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Fall oh me into the Desert!

By Hanan Mohamed, Occidental College, LA.

Marhaban! My name is Hanan Mohamed and I am a junior Diplomacy and World Affairs major at Occidental College in Los Angeles. I am participating in the the CIEE program at the American University of Sharjah and we have officially reached the halfway mark of studying abroad in the United Arab Emirates! We are a group of 9 students who regularly spend time together both informally and through trips and events organized by Abu Bakr, our CIEE Resident Director. I would like to share with you some of the unique experiences we have shared together so far!

Movie nights: (Various Tuesday nights)  







Every couple of weeks, the Abu Bakr hosts a movie night for us, usually including pizza. Some of the movies we’ve watched so far are Hassan wa Morcus, Monsieur Ibrahim, and Assal Aswed. A common theme for these movies has been cross-cultural exchange, often in a humorous way. These movies are always a nice escape in the middle of the week from studying and most of the time these films include very similar situations that we experience as students studying abroad in an Arab country.

Invisible Cities Performance: (9/21)



For this event, after eating dinner together, we attended a performance on campus called Invisible Cities. The performance was based on a series of monologues that deal with topics such as homesickness, the refugee crisis,  and a constant search for a place to call home. There may have been a few tears shed.


Alserkal Lates Art Exhibits (9/26)



Liz Bova ‘18 from Rochester Institute of Technology admires one of the many art exhibits



This event was a great opportunity to experience Dubai’s artistic side. The art displayed ranged from portraits to sculptures to short films. Each art gallery had a unique vibe and represented everything from topics such as globalization and the Arab Spring as well as modern and abstract works. Many of the exhibits offered food and drinks, and some gave out samples of handmade art pieces.


Al-Hijra Lecture and Injera in Dubai (10/4)


Injera is a dish found in Eritrea and Ethiopia, is served with various meat and vegetable stews and is eaten with the hands.



Following the long Hijra weekend, Abu Bakr offered a lecture explaining the significance of the Islamic Calendar and New Year. This lecture was open to all exchange students, and was very informative. Following the lecture, the CIEE group went out to Dubai to try Injera, a traditional dish commonly eaten in East Africa.

Kushari Dinner and Football match between Al Ahli Dubai and Dibba Fujairah (10/22)



Kushari- Egyptian dish typically served with a tomato sauce or lemon vinaigrette.




This event was personally one of my favorites so far. The group was able to try Kushari, a traditional Egyptian dish including pasta, lentils, chickpeas, and fried onions. It was one of the most delicious (and filling!) meals I’ve had since being in the UAE. We then headed over to the Ahli Club Dubai stadium, where we were greeted with a goodie bag filled with Ahli Club gear. We were then seated and were able to enjoy the match versus Fujairah. Traditional chants were sung throughout the game, and we all cheered as Dubai scored a goal, and eventually won the game.


Cooking Lesson in Sharjah with Mona and Hysum (10/25)


Maha Gaber and Zenab Ahmed ‘17 of Siena College assist our host Mona in preparing Kofta




Mahamed Barazanji ‘19 of University of Illinois at Chicago and Hanan Mohamed ‘18 of Occidental College help prepare chicken wings.


Homemade samosas!


For this event, the CIEE group went off campus to the home of Mona and Hysum, two former AUS students. There, we were divided into groups to work on different dinner and dessert preparations. In addition to more traditional dishes like samosas and kofta kabobs, we also made chicken wings (breaded with crushed Doritos) and puff pastries, one of Abu Bakr’s specialties. Mona and Hysum were both so welcoming and hospitable and cooking together was a great bonding experience. We then watched Assal Eswed, a popular Egyptian movie, together.

Al Ain (10/28)




After an early start to the day, a bus full of exchange students arrived in Al Ain, about a 2 hour drive from campus. Here, there were a wide range of activities available included swimming in the natural hot springs. Students also took advantage of the mountains and hiked for a beautiful view of the area. Together, we enjoyed a BBQ prepared by Abu Bakr including delicious burgers and chicken.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about what we’ve been up to so far! And stay tuned for more events throughout the semester.


Hanan Mohamed



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