It’s been six days since I arrived in Abu Dhabi for the first time, and I’ve learned that this city certainly knows how to make an impression! The United Arab Emirates was founded 40 years ago, and Abu Dhabi was nothing more than a small settlement on the Arabian Gulf back then. Today, the city is a bustling, cosmopolitan hub of commerce and opulence. The skyscrapers are huge and more are being built as quickly as humanly possible. They certainly don’t do things by halves in Abu Dhabi.

After a quick night’s sleep during our first night in our comfortable accommodations on campus at the PI, the three of us took the #54 bus downtown to explore. The PI is a bit south of Abu Dhabi proper, so the bus is our link to the city. As Cliff has discussed, we visited the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, which was absolutely stunning. Be sure to check out the incredible photos that he posted. We also caught a glimpse of the magnificent Emirates Palace hotel. Although we weren’t allowed to go into the hotel without a room reservation, seeing the exterior made it easier to believe that the hotel has a gold-plated lobby, more than 1,000 crystal chandeliers, and a beach made out of sand fit for royalty, imported from Algeria.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Speaking of royalty, we’ve received regal treatment during our stay. Everyone has been very friendly, helpful and kind to us. All of the petroleum engineering faculty had a special welcome meeting to introduce themselves to us, the staff has been incredibly willing to make our transition to being students at the PI as smooth as possible, and I certainly couldn’t ask for anything more!

Classes are going really well so far and we’ve made friends with some great students here. We’ve also mastered taking the bus from the school to Carrefour (A Wal-Mart style store found in many countries outside the U.S.), even though the dirham coins required to pay the bus fare are a bit hard to stumble across! A few nights ago, some of our new friends took us on a walk along the Corniche, which is a boardwalk that extends along the coast with beaches and shops. With the brilliant lights of the high rise buildings behind us and the cold sand between our toes, we could see a giant flag lit up by massive spotlights waving in the distance out towards the gulf. That UAE flag is actually the largest flag in the world, and I think that it serves as a great symbol for the future of Abu Dhabi. They’re doing it big from here on out. Really big.

Finally, I should note that there is an intramural, 3v3, basketball tournament on campus tonight on the brand-new outdoor basketball court. Naturally, you can probably guess the three studs who got drafted for the Mines team. If we do well, I will be sure to post a glory picture in my next blog. If we don’t live up to the expectation that we’re good at basketball that some of the students and faculty have verbally expressed to us, then we’ll just pretend that it didn’t happen

I’ve only had a taste of Abu Dhabi and the Emirates so far, but I can’t wait for what lies ahead this semester. Stay tuned for the details of some exciting adventures!