I was standing in the middle of the Abu Dhabi Desert with miles of orange sand in every direction. Walking up a dune next to a camel farm, I spotted two camel farmers. Perhaps on a break from their work, they were just sitting on this hill in the distance with sun burnt earth tones surrounding them. There wasn’t much noise except the sound of wind and distant hums of speech. I took their photo from a distance, as the photographer in me could not pass up the beauty, but I was more grateful to be experiencing this moment and scene and be present.
Abu Dhabi was a place where culture and modern society mix, where sheiks and ex-pats coexist, where religions collide, and where you have opportunities to have an experience that not everyone is able to have.
The city is filled with wonderful hotels, expensive stores and delicious restaurants. But what made the few days I had there really incredible was the trip to the desert and the Grand Mosque. I have always loved Middle Eastern culture. From a young age, my mother instilled in me an interest in this way of life that felt so foreign to me. After visiting Turkey and taking classes on Islamic Art and Culture, I admired this part of the world so much more and aspired to see more of it.
The dessert was breathtaking. I had dreamed of the way the sun illuminates the sand and always had wanted to be able to see that. I rode camels, ran up and down dunes, and had a classic Middle Eastern dinner sitting on colorful rugs watching the sun set.
Calling the Grand Mosque grand is certainly an understatement. Although not as historic as the mosques I had visited in Istanbul, the Grand Mosque was extraordinary in itself. The white marble embellished with florals made for an enormous, elaborate, maze, as you walked through columns and hallways.
As you stand in these unbelievable places, so different than what you know, you are able to appreciate other ways of life and feel graced by the opporunity to live it, even for just a little while.