Everything about Abu Dhabi seemed magical from the very moment I stepped off the airplane and into the airport. The sweet scent of freshly blown dust, the soft green glow in the domes, and the warm touch of a humid climate contrasted starkly with the chipper winds, bright red city lights, and grass pollens of Boston.
As we rode on the bus to the hotel, I stole long glances at what a fellow student, Missy, described as overwhelmingly flat compared to the hilly and mountainous regions of Northeastern USA. The palm trees interspersed with the deciduous trees full of crisp yellow-green leaves seemed to throw many of us off, as well. The bright yellow and black signs on the road, together with the topography of this place, emphasized the fact that we were entering a new place with new people and a new culture. I was reminded of the village towns in India, with dusted shrubbery forcefully filling in the spaces between curbs of the streets. Despite the dustiness and humidity, the city seems so lush and tender.
Within some time, we began to see more and more night lights and tall buildings. I painstakingly wondered whether we would be able to realize the extent to which we were neglecting an entire aspect of the culture of Abu Dhabi. Our hotel is tactfully placed within an extremely beautiful location of the city, right along the beach and across from the grand Zayed Mosque. However, there must be a part of Abu Dhabi that lives away from the luxury of these freshly painted yellow buildings. I wondered whether we would have the chance to witness this part of Abu Dhabi.
As MIT Terrascopers, we are here in Abu Dhabi because they are constructing the world's first carbon neutral city, and we spent the entire last semester devising ways for the world at large to take larger steps toward a carbon-neutral community. However, I think that it's important that we take this opportunity to represent the culture of our institution to truly observe the happenings around us and learn from every experience we share part in.
In the next hour, we will be visiting the Zayed Mosque as non-religious guests. This would be one such experience which we will cherish for the rest of our lives, as a lifetime opportunity to understand another part of our world that we otherwise would not have received the chance to learn about.