Updated: Mar 8, 2019
I'm writing to you at 8:30pm here in Dubai. Today has been absolutely fantastic and full of new experiences. To make this easy for me to write and you to read, I'm going to list out my activities for the day with a little description to go along with it!
Spice and gold souk:
Our first destination of the day was the spice and gold souk, which is basically a huge market that sells gold, spices, and other souvenir items. Now before I get into the details of this place, I just want to ask...have you ever taken a water taxi before?? To be able to get to this souk, we had to cross the river--que water taxi side note-- which was a super cool experience! Now back to the souk--we saw the world's largest gold ring (which is bigger than a child) and then were turned loose to shop on our own. Now, we were told to haggle with the merchants--which I've never done before. Walking into a jewelry store, I wasn't intending to buy anything. But one can guess what I walked out with...yes an 18k gold ring. I haggled a little with the merchant and the normally $125 ring was lowered to $110 (I know, not a huge price reduction, but it was pretty and I'm bad at haggling). As our time allowed to shop came to a close, we were rushing back to the water taxi to meet with the rest of the group. As we were waiting for everyone else to show up, I saw a head scarf I absolutely adored. I asked the seller how much and he originally told me $50. Don't freak out mom and dad, I didn't pay that much for it. As we were getting ready to leave for our water taxi, he really wanted me to buy, so he ended up caving and offering me the scarf for 100 dirham (which is around $27). As I was giving him the money, the water taxi left---again, don't worry mom and dad, my professors waited for me. But it was quite an experience.
I'm not going to lie, I didn't pay super close attention to this stop. It was very crowded which made it hard to read the information, but it was very beautiful and shows the history of Dubai very well with its visuals. I do remember reading about Dubai discovering oil in the 1960s (but that's all I got, sorry mom)! One thing I've noticed is that a lot of shops have very beautiful trinkets, including camels, lamps, and various of other items covered in jewels. Perfect gifts for friends and family back home *wink *wink
Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding:
This was the most rewarding and educational stop of the day. This was a tour describing how Emirati people welcome guests into their home, how they eat together, what the Muslim faith really is, and how culture is different than religion. We visited a mosque, which was super pretty! I can honestly say that I didn't really understand what the Muslim faith was before this tour. I believed what the media told us about Muslims and I thought that it was the Islamic religion that forced women to wear head dresses to cover themselves. It was so interesting to engage in a discussion that wasn't a, "I'm right, your wrong" dynamic. I have gained so much perspective about the Islamic faith. The only difference that I see between Islam and Christianity is that Muslims believe that there is only one God and have to do good works to get into Heaven, while I believe that Jesus was the son of God who died for our sins so that we will be wiped clean of our sin in the eyes of God. The bottom line is that we shouldn't believe everything our media tells us. Another interesting thing I learned was that the way that Middle Eastern people dress isn't just because of their faith. Women wore head dresses back in the day (like hundreds of year ago) because they wanted to discourage men from "bothering" them---hair was seen as something that was very beautiful on women, so they wore head scarfs to hide it from men. The niqab (face veil) was something they wore to keep sand out of their mouth and nose--our tour guide told us to think about each item of clothing used for a practical purpose. Also, our guide told us that the UAE cabinet is split 50/50 with women and men and have passed an Equal Wages Law--so against popular belief, women are well respected and equal to men in the UAE. The head scarfs and abaya (black cloak that covers clothing) were all something that Mary, mother of Jesus wore--which helped me gain more perspective because Mary wasn't Muslim. Lastly, I just wanted to say that I think it's really cool that Muslims have prayer five times a day. That's something I really commend them for because sometimes I find it hard to do just one prayer a day.
Oh, and I held a falcon! That was pretty lit.
I believe that this was something that God wanted/needed me to know. Although we have different beliefs, we need to love everyone like they are our brother or sister. We shouldn't judge a group of people because of others misrepresenting the religion. I think it's really easy as Christians to place people into separate categories--those who don't know God and those who believe something different than us. I know I used to think that I can't help those who believe something different, but that's not up for me to decide. All I can do is show the love and grace God has shown me to everyone, including Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, etc. God calls us to live in such a way that makes those around you want what you have. That is being a disciple and sharing God's word.