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#MyUAE: Residents talk about life in the Emirates

From vision to tolerance, the UAE’s leaders have led by example, residents say while defining their experience

  • Sarah Bentley, Managing Director, Flume MarketingImage Credit: Supplied
  • Ghada Abdelkader, Manager - Corporate Development & Investments, Crescent EnterprisesImage Credit: Supplied
  • Kareem Ahmed, Executive Director, Numba Organic BeverageImage Credit: Supplied
  • Mechelle Buys Du Plessis, Managing Director – UAE, Dimension DataImage Credit: Supplied
  • Rakhi Megchiani, Co-Founder & Partner, Sera Beauty LoungeImage Credit: Supplied
  • Badreya Al Dashti, Head of Public Sector & Contracting, Corporate Banking, Noor BankImage Credit: Supplied
  • Khulood Al Junaibi, The Flag Island managerImage Credit: Supplied
  • Allan Calumpang, Financial ConsultantImage Credit: Supplied
  • Majed Al Joker, Senior Vice President, Assurance and Control Authorities at Dubai AirportsImage Credit: Supplied
  • Image Credit: Supplied
  • Image Credit: Supplied
  • Howard Gough, CEO - EMEA and Head of Global Health Solutions, Cigna MEAImage Credit: Supplied
  • Kristina Fidelskaya, founder & designer of Kristina FidelskayaImage Credit: Supplied
  • Faizal Kottikollon, Founder and Chairman of KEF HoldingsImage Credit: Supplied
  • Bonita Carr, Academy Career Advisor, Arabian Wedding AcademyImage Credit: Supplied
  • Shifa Yusuffali, CEO of ideaCrate Edutainment Company, IndianImage Credit: Supplied
  • Ahmed Al Khaja, CEO, Dubai Festivals and Retail EstablishmentImage Credit: Supplied
  • Dr Azad Moopen, Chairman and Managing Director, Aster DM HealthcareImage Credit: Supplied
  • April German, Senior Programme Administrator – Middle East Centre, University of ManchesterImage Credit: Supplied
  • Dr Thumbay Moideen, Founder and President, Thumbay GroupImage Credit: Supplied
  • Noura Abbas Ahmad, Director of Training, Emirates Institute for Banking & Financial StudiesImage Credit: Supplied
  • Jaime Castaneda, General Manager – 99 Sushi Restaurant & Bar - MenaImage Credit: Supplied
  • Gianpaolo Bruno, Italian Trade Commissioner to the UAE, Oman and PakistanImage Credit: Supplied
  • Sakib Rahman, CEO, Allianz International HoldingsImage Credit: Supplied
  • Maitha Al Dossari, CEO, Emaar EntertainmentImage Credit: Supplied
GN Focus

What sets the UAE apart from other countries?

Sarah Bentley, Managing Director, Flume Marketing, British
“The cultural diversity — so many cultures living and working together and how quickly the country has advanced in such a short space of time. I also think the vision of our leaders and their ability to carry out their dreams and ideas make the UAE unique.”

Maitha Al Dossari, Chief Executive Officer, Emaar Entertainment, Emirati
“The UAE is truly unique, set apart by the incredible diversity of cultures that have come together to create a dynamic melting pot. The universal acceptance of such a diversity of nationalities is not witnessed in all countries, and it’s this acceptance and our ability to collaborate, which make this a wonderful nation.”

Sakib Rahman, CEO, Allianz International Holdings, Bangladeshi
“The UAE is a land of opportunities for every expat it is a home away from home. Having lived majority of my years in this wonderful country, I take pride in being part of the UAE’s 46th National Day. Every year makes me feel we achieved a new milestone. Being part of the UAE gives me a sense of pride and I have a lot of respect for the leaders who had the vision to build the country over the years and make it the best place to live in. I wish the UAE leaders a successful National Day and may Allah bless them in all their achievements. May the UAE achieve greater success in the years to come.”

Gianpaolo Bruno, Italian Trade Commissioner to the UAE, Oman and Pakistan
“The UAE is one of the best examples in the world of successful economic development driven by visionary governance, a friendly business environment, vibrant ecosystem for innovation and experimentation, smart government, effectiveness in the delivery of public services, multiculturalism, tolerance and excellent quality of life.”

Jaime Castaneda, General Manager – 99 Sushi Restaurant & Bar - Mena, Spanish
The respect among nationalities and religions. We live in such a civilized environment that regardless of  your ethics or way of thinking, we respect each other. I could not find another country in the world where people coexist in such a peaceful way.  In which other country can you leave an Iphone X on the table of restaurant and pick it up the next day?  We could not be more civilized and respectful among ourselves and we all must feel proud of what we all have achieved.

Noura Abbas Ahmad, Director of Training,  Emirates Institute for Banking & Financial Studies, Emirati
Ever since I was a young girl, I have had the good fortune of being encouraged by my family to explore my own interests and carve my career. Today, all UAE citizens can proudly claim that gender equality is central to our Emirati identity. My family and I strongly believe that this attitude fostered by Emirati families over generations has come about as a result of our leaders, who led the way through example, while ensuring implementation of gender diversity policies across all socio-economic activities. I have a daughter and will raise her the same way I was brought up, in a country that respects women and their achievements.”

What's the biggest change you've seen in the country?

Dr Thumbay Moideen, Founder and President, Thumbay Group, Indian
“A quantum leap in infrastructure development, including commercial and residential facilities, tourist attractions and amenities. The strides in transportation have been phenomenal. The UAE is an example to the world in terms of advances in healthcare and education, and the best place in the world to live and do business.”

April German, Senior Programme Administrator – Middle East Centre, University of Manchester, Filipino
“The rapid development of roads and infrastructure, bigger malls as well the mushrooming of theme parks are the country’s most noticeable changes. What’s best about this in the past decade is more options for residents to find a convenient place to stay, more family-friendly places to visit and the country becoming the ultimate shopping destination.”

Dr Azad Moopen, Chairman and Managing Director, Aster DM Healthcare, Indian
“Over the past decade the UAE has become an incubator for innovation. E-governance is a reality here rather than a concept with most government services now online with 4D as default. We see demonstrations of driverless cars, drones and electric cars regularly, and Dubai may be among the first to have the Hyperloop. Things happen in Dubai at the speed of thought... yes, we are already in the future here.”

Ahmed Al Khaja, CEO, Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment, Emirati
“National Day celebrations are a reflection of the UAE’s national pride. In my view the UAE retail sector has witnessed a dramatic transformation over the past decade, setting a benchmark for the region. This has been possible due to the constant roll-out of unique initiatives, and the continuous launch of world-class infrastructure and services such as international airports and shopping malls across the UAE.”

How would you define your experience in the UAE?

Shifa Yusuffali, CEO of ideaCrate Edutainment Company, Indian
“From my younger days to being a mother and starting my own venture, the UAE has shaped my life in a million ways. The vision of this country’s rulers and the pace at which it has moved forward while keeping its cultural fabric intact is astonishing.”

Bonita Carr, Academy Career Advisor, Arabian Wedding Academy, South African
I feel as though I have grown up along with the city - as it’s changed, so have I over the last 9 years. It’s awesome to look back and see the progress both for me personally and in the country around me.

Faizal Kottikollon, Founder and Chairman of KEF Holdings, Indian
UAE has been my home for over 22 years. I started and built my business here, and the country is in many ways integral to my success as an entrepreneur. The nation undoubtedly serves as an incubator for innovation and development. I firmly believe that the visionary leadership of the UAE government has been instrumental in inspiring businessmen and women to cultivate new ideas and translate them into reality.

Kristina Fidelskaya, founder & designer of Kristina Fidelskaya, Ukrainian
This has been my home for over 10 years. My family have grown here and I have my fashion showroom in d3 and a store in Wafi Mall. My career, my business started here which is so exciting seeing it expand. I really love the creativity of d3 and living by the water and the lifestyle for all the family, I’m from near the Black Sea so that is so important for me!

Howard Gough, CEO - EMEA and Head of Global Health Solutions, Cigna MEA, British
“I arrived in the UAE as a Brit who has lived and worked in the US and China. It was immediately evident that this is a market full of hope and opportunity. In my time here, I have seen positive and dynamic change in all aspects of my life and work, as well as for my family. My experience has encouraged me to be more agile, and on the pulse at every turn, motivating me to innovate and challenge the way I do things — both as an individual and for the business I represent in tandem with this incredible nation’s ambitions.”

What’s the one thing a tourist should do if visiting the emirate for a day?

Heba Al Mansoori, Entrepreneur, Founder & CEO, www.bizcom.ae, Emirati
The UAE offers plenty of new and varied experiences for the tourist so I wouldn’t recommend limiting the experience to one thing. As a resident in Dubai - my recommendation would be to start from the Creek in Dubai - which is a natural seawater inlet - the historical focal point of life in the emirate and take a stroll down the Shindagha promenade visiting the heritage sites including Bait Sheikh Saeed, which would provide a glimpse into the traditional architecture of the UAE i.e. the wind towers (Barjeel) which helped our ancestors survive in the harsh summers before the advent of the air conditioners. Continue strolling further to the Heritage and Diving Villages to get a glimpse of the culture and heritage of the country. This can be followed by a visit to Burj Khalifa to get a bird’s eye-view of the emirate from the tallest tower in the world culminating with a fine dining experience in At.MosPhere. These two experiences combined will juxtapose old and new Dubai and emphasize that we are a country that has made vast advances while still preserving our age old traditions.

Promoth Mangath, CEO, UAE Exchange, Indian
“One must try to experience the grandeur of this great nation. Witness the architectural wonders of the UAE with the Shaikh Zayed Mosque, Burj Khalifa and Dubai Frame, admire the history at the Louvre Museum, Dubai Museum and Sharjah Heritage Museum, and revel in the culture at Deira’s souqs and the Abu Dhabi Souq, or indulge in some shopping magic at Dubai Mall.”

Majed Al Joker, Senior Vice President, Assurance and Control Authorities at Dubai Airports, Emirati
“Dubai is such an amazing destination that has something for everyone – from heritage and culture to theme parks and world- class entertainment, to shopping and food. If I had to recommend one place, it would be The Heritage and Diving Villages. The place offers a glimpse into the life in the UAE as it was during the times of our fathers. It’s a place where one really comes close to and can appreciate the UAE’s real national treasure.”

Allan Calumpang, Financial Consultant, Filipino
“I would definitely head out straight to the Gold/Spice Souq and try out some of the street food there while checking on local novelty items. A visit to Dubai is also never complete without the desert safari, camel rides, belly dancing, and a taste of the desert.”

Khulood Al Junaibi, The Flag Island manager, Emirati
“Visit all seven states. It could be done in a day or a week. Yes, do see our high-rise buildings and bustling cities, but also see our desert, our grand mosques, our beautiful 1970s architecture in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah and the rest of the Emirates, view the mountains of Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah and the islands of Umm Al Quwain. Experience it all.”

The one lesson the UAE has taught you

Badreya Al Dashti, Head of Public Sector & Contracting, Corporate Banking, Noor Bank, Emirati
“One lesson my country has taught me is to dream, to aim for the stars. In other words, to be ambitious and, in doing so, to be fearless. Our visionary leaders have exemplified these qualities by their own drive and actions and, most importantly, through the social and economic policies that they have enunciated for citizens and residents that have made the UAE such a special place in the world.”

Rakhi Megchiani, Co-Founder & Partner, Sera Beauty Lounge, Indian
“The UAE has taught me that change is constant; it is also our best teacher. Life evolves endlessly.”

Mechelle Buys Du Plessis, Managing Director – UAE, Dimension Data, South African
“Patience.  In a country where you easily find ten or more nationalities around a single boardroom table, the understanding of cultural differences drives patience, acceptance and understanding. This doesn’t mean one should accept sub-standard practices, but it does mean that your approach may differ to get to the end point. Your ability to influence outcomes among your own culture is much simpler.” 

Kareem Ahmed, Executive Director, Numba Organic Beverage, Danish
“The UAE has taught me to think outside the box, have an open mind and not limit myself to the norms. While determined to be relevant locally, I have learned to be more international, and approach things with a global mindset. With that attitude I was able to open doors to possibilities and become an entrepreneur.”

Ghada Abdelkader, Manager - Corporate Development & Investments, Crescent Enterprises, Egyptian
“Embracing the spirit of acceptance, which is a powerful message in today’s globalised world, where diversity is the cornerstone of sustainable development. I greatly cherish the experience of being able to learn from people with ideas and perspectives that are different to mine. Moreover, I am encouraged by the fact that my children will grow up to embrace these values.”

– With input from the GN Focus team

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