At the beginning of September, 7 students from Munich, Cologne, Stuttgart, Hamburg and Berlin were ready to take part in an Arabic adventure to go to conquer the capital of the United Arab Emirates – Abu Dhabi.
Because of the completely different culture and religion, which of course we were not used to, we first really had to find out about the dos and don’ts in an Arabic country. Yet, after a few days the calls of the Muezzin, which happen to be five times a day as well as the Abayas and Shaylas the women wear to veil their beauty and the traditional white garments the men wear, became just normal for us. Also the women who have some more conditions to hold on to as the men, meanwhile, do not even recognize the change in behaviour anymore they had to go through.
The only thing, which marred the first excitements, was the problem of finding an appropriate accommodation which should have been provided by our “international- office”. After checking the proposals and possibilities we received in Germany, we all agreed to take matters into our hands. All in all it took 3 complete days to find a place to stay for the 7 of us. However, another very important factor concerning the search for an apartment was the budget. In Germany we were told, that there are flats available for 400 to 600€ per person a month, yet, in reality they were over 1000€. This situation we were confronted with, of course was quite shocking, but because of our partner university’s endeavours and contacts we finally managed to find ourselves an apartment which seems to be rather affordable regarding the price policy on Abu Dhabi’s real estate market.
This is where we get talking about our university in Abu Dhabi (HCT). Due to the religion and culture the colleges are strictly separated between men and women, so the Higher Colleges of Technology offers two locations: The Men’s and the Women’s College. It does not matter whether Men’s or Women’s College – the responsibles of the university as well as our fellow students welcomed us in a sincere and friendly way we would have never imagined. Despite all the common prejudices and stereotypes of the Arab World and the Islamic belief, the people living here are extremely open minded and interested in everything concerning us – our Western lifestyle, religion, culture and especially the certain freedoms the Islamic belief forbids, which however seem completely normal to us.
The university itself is just incredible. The equipment and facilities this university is able to offer the students are at its best. In plus lectures are very interesting and similar to open conversations in which everyone takes part in. This is different compared to the sometimes very teacher-oriented teaching we find at German universities.
Moreover, the life here is much easier going than in Germany. This is shown through every day life situations and the fact that one is not confronted with bureaucracy and stress at all, which meanwhile is normal in Germany.
What else is there to say about Abu Dhabi that is not usual to us Europeans?
Well, the percentage of foreigners that live here. One must know that in Abu Dhabi there are more foreigners living than actual locals in a ratio of 20%. There are around 200 different nationalities living here in almost complete harmony. One could even go as far as saying that the city is a stronghold of foreigners. Nevertheless, the city is entirely owned by the locals which for European standards would not be imaginable. But exactly this makes the city so interesting.
Furthermore, Abu Dhabi is the city with the highest GDP per capital in the entire world and therefore also the richest country in the world. The wealth here is though unequally distributed amongst the different nationalities. So the people who mainly profit from the oil are still the Emirati. While we are on it – a full gas tank costs about 20€ in the land of oil, so that explains the high-class cars here with motorizations that would be forbidden in Germany.
Even though partying is a bit difficult because the Islam forbids alcohol, there are lots of nightclubs integrated in the big hotels such as the Hilton, Royal Meridian or Sheraton. So also the partying aspect is no problem here.
Compared to other countries, Abu Dhabi does not have a real city centre, but of course the shopping does not get the short end of the stick. Abu Dhabi is a real paradise for shoppaholics. The huge (and that means bigger than in the USA!) malls provide an immense choice of stores, beginning with the common stores we know from Germany to the high class brands such as Gucci, Prada, etc.
Another wonderful thing about Abu Dhabi is that it is like an Arabic New York with all its impressive skyscrapers on the one hand and on the other hand it is like a paradise with an endless desert and beautiful beaches.
All in all Abu Dhabi exceeded all our expectations, and we are extremely happy with our choice! We can only recommend this amazing place to all students which did not have the opportunity to come and visit here yet.
Aleikum al salam
The Abu Dhabi Crew