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Expatriates talk about life in the UAE

People from different walks of life discuss what makes the UAE their home

Gulf News

Raj Kumar, 63, Indian

Vacationing in Dubai as a teenager, Raj Kumar finally made the move to the UAE with his family in 1973, and has never looked back since. Building a life for himself, and joining his dad in the family business, Kumar said he has loved living in Dubai for the past 44 years. “I consider the UAE my first home in a way. My father has lived here for 75 years, and I have got married and raised my four children here,” he said. Kumar said the UAE offers residents security and comfort, with its fast-paced lifestyle being a main result of its rapid growth and expansion. “Whatever you get in India you can find here. We celebrate our festivals, we visit the temple, and we have a whole community along with our relatives and friends living here. It keeps us connected to our country,” he said. Planning to spend his future in Dubai, Kumar said he is amazed at the changes in the city. “We used to cover the whole of Dubai within hours, but now with all the new buildings and expansions, it is hard to visit most of the city in one day,” he added. Kumar’s son joined the family business two years ago, and plans to settle down in the UAE, while his daughters have laid their roots in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.


Aya Fisher, 33, American

Aya Fisher first moved to Dubai from Bahrain eight years ago, to join a Master’s programme at the Hult International Business School in Dubai. Now, she lives in Dubai with her parents and brother and considers the UAE her home. “I genuinely came with an open mind looking to see how I liked living here. I didn’t think too much about how long I would be here, but I definitely never thought it would be this long. Describing herself as “a citizen of the world”, Fisher said going back to the US where she grew up is not as attractive an idea as it once was. “Times are changing and things are not as clear or comfortable for me as they once were. There is a lot of upheaval going on in the country I grew up in,” she said. However, Fisher explained that while she loves living in Dubai, she would like to settle down elsewhere. “For the last five years, I probably entertained the idea of moving somewhere else regularly. But I am blessed to have a beautiful life here. It’s hard to land on another location that might offer the same luxuries, career opportunities and proximity to the beaches.” Fisher described Dubai as the perfect place for young adults, as it offers flexibility, well-paid jobs and opportunities that allow you to explore the world. “I think after a while the exhilaration wears off and you just want a strong community of people you enjoy to spend time with and have meaningful experiences. For a while Dubai lacked much culture but I think that is slowly changing and, with that, Dubai will be more attractive for those looking to really settle down.”


Suhail Khawar, 53, Pakistani

Businessman Suhail Khawar first came to the UAE in 1979 with his family, and has since built a life in the country he now refers to as his second home. “I came to Abu Dhabi as a child with my family, worked there for years, and eventually moved to Sharjah after I started my business in Pakistani sweets,” he said. Recalling the World Trade Centre as the only tower in Dubai back in the 1980s, Khawar said he witnessed the country’s growth and expansion over the years. Living in the UAE for over 35 years, Khawar got married and raised his two sons in Dubai, who he says consider the country their home. “One of my sons has joined the family business, while the other works for a local company in Dubai. We love living in the UAE, and have settled down and built a life here,” he said. Owning a chain of bakeries, sweets shops and supermarkets in Dubai, Sharjah and Ajman, Khawar said he isn’t considering moving back to his home country any time soon. “Life here is very fast, and time flies, but at the same time everything you need is available around you, including safety and services,” he added.


Mona Shibel, Lebanese

Mona Shibel was tempted to move to Dubai after witnessing her siblings’ success in the UAE. “I was living in Beirut, where there was limited room for career growth. My brother and sister were both living in the UAE and seeing that they were both doing so well, I decided it was time for me to join them,” she said. Shibel knew that once she had moved to Dubai and joined her sister and best friend, she was going to get used to the lifestyle, making moving back to Lebanon a very difficult choice. She was right. “I consider the UAE my home. I love the people, the standard of living, the opportunities it presents, the room for growth and expansion, the safety aspects and the overall atmosphere. I hope that I can live here for many years to come,” she said. Describing the UAE as a place that “has something to offer to everyone,” Shibel, said she can never consider living elsewhere.

“It is hard to find a place that lives up to the UAE and matches what it has to offer. I’ve been in the UAE for 12 years, and yes, time flies because when you’re happy, you lose track of time. It feels like yesterday that I came here,” she explained.

Shibel highlighted that her objectives when planning for the future include a place that offers plenty of room for career growth, financial well-being, security, good standard of living, sense of freedom, opportunity to interact with numerous nationalities, as well as availability of leisure and activities. “When you’re happy in your career, the friendships you’ve built, the life you’ve built, and you are comfortable and content with the vision you’ve created for your life in the future, then time seems to fly,” she said