I can smell the Arabian Gulf from the front steps of my villa in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates.
It is one of the first things I noticed when I moved here eight months ago. When I traded, among other things, the scent of New Hampshire's pine trees and wood-burning stoves for that of incense and the sea.
My husband's work brought us here with our six children, aged 17 to 7 years old. We came with the hope of learning more about the world. And we have not been disappointed.
In Abu Dhabi today, the salty, balmy air blows sideways. The whitish sun, so different from the more golden, slanting rays we felt in northern New England, shines almost directly overhead. Sunglasses are not an option but a necessity here.
Flowers planted directly in the sand grow in abundance at every turn. Wide, frilly stretches of purple, pink, and red petunias line the perfectly-trimmed lawns and date-palm trees along the roads. Orange lantanas stand strong in the breeze, and a lovely, sort of mini-sunflower blooms low to the ground.
The Emirati culture is, of course, vastly different from the American culture. Yet there are many aspects of our cultures that are the same: we care about our loved ones and we care our countries. Many Emiratis (and other Middle-Easterners) say they feel misunderstood by Westerners. At the same time, Westerners often say the same thing about their image in the Middle East.
I've named my blog Flowers in the Sand because of the delight I feel at seeing how much life there is in such a seemingly inhospitable place as the sand. And that is how the desert is: full of surprises, full of life and with a richness I truly love.