Christmas in Abu Dhabi. A visit to one of the largest Mosques in the world. Lunch in an elegant tent on the Arabian Gulf (they don’t like to call it the Persian Gulf in UAE), with a Christmas tree in the sand and Santa coming by boat to visit the children …
The buffet was a welcome change from the cafeteria food and Subway sandwiches that have become our regular fare at the University campus. We feasted on everything from shrimp salad and kabobs of lamb, to more traditional roasted turkey and dressing. The desert table offered edible chocolate houses and an assortment of delectable confectionaries. We tried new exotic fruits and went back for seconds of our favorite dishes. And as we dined, there were sunbathers in their bikinis on the beach merely a few yards away.
From lunch, we went with our hostess, the cousin of a friend from Alabama, to the Grand Mosque just across the canal. To enter the Mosque, women must have arms, legs, and head completely covered. Visitors who are not prepared may borrow a black Abaya to wear over their clothing. We experimented with wrapping our scarves over our heads, and now looking at the pictures, I see that I did not do a very good job with this!
Our hosts were gracious to give us a driving tour through the city which ended at the Heritage Village where we were able to see tents and huts typical of the living conditions in this area prior to Sheik Zayed’s leadership. This country has just celebrated its 42nd year (same age as I am!) and has made amazing progress in modernization during that time.
The family with whom we spent the day was very gracious to entertain us and show us the sights. We experienced the beauty of this modern city, the stark majesty of the recently completed Mosque, and the combination of southern and Iranian hospitality all rolled into one!
I must say, however, that it was difficult to be away from family and from home. The weather was beautiful, but listening to the voice of Gene Autrey singing Christmas music by the beach could not replace the comfort and joy of being home for the holidays.
At the end of the day, we caught the public bus back to Al Ain, and I for one, was glad to see my bed. Fortunately, the roads here are in perfect condition and travel is easy. We only had a little sand in our shoes from our visit to the Heritage Village, and as I washed Drew’s feet before he climbed in bed, we talked of how Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. The King of Kings, born a baby in a stable. The Son of God, a servant to those who followed Him. And the most divine worship, which does not require the grandeur of a magnificent temple, but takes place in the simple heart of a child surrendered to Him.