(Published in The Huffington Post India: http://www.huffingtonpost.in/shaira)
It was October and I had just barely reveled in the glory of my final article on Munich when my husband came home one day from work and broke the news.
We were moving to Abu Dhabi in 3 months!
It feels like since that day someone pressed the fast-forward button and life has been flipping past, sweeping me along from one blurry, action-packed month to another. Time seems to have picked up its pace and one day when I woke up, it was December already.
After a whirlwind, month-long trip to India that now feels like a blur, we were already on a plane to Abu Dhabi four days after we landed in Munich. It feels like just yesterday that we had been through this entire ordeal of house-hunting, visa paperwork, neighborhood recces and so on, and here we were 2 years later doing it again. I feel like I am stepping out of a time capsule that has brought me 2 years ahead in 2 seconds.
There is, of course, the thrill and excitement of starting the next chapter in a new country altogether, though my bag of emotions is a mixed bundle with also the sadness of leaving a beautiful German city, steeped in history, culture, tradition and warmth. And a house that we had made a home.
Abu Dhabi, the largest of the seven members of the Emirates and its capital sits like the jewel crown on the head of the other smaller Emirati jewels, presiding over their economy, industry, wealth and politics. It is the second largest in population, just a step behind its more popular and densely inhabited cousin – Dubai.
In the city for a ten-day trip, as my husband spends his time in the office, diving headfirst into his work here already, I decided to dive into orienting myself and unraveling the wonders of all things Abu Dhabi. Even as I write this piece, in my room in the Viceroy Hotel on Yas Island that sits nestled daintily atop a part of the Yas Marina Formula 1 Circuit that hosts the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix each November, I can hear the race cars being taken for a spin all around us on the tracks that encircle a large part of the island. From the F1 circuit to the Ferrari World to the many shopping malls, diverse culinary options and some desert dune bashing thrills, the Emiratis won’t ever leave you with a dull moment.
Much like Munich in terms of diversity and yet very different, there is ample to do for people from all walks of life. With warm to very pleasant weather through the year, we will be jumping to the other end of the spectrum from the sub-zero winter months of Europe to the more tropically inclined warm climes of the UAE. One of the things that greatly appealed to me about Munich was its many open and green spaces – parks, gardens and green cover that ensured a healthy way of life and Abu Dhabi promises a similar charm with the many parks and garden it also houses. With opulently decorated architectural delights combining style from Turkey, Morocco, India, China and many parts of the western world, the city houses such beacons as The Sheikh Zayed Mosque. My eyes never peel from the elements inspired by Arabic heritage like the domes and arches on even residential houses and buildings that break the monotony of the contemporary buildings and skyscrapers that adorn parts of the city.
Still being in limbo about the final date of our move bag and baggage, we are in the process of making trips to and fro to deal with all the line items that constitute moving to another country and everything that it entails. Being beach bums ourselves, the idea of living in the midst of water, desert, palm trees and also a contrasting metropolitan culture rolled in to one certainly agrees with us. From the ladies in their Abayas to the men pushing prams down the street, the cab drivers from back home or as most would say ‘India, Pakistan ek hi baat’ to the widely diverse expatriate community spread out all through the various islands that make up Abu Dhabi, the next 2 years seem like a positive and promising new chapter in our lives.
The year 2015 has flown by and 2016 is upon us. Starting the new year in a new country means a year of new friendships, relationships, experiences and challenges alike. It also means bidding farewell to old friends in Germany though thanks to technology today and the rapidly shrinking degrees of separation, it’s always farewell but never goodbye. As I brace myself to seize this new bull by the horn and steer it towards new beginnings, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and the happiest New Year!