We're here-- fresh off the plane (or probably not so fresh), all 55 of us, through immigration and into a whole new world. Even the airport was incredible. We walked into a circular room with a hole in the center that looked down on the lower level. The ceiling was a dome with a protrusion connecting to the lower level in the center (I'm sure someone will post a picture). The whole thing was tiled blue and green.
After making it through passport control (everyone's visas worked out), where they had face recognition software running, we boarded buses to the hotel. The buses were one seat on one side, two on the other, and once it was full, seats folded down to fill up the isle. I have to admit, immigration was intense; I can't imagine what others feel coming through US border control. Though they didn't search me or even ask me any questions, just my infamiliarity with the culture, language, and feeling of insecurity made my heart speed up. (Is it ironic that I felt insecure at their security checkpoint?) Also, we were told, as women, not to make prolonged eye contact with men, as it can be suggestive here. However, when talking to a border guard does this rule still hold? I show my sincerity by looking people in the eye. How does that translate? Just food for thought...
As we were waiting in the buses, we read tourist books we hadn't had time to read before, and looked out the window at our foreign surroundings--or perhaps not so foreign. Yes, people were dressed in kanduras (the long white robes men wear) and guthras with egals (the headscarves with the rope that holds it), and the women in abayas (what covers the womens clothes) and headscarves. But we watched a man walk over to his SUV in the parking lot and drive away. I guess the shock came from the clash of what I consider middle eastern culture with ours.
I shouldn't say its not foreign, though. It certainly is. The language, the architecture, the interactions. Yet I'll hold back on making any other comments based only on generalizations and what I've seen in the few hours I've been here. So more to come on that when I've seen this place in the daylight.
The bus ride wasn't long, and then we arrived at the hotel, or should I say, mansion. The place is enormous, and gorgeous. I'm on the 5th floor and look out at the city, or what I think must be the city. The other side looks out at the water. There's a pool and our room has a small balcony. When we arrived in our rooms, we had bags from Masdar with goodies and an unbelievable itinerary! I'll leave the details for when they happen.
I guess the only other notable point about the trip so far actually comes before touchdown in Abu Dhabi. On the plane, trying not to get any sleep in hopes of getting used to the time zone here (its worth a try), a few of us ended up in a long, fluid conversation spanning a surprising number of topics. I asked a question about how stars, and dark stars, are formed, and three (?) hours later when the fasten seat belt sign was turned on for landing, the group had grown from 2 to 8 (inevitably blocking the isles) and the conversation had covered everything from best forms of government/ fair government to humanism vs. individualism and ones duty to society. We even talked about the conversation itself. To me it was fulfilling in a way I didn't totally understand, but I enjoyed it, and I hope the rest of the trip has time for a continuation.
Now, though, its time to explore the hotel, pour over our itinerary, and imagine the rest of what we'll see.