What was your best experience during this assignment?
It was great meeting Emiratis, which is hard to do since they are a tiny minority in their own country. I ended up spending a lot of time with Muslim women, and I appreciated how open they were to me. It was a great opportunity to learn about Islam from a woman's point of view, which we don't get to hear so much about because, in Islam, men are the more public figures. It was exciting to hear about their lives and their choices. They have many more options—at least in the Emirates—than I thought. They can be very traditional, and they can be very modern.
What was your worst experience during this assignment?
When you're in Dubai, it's so easy to forget you're in the Middle East or the gulf region. There's such a stretch between the Emirati traditional culture and this modern "anything goes" feeling. I kept thinking that I was in California or Texas or Miami or anyplace but where I was. It was challenging to have to keep up, which was important for the story. I didn't want to become visually lazy because I had already seen something somewhere else. Dubai's overnight development was the main point of the story.
What was the oddest experience that you encountered during this assignment?
I loved being in a place where there is a call to prayer every few hours. It's bustling and noisy in Dubai, and everyone is running around making money and doing business like in New York. Suddenly, this lovely melodic call to prayer wafts through the air. Even if you're not Muslim, there's something very calming and soothing about it, something I found very comforting. I always tried to stop and take a moment to meditate a little. I loved it so much that I even bought tapes of various calls to prayer so I could listen to them at home.