Not knowing what to expect, I overpacked my suitcases with an overwhelming sense of excitement. Not thinking about what I needed, I instead ended up taking Abu Dhabi to Venice with me. My attempt at bringing an entire city to another had its repercussions, as I lugged my cases through the narrowing "calle" and up the steep steps to our apartment. After having some trouble with the stubborn door, there it was, my home for the next month. The front-facing windows peeked into the neighboring buildings’ windows and left no room for privacy. Soon after, I learned that this proximity to everything and everyone is what created the solid embrace that infiltrated throughout the city.
Mornings echoed between the walls as the city claimed its new day with the sound of the church bells. Acting just as the call to prayers, the contemporaneous bells dictated the time through my day. The first bell woke the city up, as the cafes began to fill with the working people, large metal locks would find their way off the doors and in the owners' hands. The day officially began, and I was reminded every few hours about the passing time. All the city noises were stolen with the final sounding of the bell at 12 AM. Loud and clear, it evaporated all sounds from the grounds of the bridge-filled city. The silence left its mark, led people back to their homes. As the winding "calle" emptied, the city rejuvenated and reinvented itself for its people. As I got lost in the silent city, I began to realize that the signage posted on every corner in the shape of an arrow directed you to the main squares or bridges. Repeatedly the words of my supervisor played in my head, “Learn how to walk with the city, understand its flow and go with it, with that it’ll be impossible to get lost.”
Looking up from the steps of a church, I noticed a sign that lead me to Pier Rialto. Like a game, I stretched my arms and let my fingers trace the narrowing walls. Following the signage, I found myself in squares lined with trees and lit apartments with small balconies peering over. After covering some ground, I realized that I was one bridge away from home. I sat under a tree, on a red bench. Pensive, I connected this Venice to my Abu Dhabi. Calls to prayer and church bells segmented my days, bridges connected islands that stand so strong alone but make more sense as a whole, and - last but not least - the proximity to water. The art installation at the UAE pavilion shared that element too, bodies of water touched the shores and served as a means of connectivity. The multiculturalism of Venice birthed subcultures such as that of the Southeast Asian flower men, the Egyptian shawarama stands, and the gated Jewish ghetto. Just as Abu Dhabi stands, Venice stands as a breeding ground of pluralistic people and space. As I left, I managed to unravel the labyrinth, which took me in as a stranger, and let me go as a friend.