Welcome to the Middle East

Trip Start Feb 28, 2011
Trip End Jun 01, 2011

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Flag of United Arab Emirates  ,
Sunday, April 17, 2011

I landed in Abu Dhabi around midnight still not feeling 100% after my experience with Delhi belly. I made my way to immigration and I was excited because I didn't see any other people my skin color. When I got to the immigration counter there was a man wearing a Keffiyah, the traditional Arab headdress. He also had a face so strong, it looked like he was carved out of stone. So my first trip to the Middle East and this is my welcome, I was a little intimidated to say the least. I wasn't sure if I even had all the necessary paperwork to enter the country. I passed over my passport and he said something but I couldn't understand what it was. He said it with a deep voice and an unbending stone cold look, he said it again then a guard came over and then they both said it. I just kept saying, "I don't understand" and I thought I was in real trouble. Then the sixth time they said it I was finally able to understand it. He said, "You trade me your body.” They smiled and started laughing, then made the gesture that I have seen in every country so far. It's when someone reaches their hands up and shows me how tall I am. I laughed at the irony of the situation: I'm in the Middle East and the most intimidating person I have ever seen is joking with me about being tall. He stamped my passport and said, “Welcome.”

Over the next few days I met up with my friend Devy, who I met in Bangkok and who lives in Abu Dhabi. We toured the city and went to the Abu Dhabi mall and walked the Abu Dhabi Corniche, which runs along the water and has views of Lulu Island. The city itself has beautiful public beaches with clear water. Across the street from the beaches is Markaziyah Park, which has a mosque in the middle and endless gardens and fountains. From there, I walked to the Emirates Palace Hotel (which is a seven-star hotel) and then the marina and heritage Centre with the tallest flagpole in the U.A.E. The city itself is huge and full of skyscrapers that made it feel just like any American city.

One of my favorite moments of this trip was the first time I left the hotel and walked around the streets. I was walking through a city in the Middle East by myself and it was an intense feeling. I don't think it would have been the same feeling if I were walking with someone. I walked into an old Islamic bookstore and asked to buy a Qur'an. They gave me a crazy look and showed me to the shelf where all the Qur'ans were. During my time in Abu Dhabi I could hear the speakers throughout the city and experience the feeling of an entire city being called to worship throughout the day. Being an American it is not to often that I hear positive words about Islam so I wanted to find out more.

At this point in my journey I have began to realize some things that transcend across all major religions that have transformed me. Muhammad, the Muslim prophet, became divinely inspired and transcended the limitations of self and ego becoming the perfect interspace between the material world and the world beyond time and space. He lived in the moment without reference to the disturbances and injuries of the past, and without fear of the future. I have never felt more connect to an idea than that one. The decision I made to travel around the world was made in the moment with no regard for my past or future. Each step along the way has been no more important than the one before or after. It has been like climbing an invisible staircase and just as I'm about to put my foot down on that next step it magically appears and the one before it disappears. The worst evil according to the Qur'an is selfishness and ignorance, and for self-awakening to occur, we must discover the Divine Light within oneself. I have learned that light is always there and never disappears but its up to each one of us to find that light and it can only be done with humility, selflessness, and love. This is what will allow that imaginary next step to manifest itself at the right moment.

I have felt an overwhelming inner knowing during the past two months of my life and I can only attempt to describe it as a faith and Islam describes it as something that will enable us to see the benefit of whatever situation we are in, even that of ill-health or a reversal of fortune. Laying flat on my back, sick in India, looking up at the stars, I was able to truly understand the meaning of that line. I realized that the outcome to any situation will always be the perfect one, and that excuses will be of no use or benefit. I left a great job because I lost my inspiration and since I decided to follow my dreams. My heart has been open and allowed all these life-changing experiences to come into my life. I have been able to look inside and understand that when your following your bliss, your heart is pure and able to receive inspiration just as the message of Islam states. It also encourages generosity and trust while the world at large is the mirror in which we reflect ourselves.

"We are each our own film-maker; we are the actor, director, cameraman, producer, and audience, but this can only be understood if we stop identifying ourselves with the myriad roles we act out in this life. On the final day, nothing will veil us from seeing ourselves as we really are" So in the words of Jay-Z, "When the director yells, 'cut', I'll be fine, I'm forever young". Dying to one's self is to become alive and cannot be found in the accumulation of possessions.

"I have a mind that is open to everything and attached to nothing."-Dr. Wayne Dyer
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