After sitting on the runway for about an hour, the plane finally took off around eleven in the morning. My friend, Kendall, and I watched Devil Wears Prada while eating the lunch that Emirates served us. After finishing my lunch, I promptly fell asleep and managed to sleep through the dinner that was served. The next time I woke up, the flight attendants were serving breakfast. Honestly, I thought the eggs tasted pretty weird, but it was still good for airplane food. In fact, everything about Emirates was pretty good. They had lights on the ceiling that simulated a day, so during the night, we could see “the stars” and in the morning we could see “the sunrise”.
Our flight landed around eight in the morning on Sunday. We headed out the plane and wandered through Dubai’s massively large airport until we managed to find customs. After getting our passports stamped, we collected our bags then waited for our travel guide, Alvin. Alvin took us on the bus where we exchanged our money for dirhams. Then we began the hour-long drive to our hotel in Abu Dhabi. I won’t lie; I slept the entire bus ride. We got to the hotel and had half an hour to check in, put our bags down, and get dressed before we had to get back on the bus to head out into the desert.
We sat on the bus for another two hours to get to Madinat Zayed where the Al Dhafra festival was held. We got a tour of the grounds, and got to see the shops, the camels, the dates (a type of fruit), and soured milk (I didn’t try the soured milk, but I did try the dates, and they tasted a little like milk duds). The camels were being judged for their beauty. The judges explained that they look at their lips (the droopier the better), the perkiness of their ears, and whether or not the camels had scars or brands. In fact, the better camels were worth millions, and the owner of the winning camel got a brand new car.
After seeing the festival, we had a feast with some men my professor knew. At the feast, we met a British woman, named Heather, who came to the UAE to teach English. She moved with her husband and spent two years working there. She explained that many of her students were either multimillionaires or the sons of multimillionaires. She said that her students went to school for the social aspect. In fact, many of her students got paid to go to school. She also described the burkas that women wear as liberating. She described how it is illegal to be catcalled by men while you’re walking down the street. She also told us about the stereotypes she had about Americans: we’re too clean, too fat, and too competitive.
When we weren’t discussing the culture, we were stuffing our faces. Servers brought out coffee, camel milk, and tea. There were also huge platters of fruit lying around. We tasted dragon fruit, rambutan, and pomegranates. The dragon fruit tasted a little like kiwi, and the pomegranates tasted way better the pomegranates I tried back home. Then we moved into a huge tent where they had a huge meal prepared for us. They had a huge platter loaded with rice and camel meat and smaller platters filled with humus, cilantro, and tons of other food. I ate so much that I felt like I couldn’t move.