Eid Mubarak! Back home it’s Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, the first day of the Christmas shopping season, but here, in Abu Dhabi, it’s the Eid Holiday, which commemorates the willingness of the prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) to sacrifice his son Ismail for God”s sake. Despite the fact that I hate traveling over Thanksgiving weekend, I find myself here in the new downtown campus building of NYU Abu Dhabi, awaiting a group of applicants who have been flown here from all parts of the globe as part of the “November Candidate Weekend.”
Outside, it’s summer weather: a lovely 85 Farenheit, though rain is predicted for Sunday night! As we walked into the building, we passed a group of men who were finishing up the ritual sacrifice of what looked like a lamb (which is one way that Eid is celebrated here). That was upsetting one of my colleagues, who’s an animal rights activist, and I suspect the candidates will be taken around the other side of the building, in case any of them are not quite ready for that aspect of Islamic culture.
I’m thrilled to be here. After my last visit I was trying to figure out a way to get myself invited back sometime next term, so when the invitation came to take part in the Candidate Weekend, it seemed like too good an offer to pass up. (Luckily, my wife agreed!) The past year’s work has been about building a curriculum and a faculty, but my colleagues on the Arts and Humanities Coordinating Group haven’t had a chance to get a sense of what the students are actually going to be like. I’ve observed them, last night and at breakfast this morning, and they are indeed an amazing bunch. So I’m looking forward to watching them think like cultural critics from 75 minutes. Our subject? What else, but cosmopolitanism!