Tuesday, October 15, 2013

DAY TWELVE - Eid Ul-Adha

This year the Muslim holiday of Eid Ul-Adha began at sunset on Sunday evening, and it continues for three days. Like most Westerners, I've heard of the month-long holiday of Ramadan, but Eid (rhymes with seed) as it is called, was not familiar to me. I'd never heard of it.
The word "eid" means "sacrifice" in Arabic. According to Wikipedia Eid honors the willingness of the prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his young, first-born son Ismail (Ishmail) as an act of submission to Allah's command and his son's acceptance to be sacrificed, before Allah intervened to provide Ibrahim with a Lamb to scacrifice instead.
I do not know how this holiday is observed in the mosques - are there special ceremonies? Rituals? What I can tell you for sure is that there was a special Call to Prayer this morning. It was not the usual soothing prayer that lasts a few minutes. Oh no! This one was loud and demandiing. Insistant! There were no lulls in between the musical phrases. The words spilled out and quickly. And the prayer went on and on and on. It began as usual before the sunrise, but by the time it ended maybe 20 minutes later, the sun had risen and the sky was bright. And I was wide awake for the day. 
The majority of the working populace must love Eid because they get three days off from work. The date for Eid varies year-to-year, and this week it fell smack in the middle of the work week. Naturally everyone who had the time available took Sunday and Thursday off which means they had a 9-day holiday. Not bad! NYU Abu Dhabi is closed for Eid, and several of the people I met at last week's tea were heading out of town for the weekend: one woman flew to Spain with her family, another couple was off to Vietnam and Cambodia, and (my personal favorite) another person is hiking in Nepal. This is a good jumping off point to visit some very cool places. Once Doug gets settled in here a bit, we're hoping to make some trips ourselves. It's part of Kathi's Master Plan. 
For this Eid, however, Doug and I decided to explore our new city.........

Yesterday we returned to the Souk at Central Market, and this time it was open. The exterior of the Souk is lined with restaurants, so we had lunch at Shakespeare & Co.  I didn't take any pictures inside, as much as I wanted to, because in this society it is considered offensive to take pictures of other people unless you get their permisison. 

This souk is housed in a large, brand new 3-story building, and it is huge! Apparently the original souk burnt down several years ago, so when it was rebuilt it was designed to have all the modern amenities such as escalators and elevators and spacious bathrooms, but the architects wanted to retain the "flavor" of the traditional souks. There are many permanent shops inside, most with traditional wares, but some are definitely not traditional, such as this Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. Outside of the shops individuals set up their wares: furnitures, Persian rugs, jewelry and incense.

It is only a few short blocks from the Souk at Central Market to the Corniche, so Doug and I decided to brave the heat and walk. In Hoboken we live steps away from the waterfront, and we love it. We figure this is our Abu Dhabi equivilent, and we've been eager to get here. 

The Corniche is maybe THE highlight of Abu Dhabi. It stretches 8 kilometres and includes separate bike and pedestrian paths, cafes and restaurants, and some of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen.

Those of us who live in or near NYC will appreciate this because in order to go to a beach, we have to head out to Long Island or the Jersey Shore, and that's no quick or easy trip. But here in Abu Dhabi the Corniche Beach could not be more convenient. Because this is a Muslim country, the beach is divided into 3 sections: General Public, Families, and Single Men. NOTE the upper right section of the photo - that tent-like structure and tower is the largest mall in the city, the Marina Mall. 

I would love to say that Doug and I had a long and leisurely stroll along the Corniche, but that was not the case. By the time we arrived it was in the heat of the afternoon, and while it was bearable to sit in the shade and admire the turquoise water, we absolutely could not walk any distance. This short stretch had lovely shade trees, but beyond this point there was no shade. Even though we were drinking water all the time, we simply had to give up on our walk and go back to our air conditioned apartment. But you can be sure that as Winter approaches, we will be out on the Corniche. 

Yesterday we decided to take a double-decker bus tour of the city so we could get a sense of the city and its neighborhoods. I think every city in the world must have its version of this tour. I plugged in my headphones, clicked on the British flag for the English version of the tour narrative, and I could swear it was the voice of my Meisner classmate, Christian, who I know does voice work in addition to acting. I need to check with him ;-)

Part of the tour involved driving out to several of the islands off Abu Dhabi proper. The main island is completely developed, so construction has moved to the islands of Al Mina, Al Reem and Saadiyat. All of these islands are complete construction zones. As we approached Saadiyat Island we could see the new campus for NYU Abu Dhabi. Someone described it as looking like a sand castle in the distance, and indeed it does have that appearance as it sits all by its lonesome out on the sand. Completion is set for the Fall of 2014.

We got off the tour bus at the Marina Mall because we thought it would be nice to go up to the tower to the observation deck. But once up there, I thought it would be nice to sit and have a bite of lunch. It turned out to be a Columbian-themed eatery. That is an iced mocha I am sipping. I was thinking I'd get an iced coffee drink, but it was more like a milkshake.

Some of the views from the observation tower. The "tent" below us is just part of the Marina Mall. You can see a marina in the middle of the photo and the skyline in the distance.

That is Lulu Island in the middle of the photo, and from what I can see it doesn't have much of anything on it..... yet. The Arabian Gulf is to the left. 

Sex and the City (the movie) fans will recognize The Emirates Palace Hotel. They are supposed to have a wonderful High Tea there, so it's on my List of places to go. I have to see this place for myself.

There are some very interesting buildings in Abu Dhabi. You can't tell very well from this angle, but this building tilts way over to one side, further over than the Leaning Tower of Pisa. 

One of the stops was at the Grand Mosque. They give private tours in the moorning hours, so I want to take Doug back there for a tour. 

Today we are sticking close to home. It is still Eid, but Doug has a conference call with the NYU in NY, and we also have a lunch date with one of his new co-workers and his wife. But tomorrow......  Doug wants to go to Dubai. More to come!

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