Debunking Myths of The Middle East

Be careful not to get Trafficked. Don’t get kidnapped. The men oppress their women. There’s a lot of sex slaves out there!

One of the most important reasons why I travel is to combat ignorance. How can you really know what a culture is all about unless you’ve experienced it for yourself? A lot of the above statements were from people who have never visited the UAE in their lives, but the propaganda they “heard” about the Middle East and how terrible it is, with ISIS roaming around and kidnappers ready to take American girls as captives, led them to assume this would be my fate.

Now imagine if I allowed their comments to hinder me, I would’ve never been able to sit here and tell you that I felt safe in Dubai. At some points safer than I do while living in Brooklyn. I traveled to the Middle East and survived. Yes, there are injustices going on in the UAE including a lack of fair labor laws and poor labor treatment for the individuals working on those beautiful buildings, prostitution, human trafficking and mistreatment of housemaids, but this is the case wherever you go, even in America.

Not all women are oppressed in the Middle East. Middle Eastern women have different standards than some American women. Middle Eastern women wouldn’t dare expose their bodies for the entire world to see. They treat their bodies as a temple, only revealing their treasures to their husbands. They know their worth and walk with confidence in their long black Abaya’s. They wear the best of the best underneath their garments. Christian Louboutin shoes, Alexander Mcqueen dresses. Almost every one of the women has a designer bag. While shopping with their friends they open their Abaya’s and reveal they are decked out in jeans and the latest shirts from Zara. They are just like us.

I learned the importance of being chaste while in Dubai. Always being mindful not to offend anyone by exposing my shoulders, or showing too much cleavage like I would in America. Yet, the profound significance of this was that I didn’t feel less sexy, I felt beautiful. One of the most monumental parts of my trip was being able to put on an Abaya for the first time. I felt honored to imitate the essence of a Muslim woman. I felt like they showed me another way. I was able to walk in their shoes for some time, while in the mosque and it felt empowering. I have such indescribable respect for them.

Thank you Jesus for bringing me back home safely. Unfortunately, we do live in a crazy world and anything could’ve happened to me. I am completely aware of that. However the moral of the story is, you should never let other people’s beliefs of a country hinder you from traveling. You should also never let your own misconceptions hinder you. Go for it. Find out for yourself, and you will be glad you did because whether good or bad, you still will have a story to tell and an experience to share for the rest of your life.

Hyatt  Capital Gate Abu Dhabi

Rites of Passage in Abu Dhabi

Once upon a time, there was a girl named Ky who graduated from school, worked very hard, and soon realized that traveling around the world was attainable for anyone. She started small, visiting islands like Jamaica and Anguilla, then she made her way to Western Europe until finally, she gathered enough courage to venture into Arabia. Arabia was a dream, and Abu Dhabi was a fairytale.

In the broad daylight, Abu Dhabi’s beauty is highlighted. After leaving Dubai, we entered Abu Dhabi on the Sheikh Zayed Bridge and soon could see the Grand Mosque on the horizon. We pulled up to our beautiful hotel and went to the 18th floor to check-in. I heard a loud noise as if a plane was flying unusually close to the building. The floor shook, and the concierge warned me not to be afraid; Abu Dhabi’s military was test-flying jets right above us. I went on the terrace and saw how close these jets were to the hotel; it was quite the sight to see. When we arrived in our room, all three of us were amazed. This hotel was posh. Our itinerary said, Ferrari World was next on our to-do list, but I was feeling a bit under the weather and did not want to go on the fastest roller coaster in the world at that very moment…maybe tomorrow.

We decided to go to the Sheikh Zayed Grande Mosque instead. We each went through our luggage and picked out the most conservative pieces of clothing we brought with us. The Grande Mosque warns visitors against showing their arms, legs, and hair; it’s a very conservative and religious sanctuary. As we approached the entrance our breath was taken away. It was as if the architects wanted to create a sort of heaven on earth, as the buildings were all white and adorned in Gold.

Kydee Williams

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Jessica Leconte

The first thing we did was head to the changing room, where we picked up our Abaya. An Abaya is a black robe that Muslim women wear. At this point in the trip, it was truly an honor to wear their garb. Muslim women in Dubai are so beautiful. Not only do they exemplify confidence and splendor but modesty. They leave much to the imagination and are seemingly the most treasured beings in the UAE. Putting on the garb was almost like a rite of passage for me. I was finally enlightened to one of the keys of womanhood and for me, that is less is more. Women in America tend to show all they have to get attention, but sometimes the most beautiful women in the world are the ones that are humble, chaste and save their treasures for the right one; their husband and their God.

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Legend has it, Rihanna came to the Grande Mosque and got escorted off the property because she decided to have a photoshoot on holy ground. Is it wrong that I wanted to do the same thing?

IMG_0963 IMG_0962 IMG_0967 Upon walking into the mosque, you have to take off your shoes and place it into a cubby. The entrance to the mosque is detailed with floral designs and gold adornments, absolutely astonishing.When you gradually make your way into the mosque,the carpet is green with flowers on it as well. One of the first things I noticed was the geometric shapes, the clocks with times on it (which I soon learned were the times of prayer) and the chandelier.

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We decided to take a walking tour, which was the best thing we could do to actually learn the significance of the mosque. I learned a lot, some of my take away’s are as follows:

The 5 Pillars of Islam:

  1. Shahadah – Submission to God and declaring there is no other God and Muhammad is God’s messenger
  2. Salat – Ritual Prayer 5-Times a day, including sunrise and sunset
  3. Zakat – Giving 2.5% of ones savings
  4. Sawm – Fasting and Self Control during Ramadan
  5. Hajj- Pilgrimage to Mecca
  • Women pray at home on Fridays, they don’t necessarily come to the mosque. The mosque is mostly for men.
  • Green is the color of Islam.
  • Dates were the only fruit in the region when the religion was starting.
  • Prayer is facing the holy city of Mecca, and Mecca is located in Saudi Arabia.
  • Humans don’t have enough words to describe God. God is infinite.
  • Call of Prayer in Abu Dhabi is done through the Sheikh Zayed Mosque (the most beautiful sound you could ever hear)
  • Non-Muslims cannot touch the holy book, the Quran, at the mosque.

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I have to say, as a Christian woman, I learned a lot from Muslims on this trip. For one, their whole life is dedicated to their faith. They take time to pray to God five times a day, while some of us don’t take 5-minutes out of our busy schedules to acknowledge God. I came back wanting to carve in more time for my creator. The one that makes a way for me every time, when there seems to be no way at all. The one who is so faithful and answers all of my prayers. The one that heard me when I said I wanted to travel and see the world, and gives me the opportunity to do just that every time. I am blessed and because of this trip, I am more open-minded to the values of other religions. At the end of the day, we all love God. There’s no reason why my belief should be seen as any better than anyone else. God intended for us to live harmoniously, not fragmented based on constructs such as religion, race, and politics. I treasure the many lessons learned on this day.

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