Janet, United Arab Emirates


I collect moments because I am fully aware of my inability to sustain any of these feeling for an extended period of time.  There are five types of moments that I think are most important to me. 

1) Transcendent Moments – I search for moments outside myself when I feel connected to something incomprehensibly big whose memory holds the promise of another  such moment to come.  The last moment like this was just last week in the Alhambra in moonlight.  Because there are no images of God in Islam, the architecture and design are made to represent something eternal and peaceful, and I was deeply moved by it – not unlike how I have left in countless Buddhist temples.  The first one of these moments I remember was on Good Friday in a dark church after the last candle had been blown out and silence reigned.

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The moon is full which means we are now two weeks into the Holy Month of Ramadan.  

During Ramadan while the sun is up, Muslims aren’t allowed to drink, eat, smoke, listen to music, engage in sexual intercourse or think impure thoughts for a whole month.  After the sun goes down, I know that eating and drinking non alcoholic beverages is allowed, and I think people can make love, but I can’t guarantee that.  Also, I have seen people listening to music and smoking in public after dark.  Actually, impure thoughts are probably never condoned.  

Part of the point of denying the flesh in the heat of the sun is to think about those less fortunate than ourselves that are poor or sick.  This, to me, is a really laudable aim.  Along with the requirements I described, people are also supposed to give to the poor.  This is a time when employees may get a bonus and donations of food to Mosques increase.  Also, for Eid Al Fitar, the festival at the end of Ramadan, people buy and slaughter goats and give some of the meat to poor families.  It is also expected that people try to be kind and patient with one another which is difficult when they feel hungry and thirsty.  Muslims are also required to read the entire Qur’an during Ramadan.  I saw a guard walking back and forth across the gate he was in charge of while reading the Qu’ran as a way of not thinking about hunger.  Finally, visiting family members and friends that you don’t always see is encouraged.

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Perhaps you have heard of Dubai or maybe even Abu Dhabi, but you may not be familiar with the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It has been my home since 2005, and will be for one more school year. I will get started by telling you a little bit about its history and culture.

The United Arab Emirates is a small and very young nation on the edge of the Arabian Peninsula bordering Saudi Arabia and Oman. It is a grand experiment whose research question is this: can a nation build itself from the ground up with oil wealth and the vision of a great leader, so that it stands shoulder to shoulder with the world’s wealthiest most developed countries in less than 50 years?

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