What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear someone say, “I’m going to Dubai”? Luxury shopping, modern architecture, Burj Khalifa Tower, the lively nightlife, flawless looking humans?
Well, let’s backtrack a bit for some history…
After the Great Depression in 1929 caused a collapse in the international pearl market, emir Sheikh Saeed looked for an alternative source of income, inviting Indian and Iranian traders to settle in Dubai without paying any taxes. This led to Dubai becoming one of the leading re-export ports in the world. In 1966, oil was discovered in Dubai, which led to Dubai becoming the vibrant, modern, business-centred city it is today. Dubai is one of the seven cities of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) which include Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Fujairah, and Ras Al Khaimah.
The city boasts museums, art galleries, shopping and music festivals featuring artists from all over the globe. There are so many ways to explore Dubai – from dune bashing, desert safaris, camel riding, coffee tasting, visiting old town for a prevue of Dubai when it was a simple fishing village.
There’s a wide choice of cuisine from around the world to enjoy in this city. Brunch, especially in the fancy expensive hotels, forms part of the ‘Dubai lifestyle’, especially for expats and tourists.
I can safely say I ate well during my visit 🙂
Living and working in Dubai
It is clear that solid leadership in this region has catapulted Dubai (and Abu Dhabi) into strong players in the global economy. The short clip below contextualises this so well…
Dubai is basically the Hong Kong of the Middle East! Beyond oil and gas reserves, engineering & construction, retail/trade, logistics, tourism, media and entertainment are other thriving sectors in the region. Moreover, with the imminent Dubai 2020 Expo which will welcome the world to the UAE for six months, further investment flows are expected into the region!
Dubai’s economy is growing at a quick rate. Almost 90% of the population is foreign. Most people who live here are ‘passing through’; to gain networks, earn hard currency, enjoy the ease of travel to Africa and Asia from the ‘centre of the world’. On top of all that, just imagine the joys of earning a tax free salary!
However, if you don’t have citizenship you can’t retire here, so once your work visa has expired, you can’t stay in the UAE. The city is also expensive.
Would I live here?
The UAE is a Muslim country, so Sharia laws are observed seriously (e.g. No public displays of affection (PDA’s) are allowed; you need a license to purchase alcohol, etc.). Christians are able attend church on Fridays. Sundays are a normal work day.
Although the rules are more relaxed in Dubai, it is still tougher for some people to adjust to life here, because it is very different from life in Europe or the Americas. Dress code is still strict in certain areas. There exists a culture of not acknowledging women in some workplaces. My South African friends who live in Dubai were honest that in the beginning, it was difficult to find a tribe or community for personal connection. Getting familiar with the local consumer products is an adjustment too.
Finally, for the brown to dark skinned humans who’ve been wondering, there aren’t a lot of people who look like us that side. However, let this NOT deter you from visiting Dubai.
If you’re keen to step outside your comfort zone, expand your personal and professional networks, consider living here and leverage all the perks. Personally, I’d definitely do a short stint in this glittering city in the desert!