Hackathon in Abu Dhabi

Marhaba! (hello in Arabic)

  1. Why Abu Dhabi ?
  2. The Journey (in brief)
  3. What I did ?
  4. Takeaways

Let’s start with why I went to Abu Dhabi. So NYUAD – New York University Abu Dhabi organizes a hackathon for social good in the Arab region. I came to know about the event from a mailing list at CMU. As the event required a student to be nominated by a professor, I asked Prof John Vu to nominate me. Lo and behold, I actually got selected to represent CMU in the 2013 NYUAD International Hackathon 🙂 The university covers travel, food and accommodation for all students. So I just had to get my visa (UAE has e-visas) which I got in a jiffy thanks to Omeir Travels (authorized travel agent of the university).

I flew from Pittsburgh to Abu Dhabi via Chicago on Etihad airways. The flight was great, very comfortable and nice food. I met the other guys(Daniel, Aysha, Antoine and Jessica) at the Chicago Airport. Along with people from JFK etc, we were taken to the Hotel from the Airport in a bus. The hotel was great (much better than the Westin in Times Square, New York). On the first night, Dan, Mahmood and me ventured out to eat Shwarma, Falafel. After searching for an hour, we finally found “Automatic” restaurant. This was the best Shawarma I ever had. So yummy!

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I spent the entire next day on deciding the idea, forming a team, hacking and eating. In the evening, all of us were “taken” by the university to the Corniche beach. Surprisingly it was very clean. I made more friends there(Ghadeer, Hasan, Shahd) and realized Bollywood(Shahrukh Khan) are popular elsewhere too.

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The second day went in hacking, eating and having fun. The third day was the best. Starting with breakfast – I had Chana Masala and Paratha (loved it). The major part of the day was spent in finishing touches, refining presentation, rehearsing and then we finally presented. After the event, we went to the Mosque, the Emirates Palace and the beach at night. It was an amazing night.

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It was time to say Good Bye to all the new friends and return back to “real” life. I am already missing all the fun we had. As people say – its the people who matter.

Breast Cancer, Osteoporosis, Depression(Arab Spring) are common in the Arab region and because of the culture and social stigma Women are generally reluctant to get outside help. So, we developed a social community around Women to share their experiences with Chronic diseases via Voice(IVR) and Web. It also had the certified resources and doctors nearby. We(Aysha, Caroline, Daniel, Tahar and yours truly) named the product Laha (for her). We used a highly customized version of WordPress and Twilio for the IVR. Woohoo we won the third prize!

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Takeaways:

  • UAE does not have any taxes which means I am going to work in UAE at some point of time. 
  • Water is precious – Water is as costly as gold. (by the way, there was a gold ATM)
  • Keep travelling – each adventure will only make you more mature.
  • Talk is cheap, show me the code – Yes, networking(talking) helps but in the end code(work) is what matters
  • Make new friends and keep in touch – Glad to say that I have a friend in almost every Arab country
  • The Word is your playground, Go Conquer – there are plenty of opportunities in the world, we just need to seize them
  • Be more open – Assume nothing!

Thanks to the organizers of the hackathon, Prof Sana, Michael and to my awesome team mates. Also a big Thanks to all the new friends 🙂

More photos here – https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151374930498124.456829.600923123&type=1&l=8bedef1283

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