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Marie Jeanne Acquaviva (left) and Olivia Froudkine, co-authors of ‘Dubai Is My Home’. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Dubai: A lunch invite by a common friend four years ago led to two expats forging a friendship that eventually culminated in a book.

Italian-French expats Marie-Jeanne Acquaviva and Olivia Froudkine connected instantly. Six months after their first meeting, they started work on their first book on expats living in Dubai. They recently published ‘Dubai Is My Home’, which according to Acquaviva, “is an ode to expats living in Dubai and in the UAE, who have made their life here just like us”.

Acquaviva has lived in Dubai for nine years, while Froudkine has been around for 12 years.

“The response to the book has been great,” said Acquaviva. We published 4,000 books and 2,000 have been sold. The book is priced at Dh250. It is available in all regular book stores.”

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Olivia Froudkine, co-author of ‘Dubai Is My Home’. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Why a book on Dubai

“There is a certain perception about Dubai and the UAE in the outside world,” said Acquaviva. “When we go back home, we are asked irrelevant questions like whether we have to cover our heads when moving outside. I was tired of explaining to people that life in Dubai or in the UAE is not like what it is perceived abroad. Olivia and I connected instantly over this. We both agreed that the perception needs to change.”

Froudkine added: “So many of us have found happiness here. The book is a tribute to the UAE’s leaders, citizens and expats who have contributed to the growing economy of UAE and made a life here.”

Acquaviva explained that the idea of the book was also to hear the voices of people living in Dubai. “Their voices are so distinct yet so intertwined in their shared humanity,” she said

Froudkine said people were interviewed in Dubai locations close to their hearts. “We tried to make the experience close, not intimidating,” she said. “Each individual chose the location for their photograph. It was a place they hold dear.”

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Marie Jeanne Acquaviva, co-author of ‘Dubai Is My Home’. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Foreword by Shaikha Lubna

The foreword to the book has been written by Shaikha Lubna Bint Khalid Al Qasimi, who has held several ministerial portfolios in the UAE Government. “‘Dubai Is My Home’ speaks to every person that sets foots in Dubai,” she wrote. “They say don’t judge a book by its cover and it speaks volumes to the city of Dubai. Visitors are easily enthralled by the city’s glamour, architectural wonders, majestic landscape and sinuous highways. But when they stay a little longer, they fall in love with the city, its people and its soul.”

Heartwarming stories

Acquaviva and Froudkine interviewed 40 people by in the 205-page book — a mix of known and many unknown faces.

One such story is about Dr Azra, a popular henna designer. Dr Azra speaks about how during a photoshoot her hennaed hand drew attention. “I saw the power of imagery connected to fashion and things grew organically from there. The cultural growth of Dubai has been fast-paced and massive. I love it. Sometimes I wonder if I could take my work elsewhere, but not yet. I feel at home right here,” she said.

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Pakistani expat Syed Waqar Haider talks about coming to Dubai in 2010 with nothing in his pocket, He came on a tourist visa to join his brother working here as a labourer. But as Dubai grew so did he. Thanks to a boss who supported him, Haider runs his own company 14 years down the line and employs 500 people.

“This is Dubai for you. It is a land of opportunities. It is a melting pot and we meet people from different walks of life. Our tolerance is high thanks to the vision of our leaders. And this is what ‘Dubai Is My Home’ speaks about in the words of the city’s expats,” Acquaviva said.