Day 14: Reflections

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We are back! The Oman Field Academy has returned to Ross School and we are currently sitting on campus preparing final projects, sharing pictures and memories. We are tired but are still so thrilled with our experiences in Oman and the UAE. The people that we met along the way and the experiences we had changed the way we saw the Middle East and the country of Oman. As teachers, we were impressed with our Ross students beyond words. They were great to travel with and so interested in the world we were exploring. We could not be happier with our experiences and cannot wait to share these memories with the Ross community now that we are back.

Signing off,

Kevin, Anna, and Kyle

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It’s a big cultural shock arriving back in New York. The Oman Field Academy drastically influenced how I view Islam and the Middle East. Being at the Mosques and villages talking to the natives made me question and eventually forget about the news we read about those places every day on social media. I realized that the Middle East is not one big thing, but many different cultures and practices that change every place you go. Talking to the Bedouins in the desert was probably the best part of the trip. We sang and talked about all our home countries comparing them. My best memory of the trip are the people I met. Omanis are known for being really receptive and great hosts. Everywhere you go they will offer you coffee and fresh dates to welcome you. The people spoke honestly and personally about their faith and religious practices. It was great to listen from a genuine source and have a personal perspective on how it’s like to follow Islam and live in that culture. I had a lot of misleading information about their tradition that I had to immediately let go off when we first saw what life there is really like. I have never heard anybody speaking about their religion so openly and intimately like I did in Oman. I understood that the faith and the cultural practices are different things, and each person values different practices.

– Melissa I. ’18

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This trip has been one of the best memories of my life. We had so much fun and learned a lot at the same time. Oman was a great place for this Field Academy. It was beautiful and historical – the perfect combination for us. Going to Oman, we experienced a great adventure. We did a lot of different activities. We went to Wadi Shab for river swimming and hiking, the Wahiba Sands to experience what is it like living in the desert, Khasab to snorkel and in the end, experience a whole day in one of the world fanciest cities, Dubai. All of these while learning the cultural background of the people and places along the way. We appreciate our chaperones for this beautiful and wonderful trip.

– Karsten C. ’18

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Over two weeks traveling in both Oman and UAE, we finally came back to Ross yesterday. This trip was so much fun and every activity in this trip is unforgettable. If I have to find out my best memory of this trip, I definitely would like to choose the time that we were sailing the Gulf of Oman on an Omani Dhow. We spent two days on the ocean and slept overnight on a beach. It was an amazing memory for me because it was my first time to spend such a long time on a boat and camping on a beach. Even though I did not swim in the ocean, I saw wild dolphins and many fish on the boat. The view along the ocean was magnificent. Camping on a beach, we stayed in the tents without lights but full of flies. The surroundings were difficult but we were talking and playing and having fun around a bonfire. In a word, our trip is the best and I will not forget it.

Ziqing S. ’17

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Day 12 and 13: Dubai

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Our boat ride along the canal in Dubai

Leaving from Fujairah, we made a quick stop in Sharjah, the capital of the culture in the UAE to visit the Museum of Islamic Civilization. Unlike Fujairah, Sharjah is a more urbanized emirate, the urban area is bigger than Fujairah.

We arrived at the museum about half past ten. The museum, opened in 2008, covers all of the elements related to the Islamic culture. It had a collection more than 5,000 artifacts including carvings, ceramics, calligraphy, metal works, manuscripts and scientific instruments. The ruler of Sharjah, Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al-Qaisimi, who often goes to auctions to get artifacts for the museum. Entering the museum, it has an arched hallway that contains a dome in the center. One of the most impressive parts of the exhibits is the Ka’ba. It is a place where the Muslims gather and pray to get luck and protection from the god. It is a pilgrimage mentioned in the five pillars of Islam that the Muslims should go to pilgrimage once in their life if they are available. We have seen from some photos that the place is exceedingly crowded.

It is an interesting place where people can know the depth information about Islam. After that, we are going to the most developed and prosperous Emirates in UAE: Dubai.

– Sam Q. ’18

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The Museum of Islamic Civilization

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Kyle and Anna learning about spices! We hope they will cook us a traditional dinner when we get back!

During lunch, we got a lesson from an esteemed chef about the spices and herbs used in Emirati food. This was something that a lot of us were curious about throughout the trip so it was great to get a chance to get to learn about that. Next after lunch, we met our new tour guide Muhammad. He took us through Dubai, and explained many different aspects of Emirati culture. Muhammad talked to us about the national tree which is Ghaf, found in drought-tolerant areas such as the desert. The next stop was the spice souq. At the souq we saw many different types of spices and herbs and also many different trinkets such as small decorative camels to scarves. There’s nothing like experiencing an authentic souq in Dubai, which is a part of their culture. Lastly on our drive to the hotel, we were able to see the Burj Khalifa from a far, which is the tallest building in the world standing about 830m or 2724 feet tall.

– Nadzia K. ’17

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Day 11: Fujairah

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Today was our first day in the UAE. After getting to our hotel last night, we headed out this morning into the Emirate of Fujairah. Fujairah is an industrial Emirate who focuses on shipping and rock production thanks to their geography on the Arabian Gulf and with various mountainous terrain close by.

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After a hearty breakfast, we got on the bus and were off. We met our new tour guide Wendy. We are in the Emirate of Fujairah, a small and rural Emirate. People have lived in this area since the time of the Phoenicians. This area is a hardworking Emirate, humbler and more traditional than the Emirates of Dubai or Abu Dhabi. The workers here are from countries like Pakistan, the Philippines, and India. They work in labor camps and send money home to their families. There’s a growing tourism industry in Fujairah, due to the beautiful beaches, mountains, and falcons (the national bird of the Emirates). The sheikh of this Emirate is named Sharqi, and there are billboards of him all around. We entered Fujairah City, which has the Sheikh Zaid Mosque, the second largest mosque in the UAE. We visited the fort of Wadi al Hayl, built in the 1830’s in the traditional mud brick and rock style. Next we saw the oldest surviving mosque in the UAE, the Al Bidya Mosque. It’s a very small mosque that was built around 1446. Unfortunately, it’s being restored so we couldn’t go inside. We saw the port, with huge container ships and traditional dhows both there. Unlike what the Western Media would tell you, the UAE and Oman actually have many differences. The UAE is more touristy and flashy, and Oman is more authentic. They hold on to heritage more in Oman, while the Emirates are racing forward at an astounding pace. Omanis make up more of the labor force in Oman, in the Emirates tons of people are brought into the country for work. There’s more oil in the UAE. Oman doesn’t have any mega cities like Dubai or Abu Dhabi. Each area of the Arabian Peninsula, we’re learning, has its own distinct culture and identity.   

Sophie G. ’19

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Throughout our entire trip, it was clear that there were many similarities and differences between the UAE and Oman. In Oman, local people dominate the culture with their traditional beliefs and the Arabic language. The people in Oman were also very nice. They even invited us to have lunch in their home. On the other hand, people in UAE are more mixed that many of them come from Western countries such as the United States, Italy, Brazil, and Russia and they do not use Arabic language as much as before in Oman.

Natsumi N. ’17

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Day 9 and 10: Sailing like Sinbad

We spent the last two days sailing the Gulf of Oman on an Omani Dhow. We arrived in the Musandam region of Oman, which is actually separated from Oman and surrounded by the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Musandam is located on the Gulf of Oman and is known for it’s rocky terrain and fjords. We then stopped in the village of Kumzar, a small village that can only be reached by boat. After sailing on the ocean for a day, we slept overnight on a beach, then woke up and continued our journey back to port in Khasab, but not before seeing some dolphins! We then headed by land into the UAE and the Emirate of Fujairah, where we continued our trip.

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Listening to the sound of the waves under the warm sunlight at the beach was great enough to be the sign of the beginning of the last day in Oman. We spent a night on the beach, watching the stars alongside the bright moonlight. Everyone had a great time last night, and now it was time to leave Oman. Everything here was so different than what I had known previously. People were more traditional, following along with certain Muslim and Omani customs, which were less likely to be modern. But in Kumzar, it seemed as if they were continuing with their traditions and not caring much about the outside world. We enjoyed the time on the boat. On the way back to the hotel, we met a group of dolphins who enchanted us with their dance on the water surface. The dolphins followed the boat for a while as if they were knowing that it was our last moment in Oman and people.
I have no doubt that the last several days in Oman were the greatest time of my life, and that were absolutely unforgettable. I want to say thank you to Oman and thank you to all the people who were with us here.
– Jadon H. ’17
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We crossed the border between Oman and UAE after the trip on the Dhow. With all the excitement we got during these two days, we finally reached to the second country of our trip – UAE. We have a new tour guide Arif. He gave us a brave introduction of this country. UAE has seven emirates, we got through the smallest one where is next to the border. The environment here is similar to Oman. It has a 700 km coastline. However, water here is more expensive and limited. All the drinking water comes from the ocean. There is no water in the interior of this country. So water price here is more expensive. It will be interesting to compare and contrast our time in Oman to that in the UAE.
– Selina Q. ’17
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Day 6 and 7: Nizwa and the Djinn

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We spent the last two days in Nizwa, the former capital of Oman. On our first day in Nizwa, everybody got a chance to visit the souq for the first time. Students tried their hand at bargaining and buying some souvenirs. Nizwa, and it’s surrounding areas are filled with ancient forts and evidence of civilizations that span back 5,000 years. We started off first with the Wadi Al Ayn tombs, which show evidence of the Magan civilization from 5,000 years ago. These tombs are well preserved and left many of our students wondering how they were able stay that way for so long. We then traveled to the Jabreen Castle, where the Imam of Oman used to live, finally we traveled to Bahla, visiting another fort where it is believed that the Djinn is present. The Djinn is a magical force in Oman that keeps Omanis on their toes throughout their life and keeps them very superstitious regarding their actions every day. Most Omanis have personal stories that revolve around the mystical Djinn.

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Today we visited ancient tombs on the top of a mountain at Wadi Al Ayn. They were built during the 3rd millennium BC and the historians believe that they were used as a place to bury important people of a civilization that was placed in that area. The archeologists could not find any bones inside of the tombs but because they are so hard to build and because of its location – on a top of a beautiful mountain – they cannot think about a better argument that explains why those monuments were built. They all have the same shape and size and were built with stones which are arranged in such way that form a kind of cave to protect the dead body.
In the beginning, I was interested in the math and physics involved in those constructions, since the only material used to make them was stones. I also appreciated the landscape around the mountain while we were taking pictures and that motivated me to think about what that place really meant for the people who lived there hundreds of years ago.
By the end, I was not sure about why people decided to build those monuments and what was their meaning. However, the fact that they are still preserved there for so much time is amazing, they are a bridge that connects the modern humans to the ancient humans. Those historical sites and constructions give us the opportunity to explore and think more about those who lived in this world before us and also to reflect about the ephemerality of life.
Those historical sites and constructions give us the opportunity to explore and think more about those who lived in this world before us and also to reflect about the ephemerality of life.
– Roberta P. ’18
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The second place we went was the Jabreen Castle. It was built primarily for the Imam. It built around 1680 CE. The reason why he built it, it’s that he moved the capital from Nizwa to Jabreen. He eventually died in his spectacular castle and his tomb is also in the castle.
The Jabreen castle was restored between 1979 and 1983. The whole building has 3 stories. The castle was really a home that was built specifically for the Imam. For example, he loved his horse, so he built a room for his horse to live in! We also discussed some of hte ancient punishments for crimes in Oman.
– Mario C. ’18

Day 4 and 5: Desert Life

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Over the last two days, our Oman crew got to experience life in the desert among the Bedouin people of Oman. The Bedouins are a historically nomadic tribe that lives in the deserts of Oman and across the Middle East. We spent two days with them in the Wahiba Sands, enjoying the sand dunes, sunrises, sunsets, and learning about the unique culture of the Bedouins.

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The last two days were amazing, in the morning some of the people woke up very early to watch the sunrise, we climbed the sand dunes and it was such a pretty scene. After breakfast, we had the opportunity to ride camels and get henna tattoos. some of the girls stayed behind to do henna tattoos and some of us went to the camels first. Soon after we left the desert in the cars but it was very sad thinking that this is a one life opportunity and maybe we would never see those things again. I’m very thankful for being part of this opportunity

– Bruna A. ’18

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It is my first time to come to the desert. It is actually the reason why I chose this trip. It was very hot in the desert, I was hopeless until the sun goes down. It was so hot that we sweat even just sitting there.

– Kaho Y. ’17
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As our car swerved on the sandy terrain, a feeling of despair surged in my mind. Every trace of civilization had been left behind. All that I could see were massive heaps of sand and camels roaming in the great vastness of the Wahiba Sands. Nothing was similar to the reality I am so accustomed to. The whole car ride I remained glued to my seat,  in fear of what was yet to come. Fortunately, my experience was very different from my initial thoughts. The time I spent in the desert did not only change my notions about the actual desert but also the people that inhabit this area. I was exposed to the roots of Omani culture and met incredible people, that have amazing personalities, even though they did not speak English well. It is safe to say that this adventure was the highlight of my trip.

– Valentina V. ’18

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