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Abu Dhabi

Where am I?

I’m Piia Mustamäki, an academic wanderluster, a Finn, and a New Yorker, currently based in Abu Dhabi where I teach at NYU Abu Dhabi’s writing program. These are my essays:  blog posts, some longer essays, some just anecdotes and some a bit experimental.  Most are about traveling. There are 1001 worlds out there to learn from and to explore.  

Featured Posts

High in Harar
The living room’s bright blue concrete walls glow under the fluorescent light. The air is full of cigarette smoke and the smell of coffee beans roasting. It’s Ramadan, Islam’s holy month. The old color TV transmits hypnotic praying live from Mecca. I’m in Harar, a historic Muslim town in Ethiopia, about 130 miles from the …
She Stares at Me – A Confrontation in Dakar
She’s on the third floor, next to a statue from Cameroon.   She’s young and beautiful, just a girl really.  Her expression is difficult to interpret.  We pass a loudly chatting group of Senegalese women, all dressed in a medley of primary colors. I wish I’d understand what they’re saying, what they think of the recently …
Inside the Great Pyramid
Mohammed is walking so fast in front of me I have a hard time concentrating on anything but keeping track of his black polo shirt and shiny hair. “It’s the wrong time of the day to come,” I think to myself.  The sun is relentless. There is so much sand in the air it’s hurting …
Magic in Johannesburg
On my first night in Johannesburg, I’m in an Uber heading downtown. My driver is a tall, quiet 50-something local man.  He picked me up at my guesthouse called Melvilla, in a leafy northern suburb, which I had heard was safe enough to walk around during the day.  I was told nowhere in Joburg was …
Alone in Namibia with Martha Gellhorn
“You are alone?” The young woman’s raised left eyebrow gave away her surprise.  It was Christmas Day during a pandemic and I had just driven 10 miles on a gravel road. The other woman behind the Hobatere Lodge reception didn’t bother hiding her alarm. Both eyebrows raised, she chimed in, “You don’t have children?” “No …
5 ½ Things I Learned Road Tripping in Iran
Always bring a watermelon. Well, when in season of course, but if they are, don’t hesitate. At a picnic spot, you can just cut the top of, cut a crisscross with a knife and dig in with forks. Afterwards, just put the “lid” back on, pack in the back of the car, and continue eating …
A Useless Doctor in Eswatini
At a 3-star lodge in the western hills of Eswatini, the receptionist pushed back my haphazardly filled out check-in form.  She pointed at the boxes next to the titles all of which I had left unchecked.  I’m a patient traveler except when it comes to hotel check-ins. After all, do they really need my zip …
Walking in Belgrade
“We smoke like Turks. And like similar sugary desserts,” says Ljiljana when we break for soya lattes midway a four-hour street art walking tour. We’re sitting on one of the numerous Belgrade terraces enjoying the mild early May weather. I’m surprised to hear the admission of similarities to Turks from a Serbian as the hundreds …

Where I’ve Been

Meridian: The APWT Drunken Boat Anthology of New Writing

I’m honored to have my essay “A Rich Life” in this stellar collection of poetry, fiction and essays. Though not necessarily about travel, the collection takes you around Asia Pacific in 37 different voices and locations.