This is my last post from the UAE. We fly tomorrow! And this is the big pack-it-all-up day. Thanks to all who have visited and kept up with us, as well as your really great recent comments. It's been an amazing year and now we are happy to come home.
You can find me here on my new blog, Herland Notebook, once we get settled back home. Add me to your reader! The first weeks are going to be a whirlwind of seeing family and friends, eating foods we are missing, moving back into our house, getting adjusted to the time change (oh joy), as well as getting Eleanor settled. Wish us luck--especially the bit about flying half way around the world with a toddler. See you soon I hope. Bye for now. xx
I can't wait for that plane to safely land to see my family and friends big and little run and hug our dog eat coneys and hometown pizza and fill my belly at another dozen or so other places see Eleanor with our families especially my Mom and all her cousins see the Cincinnati skyline and feel home again there's the drive to Columbus under that open Ohio sky step back into our house unpack our boxes like it's Christmas but keep things simple go to the grocery store and fill up our cart with so many of the foods I am missing say hi to neighbors and walk the neighborhood go to the library and check out a ridiculous amount of books see more friends take a drive play around in the backyard look forward to Fall and the colors and smell of it I missed that last year hope for rain I haven't seen or felt for many months anxious for book group to start to watch new movies we missed excited about sewing and a new creative space to see Eleanor in her room playing again
and to fill our house of remembrances of this special year
I wanted to pull together a handful of favorite photos from this year. This is alot of pictures I know! Many have Eleanor and I've realized I like to see people mark the landscape of a place in pictures. I hope to have some of these framed in our house and others put into a special album.
I'm all nostalgic lately. Knowing your are leaving a place does that I think. I've been pausing and paying more attention to the Call to Prayer again when I hear it. I am savouring the foods we are eating more. I am taking many mental pictures as I walk away from a place for the last time. We are saying goodbye to friends. But I am happy that we fly in 5 days!
Here is baby girl above at 20 months when we arrived last September....she already had a thing for dates our first week here. She was still pudgy and had lots of "baby" in her.
And now almost a year later at 2.5 years old this morning....
...She's shot up in height, got more hair (a ponytail even!), sings many songs, knows her ABCs, is more fearless, and has a greater love of books and reading. She just isn't a baby anymore. I have been really impressed with how well she has adapted to her new surroundings here. She's had so many friends. And I know she'll do great coming back home.
I know she is not going to remember a great deal, if anything, of this time abroad in the UAE, but hopefully I've taken enough photos so that she'll be able to see her little self halfway across the world at such a young age. I'm hoping it'll give her an extra dose of curiousity and interest in the world, it's people and other cultures. I hope she'll think her parents were adventurous and brave - and years down the road be as brave herself, well, as brave as her Mama can handle.
We really enjoyed our trip to Abu Dhabi this past weekend including visiting the Grand Mosque. We only have a little over 2 weeks left in the UAE at this point so we are trying to get in some last minute daytrips and adventures in.
I wanted to write more about wearing the abeya and hijaab while we visited the mosque. When you come upon the mosque, all women are directed to an area and handed an abeya (black gown) and hijaab (head scarf). Men will be asked to wear a dishdasha (white traditional robe) if they are wearing shorts.
I have to say this was one of highlight of the visit for me. I have been curious as to what it would feel like to wear this traditional dress of the Gulf. I have already had some people mentioned being surprised by me covering knowing what a strong feminist I am. Of course covering for less than a couple hours as a tourist and out of respect is much different than this being part of my life.
Some observations with respect - I enjoyed wearing the hijaab. I find it can be very beautiful when chosen to be worn to show one's faith. I just wish I had pins or a "bonnet" that many women wear underneath to keep it secure and tight as it kept shifting. The abeya on the other hand I did not like as much. Maybe because mine was too long so that was awkward and it wasn't comfortable in the heat. At all.
Eleanor found it interesting at first that I was wearing a "new dress" and wanted to wear one too, but then the newness of it wore off quickly and I just blended into the background. It's just the normal state of things to her at this point to see women covered--maybe you can see none of their face, just their eyes or their face is open. This photo was taken when we first arrived to Al Ain and were at the zoo. From day one Eleanor never showed any interest or apprehension. You might assume that a covered woman might take up a quiet space but here in the UAE, Emirati women take great pride and have great status they wield.
As a feminist when I was younger I used to distain women being covered. And it's not always my favorite thing to see. I realize now that it's hard for me as a Westerner and Christian to fully understand what it means to wear the hijaab. We can only view it from our own cultural lens. I do strongly believe that it should be a choice however and it's upsetting to know in certain countries (Saudi Arabia, Iran) women must be covered and other countries, including the UAE, women cover partly out of social obligation or pressure, even though they will swear up and down it is their choice.
One of the things I have disliked the most in being in this country has been the stares I have received as an uncovered Western woman. The laborers, generally from India and Pakistan, make up the majority of the population here. When I say STARE it's something I have never experienced before. It is blatant and unflinching, often not ending until you are out of sight. I have gotten very angry at times and thought - "didn't your Mama teach you not to stare?!?!" I definitely have dressed more conservatively here that's for sure and learned to ignore it.
They don't stare at the Emirati or Muslim women in the same way, so I have come to see how it has "protected" them in many ways. It's just annoying that the women have had to cover and be responsible in some ways for these men's stares and attention. Michael told me that decades ago you would not have found women covering to this extent, it's just been since foreign labor has been brought into the area.
I mentioned the heat. I will say that while it has been very hot in Al Ain (generally 115-120 degrees lately) we have nothing on Abu Dhabi or Dubai during the summer months as they have high humidity coupled with the high temperatures. It's unbearable. Thanksfully after we wandered outside the mosque and grounds, the inside was wonderfully air conditioned as I was dying underneath the abeya.
Wow, I wrote alot. And I could easily write more. I mention some negative things here but I had a very positive experience covering at the mosque. If you have read this entire post, good for you! I am going to be doing a little giveaway in the next week, so do check back.
This weekend we had the opportunity to visit the spectacular Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi (otherwize known as the Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Mosque). It's grand in size and in loveliness. It is one of very few mosques in the UAE that is open to non-Muslims and only during special hours.
Although not fully completed, the mosque is one of the largest in the world and apparently can accomodate 30,000 worshippers at one time.
We felt very welcomed at the mosque. There were many children, Westerners, non-Muslim visitors and Muslims alike. I'm glad we didn't leave the country without this visit.
The mosque is surrounded and full of beautiful white Italian marble with inlaid floral patterns, 24-carat gold-plated chandeliers with thousands of Swarovski crystals, and the main prayer hall also features the world’s largest hand-woven Persian carpet.
All who visit the mosque must be properly dressed and women are supplied an abeya (black gown) and hijaab (head scarf) to wear. I enjoyed this aspect of our visit as I have been curious what it feels like to wear this dress of the Gulf. I'll write more of this in another post.
I have no idea what I was talking to Eleanor about here, but her face cracks me up. She was very good in the mosque and very interested in everything around her. Maybe here I was telling her to use her "secret" voice which she took very seriously in between bouts of happy squeals.
Every direction there was something beautiful to take in, including up high which had Eleanor fascinated.
One of my favorite areas of the mosque was this beautiful room....
This is a nice video that shows much of the interior of the mosque.
My photographs do not do the mosque justice and lighting was tricky in the dim quiet of the large spaces. All photos here are my own with exception to the first and second.
Al Ain is the fourth largest city in the United Arab Emirates and is approximately 1.5 hours from both Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Al Ain (meaning "the spring" in Arabic) is referred to as the "garden city" of the UAE. Approximately 10% of the population in the UAE are Western expats.