The past four months have gone very quickly and it’s hard to believe that I will be leaving Abu Dhabi in a few days. Before I reflect on the experience as a whole, let me fill you in on what we’ve been up to recently.
We had a spring break back at the start of April. I traveled to France for a vacation, but I was never quite able to escape the Emirates! At the top of the Eiffel Tower, I was reminded that the Burj Khalifa in Dubai is the tallest structure in the world because there is a graph that compares the world’s tallest structures to the Eiffel Tower, and it was hard to miss that the Burj Khalifa is well over twice as tall as the Eiffel Tower. I was also greeted by a big sign that had “Louvre Abu Dhabi Opening Soon’ written on it when I went inside the well-known glass pyramid that serves as the museum’s entrance in Paris. Abu Dhabi is opening branches of the Louvre and Guggenheim museums on a new development called Saadiyat Island in the east part of town. I also walked by the campus of the Sorbonne in Paris, which was funny because I drive by the campus of the Sorbonne Abu Dhabi almost every time I go downtown. It was interesting to see how traditional French institutions are getting a fresh start in the burgeoning Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
Upon returning to Abu Dhabi, the three of us traveled to the desert oasis of Liwa for the weekend. The town is about 3.5 hours away from Abu Dhabi and is literally in the middle of the desert. We drove by herds of camels, drilling operations and lots of massive sand dunes to get to the oasis. In classic Bedouin tradition, we made a point to find a source of water while stopping at the oasis. I will admit that sitting poolside was a bit more of a priority for me than watering my camel, though! The next morning, we were greeted with the unexpected surprise of rain. The desert, as most people know, is typically hot and dry so none of us brought rain gear. Be sure to check out the picture of Ian helping Cliff to become waterproof with what we could find in our hotel room.
We’ve also been pretty busy taking advantage of the opportunities for learning about oil and gas in the region. One of our classes took a field trip to Schlumberger’s Middle East Learning Center, which is one of the company’s global employee training centers. We’ve also attended several great presentations at the Society of Petroleum Engineers meetings for the Abu Dhabi Professional Section. The president of SPE International gave a talk about the current state and future of the oil and gas industry that was very insightful. One of the SPE presentations was even given by the current secretary of energy for the state of Oklahoma. While I’m pretty sure that Etihad (the official airline for the Emirate of Abu Dhabi) hasn’t introduced a Tulsa-to-Abu-Dhabi route, there is no doubt that Abu Dhabi is a hot spot for the oil and gas industry, which is why an SPE distinguished lecturer such as the Oklahoma secretary of energy came to town to present his views on the future of global energy production.
A fun event that we were able to participate in at the PI was its annual Global Day. Many nationalities comprise the student body, and Global Day is an event for everyone to share their country’s traditions. One of the highlights of the event was the food portion, where every country serves its local dishes, and it was quite a buffet to sample homemade food from about 20 countries. This was also the first year that the United States was represented because Cliff, Ian and I threw a booth together and proudly put up the Stars and Stripes.
We have also embraced the local garment of a kandura. We went to one of the local tailors to make sure that we would have high-quality kanduras, and I think that all of our classmates were seriously impressed when we started wearing them to class.
That pretty much hits the highlights of our recent adventures. As far as reflecting on the experience as a whole, I’m very glad that I did it. I learned a lot about a part of the world that I knew very little about four months ago. Abu Dhabi ended up being a lot different from what I expected, but the cosmopolitan city that I found upon arriving here was a great place to live. I think that I’ve learned to appreciate some things at Mines that I didn’t appreciate before my semester abroad, too, which is always a good exercise to go through. Overall, I’ll always look back at my time in Abu Dhabi and at the PI with some fond memories.