Our World, Our Hands

A LETTER FROM A ‘UAE’ EXPAT AT BOSTON UNIVERSITY

Once in high school, as I was standing outside the exam hall waiting for my friend to finish her test, I clutched a heavy book titled A History of the Modern World. For those few minutes, I felt inexplicable pride as I imagined holding the entire world in my hands.

Much as I love watching historical fiction and visiting museums, I could never major in history at college because I was always somehow intimidated about learning anything that happened before the 1200s. There seemed to be way too much going on in ancient civilizations. More recent history, such as the Renaissance, the Enlightenment and the World Wars appear to some extent more accessible and ‘safe’.

Last week, I was speaking to an Egyptian friend who spent a year at the American University of Cairo. I asked her what the campus was like, imagining something similar to my university…lots of classrooms, a cafeteria and maybe (if you’re lucky) a bowling alley. I was surprised when she casually told me that the university was less than an hour’s drive away from the Pyramids of Giza! It dawned on me that it didn’t matter how trendy and intellectual my campus in Boston is, her ‘historical’ varsity wins every time. Close to Ancient Egypt?? Talk about making ancient history accessible to modern day education.

Why is it that the only times we celebrate the past is when it is romanticized in movies or books? In the UAE we always seem to be living for the future. We always want to build the world’s biggest, ‘best-est’ something. It’s a good thing to look forward; but sometimes it’s just as exciting to ponder the past.

Think about the mysteries of your country and religion. Think of your roots, your heritage and then think beyond that. And cool facts like, somewhere, somehow we are all related because there is only a 0.1% difference in genes between two humans (thank you Psych 101! )

Sometimes I google a query and find only questions of other people who are looking for the same answers as me. So I urge you to go ahead and google/read/watch and search and study the past, even your own past. You may find some of your family’s history locked up in a trunk in your grandfather’s house. You may even have some cool stories to swap with your friends.

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