In February 2018 I visited New York University Abu Dhabi, located on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, for the NYU AD Center for Genomics and Systems Biology annual conference on Genome Systems. 2018 Genome Systems VIII included a wide diversity of talks highlighting recent advances in genomics and systems biology. I presented some of our work on Vitis diversification and root system impacts on shoot system phenotypes. In addition to hearing lots of exciting science, hosts Michael Purugganan, Jonathan Flowers, Muriel Gros-Balthazard, Khaled Hazzouri showed us Abu Dhabi and Dubai. What an incredible part of the world! Many thanks to NYU AD and our gracious hosts for wonderful visit.