It was a snowy winter night in January, 1991. I was on winter break from my first semester of college and was about to head out for the evening with some friends. My dad had been glued to the news station for several hours and as I wandered into the living room, he told me to watch. On the screen, Operation Desert Storm was in motion and we watched in real time as SCUD missiles rained down on Iraq. My friends arrived to pick me up and when they understood what was happening on live TV, they settled on the couch and we teenagers spent the night transfixed by war coverage.
War coverage was my only real exposure to the Persian Gulf into adulthood. Those images of shelled buildings, rubble in the streets, burning oil fields, tanks and angry faces were seared into my mind and formed my mental picture of the entire Middle East region. Imagine my surprise, then, to discover crystal blue waters, white sandy beaches, glistening sky scrapers and a diverse mix of people from around the world! During my brief three-day trip to the United Arab Emirates, I learned to distrust any preconceptions I might have of a place. Without discovering for myself by actually going there, any judgments or expectations that I might have are unreliable.