Two qualified barristers are forging a new path on the world wide web to help newcomers to Dubai.

The idea to create an online service answering questions on Dubai first popped into Phil Middleton's head two-and-a-half years ago.

Having moved to the emirate from London, England, the legal expert found himself frustrated with numerous questions but precious few answers.

Middleton soon realised he was not the only one struggling to find the right advice.

Among the numerous new expats also finding their feet in the emirate was Andrea Crossland, a former colleague he knew from a legal firm back in the UK.

Trying times

For Middleton, exasperation tipped the scales with a particularly trying phone call.

He says: "I had reason to phone up one of the authorities and I was put through to eight different people, none of whom managed to find the answer. I thought, most people don't have the time to speak to eight different people."

That's when the concept for a website was conceived.

Middleton, in real estate at the time, teamed up with Crossland, who was then working in the legal department for a developer in Dubai. Their collaboration resulted in the creation of a one-stop shop online that people can visit to have their questions answered.

Now, after seven months of work on the project, the full-time team is ready to officially launch


As well as providing general information for people planning to live in the emirate, the site also assists expats who have just arrived and plan to live here, tourists and entrepreneurs planning to start a business in Dubai.

If browsers can't find the answer they are looking for, they can e-mail specific questions and expect a response within 24 hours.

Thanks to their legal background, the two-strong team are adept at knowing where to look in order to get results.

Despite having done no advertising to date, demand for the website is already growing with up to 5,000 individual visits a month.

Crossland, 28, says: "We get questions literally from around the world which shows there is a need."

As well as hits from Canada, the UK and elsewhere in Europe, the site has received queries from the Seychelles and Australia.

Nice place to live

Middleton adds: "With more people moving here it will become even more relevant. People are beginning to understand that Dubai is a really nice place to live and more and more are considering it now the real estate market has opened up."

While helping others enjoy a smooth transition into life in Dubai, the business partners have themselves faced a steep learning curve in stepping out on their own.

Middleton has been the "ideas man" and focused on the technical side while Andrea has been a contact point and sourced much of the information for the site.


"It's very different working for yourself - the buck stops with me," says Middleton. "You have to discipline yourself so much more." But their gamble is already paying dividends. Crossland says people are already benefiting from the time they have put into creating the website.

She says: "The response is great - I don't think either of us has had a job that is so satisfying. When we send people answers, we get a lot of e-mails back thanking us profusely for the information. I think it's because they can't believe we have taken the time to give them a detailed response and we are not charging them to do it."

As well as finding their ideal job, the business partners are embracing life in Dubai.

"There is so much development," says Crossland, "you feel like you are a part of something - the city is growing and you are growing with it."

Taking work home

Following a query from a Canadian couple asking where they could keep their dog when they arrive to the UAE next month, Phil Middleton and Andrea Crossland struggled to find somewhere for the pet to stay.

All the kennels were full and the hotel the Canadians would be staying at did not accept canine guests.

Not wanting to give a negative response, the two-strong team at went above and beyond the call of duty and agreed to look after the dog themselves.

Among the numerous queries e-mailed to are:

  • "Can I import a right-hand drive diesel car from Nepal?"
  • "What medication is banned in Dubai?"
  • "How can I relocate my pet?"
  • "What is the education system like in Dubai?"

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