Greetings from the United Arab Emirates. My flight arrived Thursday evening, and a taxi took me to the PI, only about 20 minutes from the airport. By the next morning, the three CSM students had arrived, and set off for the day. The PI isn’t on the island that downtown (city center) Abu Dhabi is on, so we took the #54 bus into town. Similarities between the 54 here and the 16L, which runs from Golden to Denver on Colfax, are striking: Both are slow, go on a busy street, and connect an engineering school with a large shopping center. I understand what it must be like to be a foreign student at Mines, taking the bus to the Target, as I took the bus to the Carrefour store.

Ian, Robert and Clifford

Patterns on the lower columns are inlaid marble with mother of pearl (detail below). The chandeliers have thousands of Swarovski crystals in vibrant colors. The beautiful carpet took 21 months to make in Iran.

This is all inlaid marble, part of an extensive pattern on the floor. The pattern climbs up the walls…

Campus is easy to walk around, and the weather is marvelous. It takes about 5 minutes to walk from the student center (SC) at one end of campus to the rec center at the other end. The SC and rec center are new, somewhat shiny, clean, and very well done. The shininess at these buildings and many in Abu Dhabi is due to the polished granite that clads not only the building, but the outdoor entrance area and steps.

On the walk to the rec center, I found the first hint of the desert. There’s an underpass to go the rec center, and at one end of the tunnel was a sand dune that had consumed several feet of the stop sign’s post. The sand, as you see in the pictures, is light brown, but very fine and soft. The front of the rec center has not yet been developed, and is just a sand field. It’s easy to imagine what the area was like before roads were laid and trees planted.

The campus has trees, sidewalks and lawns everywhere. In addition to the rec center, there is a basketball court (proclaiming “Home of the Falcons”) and a soccer court. All the staff I have met so far have been warm, welcoming, friendly and kind. From the security guard in our building’s lobby to the desk man in the student center, everyone has shown interest in the three Americans walking around campus!

The day before classes (Saturday, second day here), the three of us headed to town again. This time, there were two destinations: the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and the Emirates Palace, along with dinner at the Lebanese Flower. Primary transportation was again the bus. Did I mention that a bus fare is 1 AED (roughly 30 cents)? Despite its circuitous routes and long transfers, it is for this reason that I still view the bus quite favorably.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is a spectacular and magnificent mosque, completed in 2007 with a capacity of more than 40,000. You’ve really got to see it to believe it. There are tours open to the public, although we ended up hitching on the back of a private tour for a Western group from Dubai. The photos show what we saw.

Classes have started. I’m getting settled into a routine and am learning how the PI works. Expect another post soon.