The first week upon arrival to Sharjah was filled with orientation activities. It wasn’t until the Friday before classes began that I had a chance to steal away and spent some time alone in downtown Sharjah to watch the light festival. The Sharjah Light Festival is an annual one week event. Many destinations around Khalid Lagoon and around the city are illuminated with lights. This is much more a cultural festival than just a fancy lights show. The local Emiratis are proud of their UAE heritage and where they came from. The UAE as a whole is a relatively young country, so the amount of growth it experienced in the last few years was tremendous. To celebrate and commemorate, the light festival merged the traditional history of the region with rapid modern growth and innovation. The light show tells a story of Sharjah, the emirate with a bright future.
I’ve arrived at Dubai International Airport three days ago, and have not found the time to reflect upon my arrival in the Middle East until now, yes, conveniently at 3AM (thanks jetlag). However I snapped a few photos on my first night here at American University of Sharjah. My excitement and really good chai kept me up. In between social media and tossing and turning, I took time to just listen to my surroundings and notice how the light falls onto my dorm floor and walls. The culture shock of the UAE is not there, at least not yet for me. If and when it will rear its head is another story. It’s hard to feel like you are almost halfway across the world when you are in the UAE. The country is very Westernized. With many international expats, English is usually the common denominator for these immigrants from the UK ranging to those from Singapore. Also the history of British colonization of the UAE also lends itself to the Western feel.
But there are definitely differences, and they may appear in subtle and nuanced fashions. I’m a student here, both academically and culturally. Instead of being quick to make judgments or jump to conclusions, I feel like the best way for me to learn is to listen to the culture. In the loudness along with the quiet. I’m absolutely ecstatic for my four month journey here, and I look forward to more hot Arabian nights to come.