Eid Travels

Photograph by Karolina Wilczyńska

A Very Subjective Guide to Eid Break

The UAE has plenty to offer when it comes to exploration during the holidays. Whether it be adventure, history or a good view. Make sure to take advantage of that during the Eid Break.

Chances are that many of us will not receive our passports back before Eid break. NYU Abu Dhabi students, with their penchant for traveling everywhere from Mozambique to Nepal over short breaks, will likely have to wait until the next break, in October. While many upperclassmen may be frustrated about not being able to explore new continents, visiting long-unseen pen-friends or simply going home, this is a chance for freshmen to start their college travels in presumably the logical order: small steps first.
NYUAD is likely to eventually take you to a camel race, Yas Waterworld or yet another James Bond premiere, but the UAE also has gems you will need to discover yourself. Today, predicted temperatures range between 38 and 41 degrees Celsius. It might be too early for camping, but there are alternatives.
First of all, souqs. Tight schedules tend to favor quick trips to the mall, but shopping has many faces. There is the enormous Blue Souq and the Old Souq in Sharjah, just a couple of hours from Abu Dhabi. Dubai too offers plenty: the Gold Souq, the Spice Souq and the Perfume Souq, to name a few. Souqs are everywhere around the Emirates, and the Carpet Souq and the Fruit and Vegetable Market are just off Saadiyat Island. It is only a matter of finding them and spending a few hours picking a carpet most suitable for your new room.
Additionally, there is always modern culture to explore. Until mid-September, Yas Island is hosting an event called The District, emulating a micro-city with a set of activities, workshops and events. The platform describes itself as “a one-of-a-kind space where you can socialize, play, create, explore, find inspiration, make connections or even disconnect if that’s what you’re in the mood for.” Another contemporary art site worth visiting is a set of galleries and venues in Al Quoz, an industrial district of Dubai. Some of the warehouses contain cafes that match the trends set by the art around them.
The break can also be an opportunity to escape the city and get lost between the desert and the sea. If renting a car is not an option, there are long-distance buses connecting the emirates. A few hours after leaving the Welcome Center, you can be at Al Badiyah in Fujairah, setting foot in the oldest mosque in the country and then climbing the rocks above it to enjoy the view of the Gulf of Oman and the palm trees at the foot of rocky mountains. Islands of greenery can also be found closer to the city, like in Madhab Park where you can walk through a forest of date palms.
On the other hand, Ras al-Khaimah and Umm al-Quwain have austere coastlines to offer. The beach in Ras al-Khaimah feels worlds apart from Saadiyat Public Beach or the Corniche. Umm al-Quwain’s beach has an enormously long breakwater made of stones, creating a tiny beach at the very tip of the city. The pier is the perfect spot to watch every shade of blue the Gulf has to offer. And of course, there are mountains. Climbing Jebel Hafeet, just outside of Al Ain, is also an effective way of making the temporary passport loss less painful; part of the mountain lies in the territory of Oman, but the summit belongs to the UAE.
Lively ports, so historically and culturally important, can be found in every emirate — even in the smallest, Ajman. In Umm al-Quwain, the port is located at the tip of the city, not far from the pier beach. If you happen to be lucky, an Iranian family currently residing in the UAE might take you there in their own car, seeing how desperately you need a taxi in the scorching heat. There are forts like Abu Dhabi’s Qasr al-Hosn in Fujairah, Dubai and Al Ain. There are museums, for which Sharjah is most famous. Only in Sharjah will you find the Museum of Islamic Civilization, the Art Museum and the Heritage Area. Al Ain and the villages of Liwa, both in Abu Dhabi, are also worth visiting if history is what you’re looking for.
To do justice to the holiday, Eid Break may also be a chance to learn a few phrases in Arabic, visit a mosque or attend a celebratory event on campus, organized by the Muslim Student Association.
Now let’s hope the visas won’t be ready by Eid.
Karolina Wilczynska is Research Editor. Email her at feedback@thegazelle.org
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