This past summer, I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Dubai, India, Thailand, and Cambodia. I traveled with my friend since early childhood, Kristin. During our junior year of high school, because we were both studying Chinese, we traveled to China with our class for two weeks. With college now behind us, we decided to embark on an adventure of our own. We didn’t want to do the typical Eurotrip, we wanted more of a challenge, more of an eye-opener– to India and Southeast Asia we went!
Our first stop was in Dubai in the UAE. A friend of ours now works there, so we got to meet him in the Dubai Mall (the largest mall in the world) and enjoy lunch at a Shake Shack before flying onward to Delhi, India. It was bizarre that upon landing in the Middle East, our first meal was at an American fast food chain. It felt no different than sitting in a mall in New York. I promised myself then that I would only eat food native to the country to which I was in.
We saw the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building at 2,722 ft. For reference, the Empire State Building is 1,550 ft. I could not fit the entire building into one photo.
Dubai is a fascinating city– it looks like Las Vegas picked itself up and landed in the Middle East. The city is extremely modern, its a paradigm for new technology and its airport is one of the most trafficked in the world. But despite its modernity, Dubai still operates under a constitutional monarchy. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is the current ruler.
And though it all felt very familiar, what haunted me about the city was that I had no perception of how close I was to countries in the Middle East that have been facing such devastating turmoil. Right now, what’s going on in Syria, Iraq, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia is terrifying and disgusting; Dubai is separated from those countries by mere land, and the UAE even shares a border with Saudi Arabia. But Dubai is very westernized, much different from cities in its neighboring countries, though it still shares many of the problems that other Middle Eastern cities face, like suppression and slavery. While only being able to tour the luxurious side of Dubai, it was easy to forget that it’s in the tumultuous Middle East.