Dubai, United Arab Emirates

We are now four days into our Sabbatical journey of three months in the Middle East and the Mediterranean. Our journey begins in the Arab Emirates city of Dubai, where we are staying with Steve and Karen Smith, whose daughter Lauren was our youth leader at St. Marks for two years. They have offered us wonderful hospitality and an inside look at Dubai which only a local could give us.

This city is a kind of miracle in the desert, the vision of Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai. It is a thoroughly modern and intensely urban place. In forty or fifty years the Arab peoples have transformed themselves from a group of desert Bedouins into a world class culture. The amount of construction that has taken place here in a relatively short amount of time is staggering. I remember reading an article a year or so ago that said there were as many construction cranes in Dubai as in the rest of the world combined! On our first day we went to the 124th floor of the tallest building in the world, the Burj Kalifa. From that lofty perch one can see far into the desert, which is all that surrounds us.

This morning our scripture readings were taken from desert places, Exodus 20, the Ten Commandments and Matthew 4 where Jesus was led into the desert to be tempted by the Devil. We don’t always take into account the intense heat and desperate need for water that these environments can create. We are on the edge of the hot season here. In another month one will not be able to stand it outside for long. Even at night it won’t cool down. Temperatures can rise into the high forties and low fifties. By the end of a day of walking in it you are completely drained of energy. It was in this furnace that much of our bible and our faith was forged.

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