski Hotel.* This means anyone can drop in for a 24K gold cappuccino, but you have to fork out over 1K a night for a room. Next door, the Sheikh’s family is building their own sprawling, luxurious palace on the sea.

Dubai is home to two man-made series of islands called the Palm Jumeriah and the Palm Jebel Ali. On the Palm Jumeriah, you will find the luxurious Palm Atlantis hotel and many residences on the fronds of the palm. Gorgeous sea views abound.

Qasr Al Sarab_UAE A-Z
Relaxation in the Desert.

Q. Qasr Al Sabr Hotel I have not been to this resort hotel yet. I have heard It is wonderful and so bloody expensive. It’s on my list. Apparently, it’s a UAE must do. This luxurious desert hotel offers every amenity under the sun, but apparently replicates the feeling of being a desert traveller long ago. From the hotel’s website: “By fusing Bedouin culture with modern and refined luxury; guests simply relax and naturally open themselves to the silent power of the desert.” That sounds nice.

Rub' Al Khali Desert Dunes_UAE A-Z
Rub’ Al Khali Magnificent Desert Dunes

R. Rub’ Al Khali desert (Empty Quarter) / Ramadan “Taking up a fifth of the Arabian Peninsula, the Rub al Khali (literally, “quarter of emptiness”), or the Sands for short, is the world’s largest sand sea. At more than 225,000 square miles (583,000 square kilometers), it takes in substantial portions of Saudi Arabia, as well as parts of Oman, Yemen, and the United Arab Emirates to create an arid wilderness larger than France. It holds roughly half as much sand as the Sahara, which is 15 times the Empty Quarter’s size but composed mostly of graveled plains and rocky outcrops.” —National Geographic

Ramadan is the holiest month in Islam. Devout Muslims fast from sun up, until sun down. I cannot imagine the depths of piety that it must take for people to perform this ritual for a month in temperatures nearing 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Lots of expats skip town for Ramadan because it can be very oppressive for people of other faiths. Restaurants usually close between those hours and only open at night for Iftar. Pregnant women and children 12 and under do not have to take part in the fasting. 

S. Desert Safari / Ski Dubai 

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Camels in Desert_UAE A-Z
Camels by Sunset

That’s what the desert safari is all about, right? And, the Desert Safari is another UAE must do! On a desert safari, one can sleep under a full swathe of bright stars and wake up to a rosy dawn. Pristine night skies are an endangered habitat. It is very hard to find a location with no light pollution from the ever-expanding cities and suburbs. This is NOT the case in the UAE where you simply drive about 20 minutes into the desert to get an unobstructed, panoramic view of the night sky. Most desert safaris depart the cities in the afternoon traveling across the desert. There are usually several photo-stops during the dune drive. Most tours stop at a camel farm. The drive across the desert ends with a breath-taking sunset. Upon reaching the campsite, guests enjoy a barbecue dinner and shisha (the famous Arabic water pipe). Guests then watch belly dancers performing around the campfire by starlight. Before returning to the city, guests have the opportunity to ride a camel (which I highly recommend), sand board and try out a henna design. There are a great many companies who provide these tours. Here is a list of options.

Ski Dubai_UAE A-Z
The Finest Ski Conditions Ever…Inside...

Ski Dubai Where else in the world can you ski indoors? Ski Dubai is the only indoor ski area of which I am aware. It attempts to replicate the entire ski experience from snow play to gondola to après-ski with somewhat mixed results, I hear. I have not yet been. I plan to go this winter, but it’s pricey and, well, it’s skiing inside, but I suppose it’s nice to have nearby and to say you once did…maybe?!

T. Tilal Liwa Hotel If you want to have a true Arabian experience, this is your hotel. We are going in a few weeks, so you can expect a full report toute de suite! Aside from being a luxury hotel full of wonderful amenities like a 5 star spa and sauna, the Tilal Liwa boasts many outdoor adventures as well. There is dune-bashing, sand-boarding on the dunes, camel rides, desert star-gazing on the dunes and an Arabian BBQ buffet to boot.

Burj Al Arab_UAE A-Z
My girls and I at Umm Sequim Beach. Burj Al Arab in the Background.

U. Umm Sequim Beach / Umm Al Quaimm (Dubai) Umm Sequim Beach is Dubai’s answer to Abu Dhabi’s Corniche, or they might say it’s the other way around. Either way, you cannot beat the views at Umm Sequim where the Burj Al Arab, the only 7 star hotel in the world, looms weightily above you. The beach is lovely. It’s also free. There is usually a volleyball game being played, and it is frequented by many local families. 

Umm Al Quwain is a beach town about an hour north of Dubai. There is an aquarium, camel–racing and horseback-riding, kayaking, sailing and wind-surfing. 

Visa Run_UAE A-ZV. Visa Run (aka Border Run). Ah, the visa run. This happens to some expat workers whose visas are delayed. I confess this never happened to me, though I was close. Upon entry, many western workers automatically get 30 days stamped into their passports. Because the machinations of bureaucracy churn slowly, sometimes, 30 days is not enough. In this unfortunate situation, the expat has no choice but to do a Visa Run. Basically, you drive over to Oman to get another 30 days of entry into the UAE. You can choose between several entry points and several drives to perform the run: fast, scenic, et al. I know some people who have done so many, they have seen all possible roads into Oman.

Wadi_Adventure_UAE A-Z
Husband hanging ten in the desert.

W. Wadi Adventure. Wadi Adventure in Al Ain is an extreme sports’ park, which is home of the biggest man made wave in the world (maybe the only?). There is Wild Wadi in Dubai, I am just going to focus on Wadi Adventure because there are more waterparks in the UAE than there are native people, I think. Just kidding. We have visited Wadi Adventure numerous times, and it is great fun for those who like adventure/extreme sports such as surfing, kayaking, white water rafting,  et al. It is usually not crowded, but you do have to book in advance to do many of the activities. Please enquire before you go, so you do not get disappointed.

24K Gold Vending Machine_UAE A-Z.jpg
The Vending Machine You Did Not Know You Needed.

X. Extreme, Extravagance, Excess / DXB The UAE’s unofficial motto is bigger, better, faster and, let’s not forget, more. From the tallest building in the world: the Burj Khalifa, to the 24K gold vending machines to man made island formations in the shape of, well, the world, the UAE has it all. Which, of course, segues brilliantly to Dubai, the city of superlatives. 

DXB is the airport code for Dubai, so let’s talk about Dubai. Why not? Everyone else is. The UAE is aware that oil reserves are diminishing, as will the west’s dependence on oil as the price skyrockets. So, they have decided to make Dubai a tourism mecca, and Mecca it is! I have blogged about how shopping here takes on an almost religious devotion. The malls are shrines of grandeur; temples to over-consumption. They are also everywhere! Dubai is shopping’s holiest city, by far. 

Yas Beach UAE A-Z
Yas Beach.

Y. Yas Island I blog about my beloved Yas Island a lot. It is right across the water from my home, and every night and day I get to marvel at it’s beauty. We stayed there when we first got here because it was near to everything for us: husband’s job, kids’ school, et al. It is home to Yas Beach (my mothership), Yas Waterworld (My kids’ mothership), the “opening soon” Yas mall, See top-notch entertainers at the Du Arena, play a round of golf at Yas Links, the Yas Marina Circuit, Yas Viceroy Hotel and Marina, boasts a million great restaurants and some gorgeous views. Here is a fun list of Yas Island Top 10 Must-dos

SZbridge legs_UAE A-Z
Sheikh Zayed Bridge

Z. Zayed Name Crazy! I talked a bit about the ruling families above. The house of Nahayan rules Abu Dhabi while the The Al Maktoum family rules Dubai. Well, just about everything here in Abu Dhabi bears the beloved leader’s name. I cannot tell you how many times I have come to the cross street of Sheikh Zayed Rd and Sheikh Zayed Rd downtown and wondered why on earth there are not more names for roads here? There is also Sheikh Zayed Highway, Sheikh Zayed Sport’s City,  Sheikh Zayed Bridge—make that two Sheikh Zayed bridges, and Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. This list is endless.

* I have no independent verification of this “fact.” I cannot find anything to substantiate it. If you happen to know the real history of the Emirates’ Palace Hotel, please let me know. 

UAE A-Z

UAE A-Z

UAE A-Z_desertNot so long ago I noticed a blogging challenge going on called the “A-Z Blog Challenge,” where bloggers make a fun, but rather long, series of posts detailing alphabetically a list of places and things of importance to their cities. No blogger seems to have made one for Abu Dhabi or Dubai, so I got right to it and created a UAE A-Z. Looking back through my archives, I realized that I am only personally familiar with about maybe 25% of the list, which is pathetic really, so I am intent upon changing that in the latter half of 2014. I promise to blog my way through the list. Here is my A-Z of UAE influential people, amazing places, essential things of importance and oddities (X & V and other letters are hard, people!). I included one Oman location–I just had to. The lists are split into A-M and N-Z respectively. These selections represent my opinions alone. Please let me know what you think about my choices in the comment section. Let me know if there are places I missed. Do follow the links in each letter’s bolded title for links, pictures and further information:

Al Ain Sunset UAE A-Z
Al Ain Sunset

A. Al Ain. Al Ain is a small city/desert outpost in the emirate of Abu Dhabi. It is also known as the “Oasis city,”  It borders the Rub’ Al Khali desert (aka the “Empty Quarter”) and Oman. It’s climate is much hotter and drier than Abu Dhabi, and it boasts the nation’s highest elevation: Jebel Hafeet. Al Ain is also home to a very respectable zoo, the only extreme sports’ water park that I am aware of in the world and a traditional camel market. The drive there from either Abu Dhabi or Dubai will not disappoint you, if you are seeking a true desert experience; it is full of camels, camels in the back of pick up trucks and dunes. 

UAE Beaches UAE A-ZB. Beaches / Burj Khalifa. There are just so many lovely beaches here in the UAE. There is, of course, my beloved neighborhood beach, Yas beach, which that I regularly blog about. In this list, I talk about a few, but I don’t want to forget to mention all the beaches that dot the coastline as you travel north:  Ajman, Umm Al Quaim and Ras Al Khaimah.

Yes, the Burj Khalifa is, for now, the highest building in the world. It is in Dubai and, trust me, you can’t miss it! This is me in front of it, and this is the view from above. The view serves as a reminder that, yes, the UAE is very much a desert nation though you would never know it when you ski, après-ski with a meander down a palm-lined, Rodeo drive-esque street.

Family at Burj Khalifa_UAE A-Z
My family at Burj Khalifa

 

 

Burj Khalifa Top View (credit Burj Khalifa Photo Club)_UAE A-Z
The View from the Top

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

C. Corniche The Corniche is a lovely stretch of city beach along Abu Dhabi’s western coast line. There is generally lots of parking, and it is free to visit. I am always blogging about all the amazing free things there are to do here and the Corniche is another, little free gem if you like to go to the beach.

Lizzy of arabia on a camel at Al Dhafra Camel Beauty Pageant_UAE A-Z
Yes, that’s yours truly on a camel.

D. Al Dhafra Camel Festival Every December, thousands of camel beauty queens descend upon a small town, called Al Dhafra, to compete for millions of dirhams in prizes and the crown, of course, at the Annual Camel Beauty Pageant. Many of you, who read my blog, know that I am a camel-lover; I just love the beasts. No one can convince me that they are dirty, smelly, spitting creatures because I have seen the prettiest camels in the world, and these camels are real ladies. They are dignified and very affectionate creatures. You have to see it to believe it, like anything. This was by far my favorite UAE experience yet. Most of the time you can live here and not feel as though you live smack dab in the middle of the Middle East. The Camel Beauty Pageant will superimpose you into a world of Middle East tradition: camels, falcons, incense, tents, dates, tea and bedouins. For more information about the Camel Festival, visit the Tourism website.

E. Eid There are two Eids on the Islamic calendar. The first: Eid Al-Fitr celebrates the breaking of the fast following Ramadan. Eid al-Adha celebrates the sacrifice that Ibrahim made in the Old Testament and also celebrates the end of the Hajj in Saudi Arabia, which draws 1.5 million Muslims every year.

Viceroy Marina UAE A-Z
Yas Viceroy Marina

F. Formula 1 / Friday Brunch Formula 1 or Friday Brunch? Which best defines represents “F” for the UAE? Let’s go with both! Yas Island boasts an amazing and accessible F1 track, which lures the greatest drivers in the world and millions of spectators every November for the Yas Marina Circuit F1. It is also host to some awesome post race events all of the F1 week. Last year, Jay-Z, Muse, Depeche Mode and others headlined the post race concert series. I will admit that I know little to nothing about F1, but it’s exciting to live across from it, I can say, especially since I can sit on my balcony and hear all the concerts. 

Friday brunches are just what expats do here in the UAE. There are thousands to choose from featuring all levels of prestige, every cuisine known to man and usually, but not always, unlimited libations. Here is a definitive list of Friday brunches (prices, locations and reviews) in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Grand Mosque_UAE A-Z
Family at the Grand Mosque

G. Grand Mosque No trip to the UAE is complete without a visit to the Grand Mosque. It is a glorious feat of architecture. Did I mention that it’s free to visit? Here are some fast, intriguing fasts about the Grand Mosque:

  1. The mosque can accommodate over 40,000 worshipers.
  2. It features 82 white marble domes of Moroccan design.
  3. The Mosque has more than 1,000 columns in the outer areas, with inlaid marble panels and decorated in a floral design with semi-precious stones, and 96 columns in the main prayer hall, each inlaid with mother of pearl.
  4. It displays the world’s largest hand-knotted carpet, designed by Iranian artist Ali Khaliqi and hand crafted by 1,300 artisans.
  5. It showcases the word’s largest chandelier, made in Germany with thousands of Swarovski crystals from Austria and glasswork from Italy.
  6. The design and construction include materials such as marble, stone, gold, semi-precious stones, crystals and ceramics.
  7. The mosque uses a very special lighting system in evening hours that follows the phases of the moon – they gradually become lighter as the moon becomes full.
  8. The Grand mosque is the final resting place of the late visionary president of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who was buried in the courtyard of the Mosque.

Check the visiting times before you visit and be sure to behave and dress “modestly” as you would in any house of worship.The definition of “modest” is really just common sense, but there is a description (with illustrations) for those challenged by the concept. Ahem, Rihanna

H. Hummus Ah, hummus. Who doesn’t love the creamy, dippy chickpea concoction? I am going to go out on a limb and call hummus a “Middle Eastern” dish, just knowing I am opening myself up to all kinds of arguments. Apparently, there is a great debate over who owns the rights to hummus. Who knew?! I say let’s just let bygones be bygones with regard to hummus. We all love the stuff. Who cares who invented it and just thank the deity of your choice that someone did in the first place. Let’s just all get along.

I. Islam / Iftar I just couldn’t decide for “I.” After all, Islam is the official state religion of the region, and Iftar is the traditional meal to break the fast during Ramadan; both seemed important. You cannot have a serious, or not so serious, discussion about the region without knowing just a little bit about Islam. The Old Testament of the Bible and the Quran have dictated most of the regions’ social mores, laws and past, present and future in the same manner Christianity has the west. Muslims believe that the verses of the Quran are the revelation of God verbally revealed through the Prophet Muhammad. On a side, but related, note, Muhammad is a VERY common name here, indeed the most common in the world.

The Road to Jebel Hafeet_UAE A-Z
The Road to Jebel Hafeet

J. Jebel Hafeet Jebel Hafeet is the highest point in the UAE. At the top is a hotel called the Mercure Jebel Hafeet. The mountain rises 1,249 metres (4,098 ft) and offers impressive view over the city. The drive up is hair-raising and is classified as one of the must-do drives for people who love to drive. 

K. Kandura (dishdash) A Kandura is the traditional men’s dress here in the UAE. Women wear Abayas and the Shayla (loose scarf around head). Almost no women here wear the Burqa. Lots of people ask me what the westerners wear here in the UAE, and the answer is simple. Use discretion. If you are in a Mosque, dress as though you were in a church. If you are in an area or location frequented mostly by westerners, anything goes really.  

L. Liwa dates Liwa dates are yummy. I would say they are the best in the world, but what do I really know about dates?! Not much. I don’t even know if they are fruits or nuts.  I can tell you that they are big business here. Date palms are one of the very few native plants that can survive the oppressive heat in this region and therefore revered. We went to a date competition in December, and it was amazing. There was another date festival here in the UAE recently. Who knew there were so many kinds of dates?!

Musandam  UAE A-Z
Musandam Dhow Cruising

M. Musandam Dhow Cruise  This is another UAE must-visit place. All right, it’s Oman, but it’s just so close, and definitely shouldn’t miss it if you are in the UAE. Now, I have not yet been here, but we are going this fall for the next Eid. Musandam is just a few hours’ drive north of Dubai and apparently well worth the trip. The drive alone is full of gorgeous sites, like Ajman Beach, the rocky coast and narrow mountain roads that bring you into the city and its desolate beaches. What’s there to do in Musandam? Take a Dhow cruise to Khor as Sham, a majestic rocky fjord that some regards as ‘the Norway of Arabia’. You recline on cushions and Persian carpets on deck to savor the views or spot some dolphins, stopping to dive into the cobalt sea for swimming or snorkeling. There is also an overnight option, which includes camping on a secluded beach. 

N-Z are on their way. Give me a few days. 

 

Arabian Goats in A Hotel

Arabian Goats in A Hotel

Arabian Goats in A HotelDear reader who found my blog using the search terms “Arabian Goats in A Hotel,” I can tell by the way you query that we think alike. I have no idea why you were searching that. I hope it’s because you want to find a hotel that allows goats—there can’t be many. Maybe you were just curious what a hotel filled with goats would look like? I am too! Whatever the case may be, your less than usual inquiry led me down an odd path that I would have never found on my own, which I am excited to share with my readers. Hopefully, some of you share my same, silly sense of–what some may call–humor. If you aren’t the least bit Arabian-Goats-in-A-Hotel Curious, you might want to move on just now because this post is all about the weird things people search for on the internet.

Plate of cookies Arabian Goats in a Hotel
From “Arabian Goats in a Hotel” to “Plate of Cookies,” Google is constantly re-directing your searches to places you least expect!

WordPress hosts my blog. If you are considering starting your own, this is a great place to start. They give you lots of tools to make the experience of beginning a blog, effortless. In the WordPress dashboard, you can also learn a lot about people, namely the people who read your blog. You can learn where your readers are from, and their interests, to some degree, by what they read. Talk about Big Brother! What I find most interesting is the search terms used to get to me—they are often really weird. The truth is I don’t really care how readers find me, just that they do, indeed, find me and read my blog at all. I am so grateful that people have any interest in reading what I write. Getting back to you, Mr./Ms. “Arabian-Goats-in-A-Hotel Curious, you were a gem in the matrix of stats I check, from time to time, to see what you people read, like and share. You are truly unusual. I am not really sure why Google, in all of its eccentricity, trafficked you to me. I am also not entirely sure why, after my blog’s name “Lizzy of Arabia,” hundreds of other people who searched “plate of cookies” were also sent my way; I don’t even like sweets, let alone blog about them, but any who, I am just glad that you got here. 

Arabian Goats in a Hotel_Beauty Queen
Here’s Looking at You, Kid!

I am sure this post and blog were not what you were querying, but I am curious what you thought. I am more interested in why you were searching “Arabian Goats in a hotel” in the first place, so I began my research. It turns out there are not many offerings if you are Arabian-Goats-in-A-Hotel curious. In fact, you get a lot of BOR-ING trip advisor posts about some hotel in Wales called the Royal Goat Hotel and then you get my 24K Goats to Gold post and then this The Brothel Of Goats, Mexicans And Arabian Jam Tasters, and don’t even ask me what that’s about! Thanks to your query, I chanced to land upon perhaps the best find ever for people like me: The Goat Beauty Pageant in Saudi Arabia. Yes, friends, beauty pageants in the Middle East are not simply for the fair “Ships of the Desert” also known as camels. More than 170 bea-u-ti-ful goats get their chance in the sun too! This pageant is called the “Queen Goat of Hijaz” contest and the lovely goats are judged as such:

The winner will be picked according to its looks, body built, walk and characteristics. Kabar Newspaper

Thank goodness those poor goats aren’t expected to expound on world affairs like some other scantily-clad pageant contestants, with presumably similar IQs, in some countries, I know. Let goats be goats, I say, but I digress. Let’s just say that, while I find this news of this goat beauty pageant earth shatteringly fun, I will probably just stick to camel beauty pageants and skip the visit to my neighbor to the west. I prefer camels, and I think I am not ready for that walk back in time that would be a visit to Saudi Arabia. I might have to just read about this pageant from a close, but far enough, distance.

I suppose the sheer act of penning this post on such an unusual topic will garner me the recognition I so rightly deserve as the clear authority on “Arabian Goats in A Hotel.” That’s right! Number One, baby. Numero Uno in the Google Search Engine ranks. Applause, please! Really, I mean it! That’s the way Google works: it’s kind of popularity-based rather than logical, and I am competing against relatively no one else except the aforementioned Brothel Of Goats, Mexicans And Arabian Jam Tasters and, well, whatever. I have never claimed to be much of an authority on anything. I am what you might call a “Jack of all subjects and a master of nothing,” and I am surprisingly okay with that. If today, with this blog post, I have bestowed the honor of being the expert on Arabian Goats in A Hotel upon myself, so be it. There are much more boring things I could be. I could blog about watching grass grow. Seriously, this is a job. It’s called a Grass Seed Analyst. In the meantime, I will continue blogging about things I know and, of course, many things I don’t. I will not cease to expound upon life’s burning questions and the internet’s least important queries, such as Arabian Goats in A Hotel.

Query, the game Arabian Goats in a Hotel CuriousOn semi-related note, the other day I stumbled upon a post about a new game called “Query” on—where else?—Facebook. You see Facebook thought I might be interested in this game, and I am! Sometimes, albeit rarely, Facebook gets what they think you might be interested in dead on. Such is the case with Query. Check it out if, like me, you are interested in words and the absurd!!

 

The Moon-Sighting Committee Doth Decree

The Moon-Sighting Committee Doth Decree

 

the moon-sighting committee doth decree_ppl
The Moon Sighting Committee looks a lot like I would think a moon-sighting committee might look.

Eid Mubarak, friends! Our homecoming happily coincided with the end of Ramadan and a short holiday for my husband. Last night in Saudi Arabia, the Moon-sighting committee doth decree that yesterday was the end of Ramadan, and today marks the first day of Eid Al Fitr. A “moon-sighting committee,” doesn’t that sound far out?! This breaking news reminded me of last summer. My husband landed here in Abu Dhabi this time last year, almost to the day. Our new home seemed so exotic and strange from the great distance we were apart. I was still in the states finalizing the move out of the house we sold, crashing in friend’s homes and saying our goodbyes. Meanwhile each night, I was hearing 1,001 tales of Abu Dhabi and, man, were they strange! My husband got here at the tail end of Ramadan, which we are in right now. Even before I arrived, our family was beginning to learn a lesson that will benefit each of us greatly throughout the rest of our lives. There are some things in this world we may never be able to fully understand or control. It might be the simplest lesson of all, but one of the hardest to learn.

My husband had just begun his new job, and I remember him recounting an enigmatic incident that occurred as he was leaving the office his first or second day of work. This story has stuck with me for 365 days. I am still trying to understand it. As he was walking out the door, a lady at the front desk called after him,

“Mr. Robert, Mr. Robert! Wait!” No one knew him yet and very little actual work occurs during Ramadan, so he was taken aback and turned to her with a bewildered “What Me?” sort of expression on his face.

“Mr. Robert,” she continued with an excited  smile, “we may not work tomorrow.” He returned her smile and responded,

“That’s nice. Why? And, when you say ‘may’ what does that mean?” She said,

“Tomorrow may be the Eid al Fitr: the end of Ramadan. We will know only tonight when the moon comes out.”

If I know my husband, his engineer mind could not possibly comprehend the numinous quality of this statement. Nor could he accept the idea that he may or may not work tomorrow with relation to any aspect of the moon. I can only attempt to recollect the dialogue thereafter.

“Well, no. That’s ok. My family is not here, and I don’t really know anyone yet. I am happy to work. I think I may come in tomorrow no matter what happens with the moon. Is that all right?” Aghast, the young lady replied,

“No, sir. You cannot work. No one will work, if it’s the end of Ramadan. We will celebrate a joyous day tomorrow, Insha’Allah.” She replied passionately. “If only the moon is just right, there is no work, only food and party.”

I can imagine my husband’s head cocked just so trying to process this information presented, not to offend her or Islam, but still make it fundamentally clear that this made no sense to him. In the end, I bet he just rolled with it—he can do that sometimes—jet lag helps a lot. The prospect of a day lying in couldn’t have sounded bad to him just then either, and he replied,

“Okay, so how will I know?” His acceptance of this good fortune must have relieved her. After all, who doesn’t want a day off? She beamed,

“I will call you when the moon comes out, okay, Mr. Robert? I will tell you.”

the moon-sighting committee doth decree__moon
What the moon did tell last night.

She clasped her hands together at her fait accompli (getting an engineer to grasp a matter that both requires a leap of faith and is antithetical to reason) and darted off. I guess she was responsible for making certain that the newbie didn’t show up the next morning to locked office doors because no one had bothered to tell him about exactly how the moon came out–sucker. Last summer, I thought she was probably the pious sort who actually believed in the whole “moon thing,” but, having been here a year, I know that, more likely, she waited until the announcement of the moon’s orientation to first call my husband and then to go out and party. Who can blame her? An impromptu week off is worthy of a celebration, right?!

One year in, I can honestly say I still don’t understand this aspect of Islam. I am still quietly wondering to myself why they don’t understand that for hundreds of years we have been able to predict the moon’s orientation. I wonder what they do if the night happens to be cloudy. Exactly who makes up this moon-sighting committee, and how does one qualify to be in it? All I know is that this aspect of Islam is steeped in tradition. It doesn’t really add up if you examine it logically. If you scratched its surface you could find a lot of flaws, but the same would be true for its counterparts: Judaism and Christianity—all three are riddled with inconsistencies if you attempt to regard them as a scientist, fact-checker or historian. It’s better to assume the role of a tourist with regard to a religion that is not your own. You will never fully get it; It’s not yours to critique. It is yours to marvel at its beauty: poetically and spiritually, but ignore its deficiencies. I am no closer to having a greater depth of understanding about the traditional culture at large here, but I can grasp the bigger picture. The UAE is a country careening towards the future at a breakneck pace, while simultaneously trying to hit the breaks and retain traditions; a challenging balance, if not an impossible one to strike. I was not here for much of Ramadan, but it was thought provoking to catch the end of it. I cannot even fathom the act of fasting for even one day, let alone 30! I cannot imagine the amount of piety it must take to perform this ritual. The moon-sighting committee will serve as a reminder to me about the virtue of tolerance. There are things numinous and things spiritual that will not make absolute sense to us as we walk through life, especially if we take the opportunity to travel. We must accept these aspects of different cultures because they are dear to our neighbors, because we are all human, and because we are all better for attempting to understand what makes each other tick rather than assume postures of superiority, difference or of conflict. We must learn about and honor what is important to our fellow world-dwellers because it creates a culture of peace. 

Here is a brief explanation of this tradition for anyone interested. I did learn that moon-sighting has something to do with camels, which, of course, makes it endlessly fascinating to me. The Shawwāl (شوّال) is the tenth month of the lunar Islamic calendarShawwāl means to ‘lift or carry’; so named because she-camels normally would be carrying a fetus at this time of year. Moon-Sighting at Ramadan (acc. to Wikipedia):

There is a debate among the Muslim community on just how to calculate the beginning of the month of Ramadan (or indeed any month, but Ramadan takes on special importance). The traditional method, mentioned in the Qur’an and followed by the Prophet Muhammad, is to look to the sky and visibly sight the slight crescent moon (hilal) that marks the beginning of the month. If one sees the hilal at night, the next day is the first day of Ramadan and thus the first day of fasting.  At the end of the month, when the community sights the hilal again, the Festival of Fast-Breaking (‘Eid al-Fitr) begins.

 

 

The Magic of Summer

The Magic of Summer

 

firefly-in-hand Firefly #summer #lizzyofarabia summer, summer, summer
Firefly in Hand

There’s something truly magical about summer. Even though some days are sweltering and really uncomfortable, there are always days and evenings with beautiful light, vibrant sunsets, lush trees and grass, blooming flowers, chasing fireflies, evenings filled with the euphonious sound of falling rain and refreshing breezes after the thunder storm. Can you feel my Magic of Summer, friends? I always enjoy following my friend’s Facebook streams in the summertime. The friends that I have made in Abu Dhabi are from all over the globe, and everyone is posting pictures of their travels. In looking at their photos I feel like I’m peeking into a window of their lives and the places they visit vicariously.

Raindrops #summer #abudhabi #newjersey summer, summer, summer
Rain Drops Falling on Our Heads

As I am wrap up my own summer travels today, namely my visit home to the USA, I just want to thank all my friends on both the east and west coasts who made our visit so special. We had loads of fun. I have long wanted my kids to understand what my childhood summers were like in New Jersey—it was so different to the childhood that they had on the west coast. For a few weeks, they lived a quintessential east coast summer filled with long days at the pool, swimming and diving off the diving boards, playing poolside cards with friends, lazily rolling in the deep green grass, catching fireflies at dusk, thunderstorms and rain—sweet, sweet rain—something we sorely miss in Abu Dhabi.

Leaving on a jet plane #abudhabi #lizzyofarabia #summertravel summer, summer, summer
Leaving on a Jet Plane

Still, I am happy to return “home,” the most appropriate moniker for Abu Dhabi now, given we made it there a whole year–despite all the odds. As I continuously wrestle with this notion of “home.” For now, I will have to accept that wherever we are is “home,” as 5 out of 10 people advise me. I will probably never cease to struggle with the idea of my “home” being so momentary. Even though, I consider myself nomadic, I relish the idea that I have a “home” on terra firma to which I can return; I just do not want to own it. Abu Dhabi cannot be that kind of “home,” ever. We live there absolutely in the service of a corporation, implicitly at the pleasure of a monarch. It can all be taken away from us as suddenly as we may determine it is no longer home to us. But, for now, Abu Dhabi is home, and, to it, we return. I am not too excited to get back to a world without Costco, Trader Joes, discount shops and sales. I am dually NOT excited to return to the sweltering heat. Honestly, the 90s (mid 30s Celcius?!) have never felt so refreshing as they have these past few weeks. I am surprisingly excited to get back to the lawless roads of the UAE. Unknowingly, I have become quite a road cowgirl. Speed limits are for law-abiding Americans, and road rage is surprisingly cathartic. Anyway, four weeks is a long for our family to be apart. I know distance and separation works quite well for many of my friends overseas during the summer, but I have never been a big fan of it for my family. We leave on a jet plane this evening. In this senseless world of disappearing planes and persistent conflict, please wish us safe travels. What I wouldn’t give to land in Abu Dhabi, turn on the news to find all the world’s conflicts resolved, flights found, sorries said; in short, a more evolved species committed to peace. That would truly be the magic of summer. 

 

Reverse First Impressions

Reverse First Impressions

Memory lane reverse first impressionsFor any of you that follow this blog, I thought it may be of interest to “some” (that’s code for my mother) to explore my reverse first impressions; i.e. my thoughts on being back in the US after 11 months in Abu Dhabi. To preface this post, this is not the first time, nor the longest, I have been away from my home country, but this time it feels a little bit different. All the other times I returned from being abroad, I was returning to the US “for good” (a.k.a. until my feet got itchy again). This time is brief: 25 days to be exact. I cannot stay longer for tax purposes; I am not sure I want to stay longer; I am conflicted. A mere two weeks into moving to Abu Dhabi, I pondered my First Impressions; it seems apropos of everything to follow up with reverse first impressions.

lush trees reverse first impressionsSo, I am first and most profoundly struck by the obvious: it is so lush and verdant here. It’s invigorating to not be in a desert…in summertime, duh! The UAE has made life in their naturally inhospitable country so darn hospitable, I almost forgot about such lovely, quotidian things as trees, dew, birdsong, grass, thunderstorms, fresh air and drizzle. You laugh, friends from home, but I promise you the aforementioned things are gifts (some might say from a god; I have no opinion from whence they come, but I can say they are nothing to take for granted). Please take a renewed listen to the birdsong for me. Deeply inhale the dewy morning air of summer. Roll in the grass and take good care of your trees. There could come a day that you are creating all these things out of whole-cloth in a vain attempt to resemble other nations, like some countries I know, wink wink. There are a few things modern technology can do bigger and better, but I still think that re-creating the natural world might be still off-limits for man, try as you might; I know you-know-who will keep trying.

reverse-first-impressions-white-picket-fence-my-ideal-homeIt’s not as dangerous here as I remember thinking it was, that is, if you remember to turn off the news. Of course, the town my mother stays in is a quintessential “Pleasantville.” I hail from a neighboring town, so I am quite familiar with the lay of the land. Very little happens here, good or bad, which is so nice. You turn on the news and, well, no one is talking about this town. It’s Victorian charm is not so newsworthy. I guess I have gone from one bubble into another; call me a bubble surfer. Maybe no town I have ever lived in is all that dangerous? Perhaps the 24-hour news’ cycle somehow managed to terrorize even me: one without TV proper (our family has not had a cable TV account since maybe 2004 or so). I hate, hate, hate the US media—there are no words for my abhorrence, and I hate so few things. I think it’s tragic. My dear mother, with whom I am fortunate enough to have this short-term abode, is simply fastened to the TV about both the Oscar Pistorius trial and the baby-who-died/was-allegedly-murdered in the hot car in Georgia. I wonder why the US media barely mentions the uprisings in Iraq, the ever-pressing Typhoon about to hit fragile Japan or the never-ending Israeli-Palestinian crisis, but can find 8 hours straight to discuss some dumbass idiot who allegedly left his toddler to die in a car for $27K insurance money? (I know, I know far too much about the #hotcardeath and, yes, there’s a hashtag for that. Go America! I suppose it’s better than the reverse-first-impressions-News-Media-Logos #24hournews #usmedia#hotmugshotguy, but anyway. Methinks I watch too much news.) Well, I don’t really wonder why the American media is not discussing global news; I guess “wonder” is the wrong word. I already know; it’s very selective news sourcing. It is surprisingly similar to the controlled/restricted news we receive in Abu Dhabi, which really begs the question what is the fine line between “republic” and “autocracy” when it comes to freedom of speech and information? For all the gazillion channels, media outlets and perceived “freedoms” of information we think we have in the US, do we honestly have any more truthful news reporting than other cripplingly controlled nation states? I think not. Our news sourcing is as manipulated, but everyone here believes they are free. I’d take an honest autocracy any day over a republic, which makes its citizens hostages to debt, healthcare, perceived freedoms, et al. But, I digress. Let’s get back to food & shopping—everyone likes food & shopping, right?

reverse-first-impressions-US-flagI pledge my allegiance to shopping in America. I have no allegiance to my ersatz government. If shopping were a religion (and for many it is), Dubai would be shopping’s holiest city, but America is its birthplace. Shopping is honestly something we do better than any nation on earth. There are no better deals anywhere else. Customer service is AWESOME! You can return anything—words cannot possibly express how much I miss this power! Like dew, birdsong and rain, you people don’t appreciate the ability to return something you do not like, circus mirrors conned you into buying or “what-was-I-on when I bought this” kind of purchases, until it’s gone. Returns are just made, item returned, money back–no questions asked. Why, oh why, can the rest of the world not get with this? It should be in our bill of rights because it is so well abided by all merchants. I think we need a new bill of rights in America, which basically ensures our right to spend frivolously WITHOUT regret. You can say, I don’t really like this item I just bought and return it. We cannot seem to do this with our lifer “elected” representatives, can we? We cannot so easily return a president or obese governor (sorry Jersey, he’s garbage) when we realize it’s not a great fit, can we? Why not? I digress again. It always seems to circle back to politics with me, doesn’t it?

reverse-first-impressions-mini-meAnyway, I have some long-lost friends to catch up with in the time that I have left here: college and high school. It’s wonderful to see people that I have known—some since I was 2–all grown up with successful, gorgeous families. It’s even more amazing to see the cycle of life. I see my friends in their kids in ways only an outsider can perhaps see. They see their children all the time, but some of these kids I have not seen since they were babies or ever, so I can see their moms and/or dads distinctly in their faces, mannerisms and style. We have this whole new generation of mini-mes that I believe are all destined for greatness, and we all know this world could use a hefty dose of gravitas and greatness in this moment and time in history. My reverse first impressions are evolving daily. You can maybe expect a part ٢, but I’m not promising it.  

 

 

 

Get A Room Already

Get A Room Already

My unremitting blogging about Saadiyat Island may lead some to wonder “Why Don’t You Get A Room Already” out there? I really should, I know–I love the place. Saadiyat Island is already home to a museum, beaches, wildlife and great restaurants and will soon to be home to the Guggenheim and the Louvre. I would say it’s almost urban (being only about 5 minutes away from the heart of the city), but it also feels like a SoCal beach town on a sleepy Sunday morning. In short, it’s perfect. So, why don’t I live here? Well, I cannot afford it—it’s pricey. It’s far from everything in our life and, honestly, I LOVE Al Raha Beach. So, this girl will have to be content visiting, which is what I did the other night. I teased this yummy night out here a week or so ago in veni, vidi, vici locustam marina. Get A Room Already on Saadiyat Island #finedining #saadiyat #abudhabiWe called in an overdue date night. I reserved a table at a restaurant, named Caramel, that I had heard great things about, and we made the exquisite, pre-sunset drive out to Saadiyat Island. It was a lovely night there, but it always is. We caught the tail end of yet another sun descending into the turquoise sea like a watercolor painting. Ahhh, are you with me people? I digress; let’s get back to food. I was starving. It was almost 8pm and, well, I work, and I am a mom, and I usually eat around 6pm. Can you hear my stomach growling?! We walked through “The Collection,” which is simply an assemblage (kind of a labyrinth) of upscale shops and restaurants, to find Caramel. Do not be deterred by how tucked away it is. I’ll give you Caramel is a wee bit hard to find if you are a man, and you refuse to ask for directions, but don’t be! There are friendly security guards all over the place. Just ask. They will happily guide you to Caramel—it is, after all, where you need to eat if you are as hungry as I was. All the restaurants in the Collection are upscale, inspired and amazing. I chose Caramel because it’s friendly and easygoing with a L.A.-meets-Ibiza kind of vibe. Several fabulously attractive, tall, must-be-model kind of gals greeted us at the door. I had to forcibly elbow my dear husband’s tongue back in his mouth once or twice that evening. Fortunately for us—and by “us” you know I mean “me”–a wonderful young waiter, named Chamith—a dude—waited on our table. He couldn’t have been any better at his job, unless he had been a 5’10 bleached blonde model wearing such a short skirt—get off of here, husband! Seriously, Chamith was perfect. I cannot easily think of anything he could do to improve—I never say this about anything/one. The same was true for the Floor Manager, Surranga Kank. He floated cordially from table-to-table, saying hello to every diner so naturally, as passionate about his every customer as he was his ingredient sourcing/derivation/preparation and, of course, his cricket—yes, husband had to go there. :/ Let us not talk about cricket though; it’s my blog and I’d rather talk about food. Let’s get back to the menu.

Get A Room Already on Saadiyat Island #finedining #saadiyat #abudhabi @ Caramel #abudhabi #saadiyat #thecollection #stregis #finedining #mainelobster
Wednesday, wine night!

It was a Wednesday night, so the wine bottle was out. We both had to work early the next day. Nevertheless, one glass can’t hurt, right? Caramel’s wine selection is representative of every major wine-producing region. It was hard to select just the right glass, so we went with our waiter’s recommendations. He knew a lot about wine, and his choices did not disappoint us. The menu at Caramel is inspired. It was so hard to choose a starter. We were looking for something different, unlike dishes we usually order, so we went with Crispy Eggplant and TNT Shrimp and scallops. We also ordered our mains because, again, it was Wednesday—not exactly a big night out. My husband ordered the pan-seared lamb loin (southern hemisphere thing), and I went with the 1.5 Kg Maine Lobster (western hemisphere thing) and OMG! What a lobster it was! Enough about the lobster though, let’s talk about the starters. Was it fair to call these lavish indulgences “starters”? The Eggplant was crispy and succulent with the yummiest hoisin sauce. The TNT shrimp and scallops were firm and flavorful with a piquant topping that could be described as something like Srichaha meets sweet chili and then meets creamy and makes perfection. I don’t know exactly what the sauce was, but it was good, and we were both full after polishing those off. Thankfully, the wait staff gave us a bit of time to digest before they brought out our mains. 

Caramel's crispy eggplant starter Get A Room Already on Saadiyat Island #finedining #saadiyat #abudhabi @ Caramel #abudhabi #saadiyat #thecollection #stregis #finedining #mainelobster
Crispy Eggplant 
Caramel's TNT Shrimp & Scallops Get A Room Already on Saadiyat Island #finedining #saadiyat #abudhabi @ Caramel #abudhabi #saadiyat #thecollection #stregis #finedining #mainelobster
TNT Shrimp & Scallops 

There wasn’t rest time enough in the world to be ready for the enormous delicacy that was set before me about 30 minutes after the starters. Behold, my dining challenge. Say “Hello” (and goodbye) to my little friend! What presentation! It was elegant and enormous. I wanted to take its picture more than I wanted to eat it, because I was still so full. 

1.5KG Stuffed Maine Lobster Get A Room Already on Saadiyat Island #finedining #saadiyat #abudhabi @ Caramel #abudhabi #saadiyat #thecollection #stregis #finedining #mainelobster
My marine foe–All 1.5Kg of it.
Pan-seared lamb loin Get A Room Already on Saadiyat Island #finedining #saadiyat #abudhabi @ Caramel #abudhabi #saadiyat #thecollection #stregis #finedining #mainelobster
Pan-seared Lamb Loin 

I took a few photos of my feast, while my husband dug into his gorgeous lamb loin. I am not a fan of lamb, but it did look great. So you know, I am not usually one to take food photos. Not only is the practice bad restaurant etiquette, but it is disruptive to your night out–seems narcissistic and self involved (imo). Nevertheless, that night I made an exception. There were few other diners, and those that were there were very cordial as was the management, so I snapped away. I finally took a deep breath and dug into my titanic Maine lobster, and, well I ate the whole thing—all 1.5kg worth of it; it was heavenly. I had not had a Maine lobster in a long time—as in a longbefore-we-moved-to-Abu-Dhabi kind of long time. I don’t usually pig out like that but the freshness, preparation and presentation offered the “perfect meal trifecta,” and it just happened. I could see the wait staff was pleased—they didn’t think I could do it, and I did it. I really do like to surprise people.

Creme Brule Get A Room Already on Saadiyat Island #finedining #saadiyat #abudhabi @ Caramel #abudhabi #saadiyat #thecollection #stregis #finedining #mainelobster
Crème brûlée

I was lobster-deprived; it was a fact. Surranga, the manager, made certain that we left Caramel sated and having had a full appreciation of the menu. He would not allow us to leave without sampling the dessert, and sample we did (despite being ready to burst at our seams). I tried the Crème brûlée meets bananas Foster because why not? It was rich and divine; I took two bites and that was that. Let’s call it a wrap. You can now officially roll me out the door. Please stop me now from eating another bite at Caramel! I am pleading with youWe settled up. Surranga kindly offered to give us a brief tour, and we obliged happily. A DJ was just about to spin, and the night was only beginning for all the night owls spilling in from wherever they came, but we early birds had to mosey along, stuffed and happy. Someday I may be fortunate enough to get a room already on Saadiyat but, until then I can visit and dine there. Caramel is a restaurant that truly knows its stuff. The food and wine menu is as diverse and inspired as the ambience and staff were flawless. I will happily return to Caramel Abu Dhabi the next time I feel the need to visit a happening restaurant that somehow manages to integrate the aura of home: a place that will not let you leave feeling unappreciated, unacknowledged or hungry. Give Caramel a try; I doubt you will be disappointed. Follow Caramel on twitterinstagram and Facebook.

 

 

Expat Revolving Door

Expat Revolving Door

Expat revolving door in Abu DhabiIt’s apparently that time of year again—the expat exodus is in full swing. To me, it’s a lot like an Expat Revolving Door: the old residents are pushing themselves out sweaty and jaded; the new residents are gliding in, befuddled and clammy, but still very excited. I cannot help but recall our own arrival here last summer. Steamy August and September welcomed us–sweaty, bewildered and unaccustomed to the heat. Now June ushers us out–much in same the manner we were received–still sweaty, but now accustomed to the many trappings that life in here Abu Dhabi gifts us expats with: kind of a swag bag of sorts for putting up with the heat, round a bouts and chaos as congenially as so many of us do. It’s my first time on this merry-go-round of goodbyes, so bear with me.

Beer Fest 2014 #BFF #abudhabi #yas #yasisland
Beer Fest 2014–the name of the event explains the photo, I sincerely hope.

My very first and close friend, here in Abu Dhabi, is moving back to the states. Of course, people come and go–they do everywhere. Just this time last year, I was selling our family home, leaving our town of 8 years, which was a really long time for us to stay anywhere and preparing to move here; it was also a very sad time. It’s a bit different here though. This is not our country; we all know that our time here is finite. None of us, in the expat community (84% of the population of this entire country), are from here.

Fabric group
Fabric shopping in Abu Dhabi

 

I really like to move. I always have. I love to face all the challenges that a new locale offers: where to shop, where to eat, where to find great stationery and where to find fun. I enjoy a good and regular resettling within my home country, but I relish the same experience abroad—it is filled with so many more surprises. I have blogged about these searches ad nausea, I’m sure. My friends all know this about me. If you are new friend to me, know that, while I am loyal and a great friend, I am not destined to be local for very long. I’ll still be your friend, but it will change. The very best friendships can withstand distance. Everyone has that friend--you know, the one that doesn’t stick around for long. The one you do not see for years, but when you do, it’s as though no time as passed at all. I seek that variety of friendship because I am a nomad. My feet get itchy, and it isn’t athlete’s foot.

With a Little help from my friends #lizzyofarabia #abudhabi #camelcookies
With a little help from my friends

Enough about me, let’s talk about my friends. The way we befriended each other last fall was fast and furious. There was no time for questions or finding things in common. There was no time for politics, religion or “what school did you go to” and many of those other questions you know I like to know upfront because I am nosy, but you are not supposed to bring up in polite conversation. There wasn’t even time to figure out if we had kids and husbands who might be compatible, which is mandatory friend criteria for burgeoning friendships back home, but not a concern here. (We were very lucky that they all did get along.) We were simply all new here, lost, confused, in the same boat and needing a shoulder to cry on, a smiling face to move towards when you walked into the school lobby and, most importantly, someone to laugh with at all the absurd experiences that were happening around us because, we all knew, if we didn’t laugh about them, we’d cry or, worse, go crazy.

Which leads me to believe that friendship is a lot like opportunity. It knocks on your door, all the time, everyday in countless ways, but you don’t usually open the door. How many opportunities have we all missed because we were too scared or busy to simply say yes to some odd invitation? I think if you look back, you could summon up a vast array of “missed friendship opportunities” because some strange person you met somewhere dressed, behaved or spoke very differently to you or just wasn’t what you perceived to be “your type”–I know I can think of thousands.

Can I get a bowl of nuts? #yasisland #stillspub #abudhabi #crowneplaza
Can I get some nuts, please?

To honor my dear friends going home this month, I vow, from now on, to welcome more people into my life the way I did you: with no questions asked, no outward appearance assessments or affinity tests. As one proverbial expat revolving door swings shut behind them, I hope that another is swooshing open in front of me brimming with another new friend–hopefully just like you. This friend will never replace my dear friend, but she will have to do. I wish the same open revolving door full of potential friends to you as well. Godspeed Shahana and family; I will miss you dearly. I know you will make many new friends, just like us, in your new home

School’s Out For Summer

School’s Out For Summer

Goodbye to friends #abudhabiOkay, cue the Alice Cooper now, please (I provided the lyrics in case you are too young to remember the song…sigh, I’m not!) Sing along. “School’s out for summer. School’s out forever.” Well, that’s a lie. School’s out only until the end of August, August 31st to be exact, details, details. Okay, many of you reading this, who are elsewhere, have been out a while, so this tune is, well, maybe out of your head, but not for us. Today was the last day of school here in Abu Dhabi for many kids. Late? I know. Hot? You betcha–Blazing HOT. It was a sad day. And, there were SO MANY TEARS.

Goodbye to friends #abudhabiInternational schools always have as many student departures in June as they do new arrivals in September. They are unusual institutions, which are always in flux. Our kids have to be resilient and adaptive, friendly and outgoing because every September brings in a whole new slew of kids, dually every June brings good byes to dear friends that they probably cannot imagine life without. So that’s what today was like. SO MANY TEARS.

This year has been such an intense experience. We had so much to learn with our move here, so fast and we were mostly self-taught.That’s right! We figured this whole place out on our own. We had no guides, knowledgeable estate agents, no relocation specialist; we did it our way! Our learning curve was exponential. There were aspects of the school and Abu Dhabi that I thought I would never get used to and/or tire of seeing, like the Grand Mosque at sunset or the exotic, mostly chaotic, atmosphere of down town Abu Dhabi. Now, it all feels so familiar as if we were from here. All aspects of life here in the Middle East that might have fallen under the umbrella of “Exotica” a year ago, no longer seem foreign: the traditional dress, the over-the-top everything, the architecture, the smell of the Oud Perfumes, smoky incense burning in malls, the Pink Shops, the grocery stores, everything—even the crazy roads and no addresses; we’re good now. We know our way around and perhaps most importantly we survived the round a bouts! (This is where one knocks on wood, or marble maybe?) We understand so much more now. Even the heat doesn’t feel so oppressive. Okay, that’s easy to say when you are typing in a cool, air conditioned apartment. 106 °F (41°C-ish?) with about 50% humidity is really unpleasant—there I said it–maybe I am not actually used to the heat?!

In a few days, we return home for a month. I could use a break from the heat. My kids are excited for family & friends, shops & treats they cannot get here and, believe it or not, rain and clouds. What a difference a year makes?! Who would have ever thought a few Pacific Northwesterners could ever–and I mean ever—miss rain and clouds? But we do. I am eager to compare cultures in reverse, if that makes sense. I compare the UAE to the USA all the time. Every outing, conversation or simple exchange offers some life lesson if you are in the moment, actually listening and open to learning it. I am also really looking forward to something truly unexpected: Systems and order. I love chaos and disorganization; they are my natural “order” honestly. But, I’ll admit that after having said that, this place challenges, even me, when it comes to order.

Mess at the tailors, Khalifa City A, Pink Shops, #abudhabiExample A: I went to the tailor today to pick up some clothes that were altered. Their “ticketing system” was this mess of bags that you see. We were in a hurry. The Storekeeper searched through what seems like thousands of bags for what felt like hours to find ours. He had a sort of, kind of system in place, but it was not fast or organized. This was absurd. I usually find moments like this kind of funny, but not today when I was in a hurry. I think I will have something altered in the US, if only to give instructions in effortless English, get a ticket, return the ticket when I am told to come, receive item from the rolling rack, blah, blah, blah–you know the process. Sigh… when systems and processes seem exotic, I ask what the heck has happened to me?

Goodbye in a lot of languagesGetting back to the last day of school…

For anyone else freshly out of school, have a great summer! Approach it with eyes open to all possibilities. Cherish your friends. They will float in and out of life, but the very best kind of friend is tethered to you in memory–they will not forget you. Godspeed to all the wonderful GAA kids leaving Abu Dhabi for now. Godspeed, as well to those who have decided to stay; we need it as much.