Photo courtesy of Mane Harutyunyan

Feeling burned out? Here’s why you should explore the Abu Dhabi Mangroves

The final week of classes might get overwhelming; you might get easily frustrated, anxious, and burned out from the amount of work that needs to be done. Exploring the UAE’s Mangroves is a great way to slow down and heal.

Dec 12, 2022

A year and a half ago, I packed my suitcases, ready to explore a part of the world that promised to be radically different from mine. Growing up in a small, homogenous Caucasian community, I never experienced the high degree of cultural, religious, and ethnic diversity that my new home — the UAE — was proud of. I anticipated that the UAE’s linguistic and cultural diversity would result in me having different kinds of social interactions than I have become accustomed to in Armenia. However, my biggest concern about moving — the thing I thought would hinder my ability to adapt to this new country — was the difference in climate. The humidity of the air and the desert climate made my heart cry; I missed the fresh mountainous air of home and felt entirely distanced from mother nature. The wealthy country’s astonishingly high skyscrapers and perfectly designed facilities did not erase my desire to be connected with greenery.
My detachment from nature caused me anxiety: I loved talking about my Zangezur mountains in almost every conversation I could, as I showed pictures of the natural landscapes back home. But I felt as if my yearning for the mountains moved beyond me missing nature. I had a feeling that my brain was seeking ways to avoid validating my more pressing feeling of being homesick — the lack of mountains was just a tiny piece missing from a big puzzle of happiness. I was homesick and had a burning desire to walk through silent nature as a gentle act of remembering warm memories from childhood — full of laughter and joy. Walking in green areas was my habitual act of self care and meditation — something that I urgently needed to do in order to cope with the overwhelming number of responsibilities and stress in my life.
Finding the mangrove reserves in Abu Dhabi relieved me. Jubail Mangrove Park — the nearest one from campus — is my favorite destination to reconnect with nature. I can walk barefoot, breathing in air without the smell of traffic emissions, and enjoy how small fish play in the natural salty waters. I can look at the sharp edges of the mangroves with curiosity: I can see how the unique biological structure of their roots allows them to survive against harsh environmental conditions.
For me, this place is a museum of natural survival: the extraordinarily powerful mother nature empowers us with tools to help us overcome challenges. Sometimes, our roots become deeper and wider, as we all have the need to be connected with nurturing souls.
My initial approach of labeling my second home as a “desert land without a life” was not fair. This preconceived notion came from incomplete information and my inner insecurity, which led me to place the blame on things that were out of my control. After some time, I also discovered that the UAE ministry of Climate Change and Environment was committed to achieving the target of planting 100 million mangroves by 2030.
Now, while I am here, I am committed to this goal as well. Being part of the Mangrove planting Kashtah activity with other NYU Abu Dhabi community members just a few weeks ago felt very fulfilling as it showed how eager we are to make our surroundings a better place. This small act of making a space greener highlights how our community resonates with the message ‘think global, act local’.
During your busy and overwhelming week full of finals, do yourself a favor and explore the mangrove reserves in Abu Dhabi. Take advantage of the healing and restorative effects of the natural atmosphere — effects that can be transformative for our brain functioning and become an impactful way to naturally meditate.
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