United Arab Emirates: Discovering Dubai

Submitted by Boris Manjic on the 2022 winter session program in the United Arab Emirates sponsored by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering…

Landing in Dubai a week prior to the official study abroad date was the best decision I have ever made in my life. I stayed at a hostel looking over the Dubai Marina and the Palm Jumeirah in preparation for the New Year’s Eve events. Every person I met at the hostel was extremely welcoming and hospitable, to the point of me even getting an interview for a real estate company and a partnership offer from a construction project manager from Iran, Arash, that owns seven companies in four countries. From Arash, I learned a year’s worth of information relating to my major during a two hour dinner meeting. I also met Gabriele, an Italian mineral company head, who is now one of my best friends and continues to show love and appreciation to every person he meets.

After Dr. Small, the TAs, other students, and I picked the rest of the class up from the airport, I immediately knew this was going to be a month of pure happiness and opportunity. I saw the same look in everyone’s eyes that I had experienced myself my first few days here. The amount of culture shock was significant, but not crippling. I thought to myself on my first day here that it was a mistake to go on my own, but I was immediately proven wrong since I was embraced by the whole community within minutes of getting there. The day after the students landed was eventful since we went on a bus tour all around Dubai. Dr. Small led the tour and took us to five different locations. My favorite place, the souks, is an open-air market for spice and gold, where you can practice your haggling skills and get every traditional Emirati item you could ever imagine.

In regards to cuisine, Dr. Small took us to an Arabic cafe/restaurant where we got a plethora of food and drink including, but not limited to: falafel, samosas, rice dishes, Arabic tea, and hibiscus tea. It was most people’s first time eating at an Arabic restaurant and every single person enjoyed their time there and the new culture they got to experience.

In this first week, we were fortunate enough to go to the Dubai Frame, Expo 2020, a boat tour, a helicopter tour, the Mall of the Emirates, the Dubai Mall, and many more tourist attractions. Every place we went to was unique and showed the culture of Dubai despite them being tourist attractions. Looking back, it was the most eventful week of my life and I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. Looking forward, I hope we can experience more local areas and speak to even more amazing people.

View from the helicopter tour overlooking a major portion of Dubai
View from my hostel overlooking the Palm Juremiah
The Dubai Frame located in Zabeel Park