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  • Writer's pictureLiz Totton

First Impressions

So how much do first impressions really matter? In my last post, I went on and on, ad nauseum probably, about our first impressions of Olympia, WA and how much we adored it upon first sight.

So what are my first impressions of our new home? It is hard to say. I have yet to see much. This is the first time that I have ever had jet lag (I have flown further and longer but never in my 40s or with kids—might have something to do with it?!).  Also, we are westerners staying in a very westernized hotel. The hotel doesn’t feel very different from the USA. The view from the hotel is another story entirely. Behold the view from Yas Island, Abu Dhabi…

View from the Staybridge on Yas Island.

View from the Staybridge on Yas Island.

Below is that round, Oreo-looking building (the Aldar Building) close up and a stock image acquired from the web:

Aldar Building

Aldar Building, Abu Dhabi

So how can I best describe the landscape? Dry, barren, utterly odd? Yes, yes, yes. The landscape is pretty uniform so far. The city is exactly what I expected: post-apocalypse, Mad Max-looking. I like it though. It’s very strange, and I like strange places that bludgeon me out of my comfort zone. I really like to be challenged this way. I like nothing more than being dropped somewhere unfamiliar, not yet versed in the language and completely lost. Once I figure a place out, I lose interest fast. It is my worst quality. Fortunately, I do not feel this way about people, only places.

The people here are, so far, very friendly. In the three days that we have been here, we have met people from all over the world: from Mexico to Saudi Arabia to the Philippines and back to New York city. We have been shown nothing but kindness, help and generosity. I have always believed that people have the same, general intentions no matter where you travel. These couple days have confirmed that belief in spades. This is a sharp contrast to what occurred at JFK airport as we waited in the terminal for our flight to begin boarding. This tale is for my next blog post though. Stay tuned. It was a not so gentle reminder about the consequences of American imperialism, and how much international traveling has radically changed post 9/11.

The fashion contradictions here are bizarre. At any random locale, you are bound to see a woman dressed in a full abaya right next to a woman in a tube top and booty shorts. It’s crazy how these two fashions can co-exist so naturally. I stumbled on this article, which does really captures the mix strange mix of opulence and tradition present here in the U.A.E. Pictures and the article are linked here, What women are wearing in Abu Dhabi, in Brink Magazine, by the Berkeley Graduate Journalism school.

Fashion in UAE

Fashion in UAE

If case you are at all curious about the differences between a burqa (black cloak worn by the woman on this right (someone please correct me if I am wrong about what she is wearing) and an abaya, here is a link for more information, visit this article for clarification.  Essentially, both are long cloaks. The abaya is usually made of soft, flowing fabrics. It has a front crossover opening and can be just pulled over regular clothing. It is often paired with a hijab and a niqab. A hijab is the scarf, which covers the head. A niqab is a cloth, which covers the face. The abaya is most common in the Islamic cultures on the Arabian Peninsula; however it has been readily adopted in other parts of the world. Similarly, a burqa is also a loose outer garment that covers the whole body; however a burqa is head-to-toe. The aim of the burqa is to cover the shape of the body in front of males outside of the family. In addition to the body, the burqa also covers the head and face.

Photography is discouraged, or outright forbidden, in many places here. This is VERY disappointing for an amateur photographer, such as myself, who has viewed at least a quarter of her life through a lens. I think I will have to rely on a lot of stock photography to show you many of the things that I see. I will do my very best to attribute the photos that I grab. I will try to document all the usual things that we see and do here. So far, every outing is a revelation of sorts! I’ll keep you posted.


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