Habif’s Trip of a Lifetime

Habif’s Trip of a Lifetime

Sherry Habif shares her fascinating journey to far off Arabian lands and eats some gold along the way.

After 37 years with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and now with the AJT, , Jaffe’s focus is lifestyle, art, dining, fashion, and community events with emphasis on Jewish movers and shakers.

Sherry Habif enjoyed the Dubai Miracle Garden, seen here with an Emirate plane covered in flowers.
Sherry Habif enjoyed the Dubai Miracle Garden, seen here with an Emirate plane covered in flowers.

Over Thanksgiving last year, Sherry Habif set out for the United Arab Emirates to learn about the local people, land, and culture. Out of John F. Kennedy Airport, she flew Etihad Airlines, National Airline of the UAE, 12 hours to the home base of Abu Dhabi to board the Nautica Oceana.

As a Jew she expressed, “I was very comfortable going to the UAE, when I knew that seven of the countries there had signed the Abraham Accords with Israel. UAE is a hot spot for nearby Israelis to travel. I was very surprised how accepted Jews were received especially from Muslims.”

Sherry Habif covered up modestly, when appropriate, seen here at the Sheik Zayed Mosque.

In Abu Dhabi, Habif found the surrounding desert, the Arabian Sea and Gulf of Oman, the backdrop of the mountains, commanding architecture, and warm people. Other highlights included the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, one of the world’s largest with a gargantuan Persian rug.

She shared, “Tiles on the marble columns and floor, and just the mammoth size, was awe inspiring. Then [we visited] the Presidential Palace, Heritage Village, old homes, and [experienced] Bedouin life. The Louvre/Abu Dhabi, is an outpost of France’s with a concrete light filled roof.” There, she enjoyed lunch at Fouquet’s of Paris, tea at the Emirates Palace Hotel where “Sex and the City” was filmed. Habif exclaimed, “Everything had edible gold on it or in it. The surrounding Abu Dhabi buildings were over 40 stories. Architects were brought in from around the world to construct the biggest, best, and most unusual buildings.”

Sherry Habif visited Dubai’s Museum of the Future.

The next stop was Oman, an independent sultanate with a population of around three million, which had an unpleasant edge. It was revealed to Habif that Oman didn’t sign the Abraham Accords and is not a member of the UAE “because Israel doesn’t recognize Palestine as its capital. Of the 30 Jews on the ship, the six from Israel were not allowed to debark there! Had I known before, I wouldn’t have spent money in their Souks.”

While on board the cruise, Habif helped lead Shabbat services and mingled with other Jewish cruisers, one of whom was born in Ukraine. Jewish sites in Abu Dhabi were a multi-faith complex: Abrahamic family houses on Saadiyat Island, started in 2019 and still under construction with three different structures — a synagogue, mosque, and church.

Dubai’s famous Burj Al Arab Hotel.

Habif explained, “It was started under the influence of Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Abu Dhabi.”

The Moses Ben Maimon shul is named after the famous Sephardic philosopher. Chabad has a large Jewish presence in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai, located about an hour from each other. There is a Kashrut Commission, kosher restaurants, hotel, nursery, and Hebrew school.

One of Habif’s favorite views was from the Dubai gold frame.

Next up was Bahrain’s Museum, “Vignettes of People.” Habif noted, “Had a fabulous rose water pistachio cake with edible roses, amazing souk, and camel farm…didn’t get too close.” Then it was onto Sir Bani Yas Island, a retreat of the Sheikh’s family, an animal reserve. On a safari truck she saw giraffes, antelopes, oryx, and panthers.

For Habif, Dubai was “where everything is over the top in size, structure, creativity, purpose. I marveled at the Giant Open Gold Picture Frame, over 100 feet in the air with elevators.

Habif also visited the Museum of the Future and Dubai Mall, the world’s largest. She laughed, saying, “Shopped till we dropped!”

Habif enjoyed Dubai Global Village saying it was, “ten times larger than Epcot…like Atlanta’s Botanical Gardens,” adding that she was delighted in Dubai Miracle Garden. “Too amazing to describe, larger than Buchart Gardens, British Columbia, and Stellenbosch Gardens in South Africa. Giant animals covered in moss and flowers, an Emirates airplane covered in flowers, a troll village, a lady’s hair made of flowers, ballet dancers, teacups spinning! Flowers everywhere! Open from December to May and closed during the hot summer.”

Habif enjoyed high tea and gold decorated foods in Abu Dhabi’s Emirates Palace Hotel.

In terms of local female modesty practice, Habif said, “I was very sensitive to wearing a head covering in mosques. I bought a long sleeve dress to wear over pants and shirt, out of respect as well as removing shoes. Just like we would expect a man visiting a synagogue to don a kippah.”

She did observe women driving (upscale) cars and a female served as the manager of the large hotel in which Habif resided.

Contrasting Israel, she found, “Nothing was politically similar, other than there were Israelis living and working in the UAE. Not the worries about terrorism that Israelis live with. Citizens there certainly can’t talk openly about the royal family and how things are governed.”

Along with wonderful memories, Habif brought back a fancy harem outfit, a camel skin pocketbook, and a UAE doll for her granddaughter.

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