Dubai is a melting pot of different cultures. The booming economy, comfortable lifestyle, round-the-year sunshine and a vibrant job market have led many expatriates to call the emirate home.
The warm blue waters of the Arabian Gulf have beckoned thousands from the UK to come to Dubai and stay here for good. Bankers, real estate agents, fashion designers… British expatriates can be found in almost every sector in Dubai. Some miss home, others don't want to leave the eternal sunshine here.
Mixed emotions, positive experiences and happy memories are reflected as expatriates from England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland talk about Dubai and what they look forward to here.
Katherine Reed, real estate agent and entrepreneur:
I am from Wales, but have been living in Dubai for 20 years. I came here while I was still in primary school and since then Dubai has been home for me. My extended family lives in southern Wales and I have fond memories of the place. I still remember going for a walk in winter, and getting covered in snow.
Being in the UAE for so long also makes me incredibly proud of this country. For instance, I was so happy when UAE won the Gulf Cup. So, you can say I am kind of split between the two countries where my emotions are concerned.
In my work life, I have dual roles. I am both an entrepreneur, as I have my own salon, and a real estate agent. Dubai is a commercial hub and I enjoy dealing with real estate here. But I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur; so having my own salon makes me proud. I work seven-day weeks, and long hours. However, I see to it that my one-and-a-half-year-old baby boy gets the best of me. It's actually juggling different roles, wearing multiple caps, and all this keeps me busy.
Culturally I relate better with the UK, but Dubai has given me friends for life. My idea of leisure is to have a barbeque in my garden with friends. Every summer we take a break in summer and go to Wales to be with family. For my son, this will be more of an educational trip because I want him to learn about his country. But I also want him to learn Arabic as I have learnt so that he is comfortable in both cultures.
Julie Mckendrick, hair stylist:
I came to Dubai three years back when I was offered a job with a hair salon and fell in love with the place immediately. I enjoy living here, meeting different people and the whole social scene. The beauty industry in the UAE is different from the UK, but I have gained a lot of experience here.
Dubai is also special to me because I met my fiancé here. We are going to be married soon and plan to stay here for the next three to five years. I visit my family in Scotland once a year. I miss the Scottish highlands, the countryside and the incredible natural beauty of the place. I also miss the Scottish history.
Over the years we have developed lasting friendships in Dubai. On weekends we go out together for maybe a brunch or maybe a get-together with the girls under the stars. Dubai has several places to visit and life here is warm and comfortable.
And even though I live far away from home, I have carried with me some of the Scottish traditions. We still celebrate Robbie Burns Day, the birthday of our national poet... and I still manage to cook the Haggis, a special pudding made of spices and meat.
Carol Eldridge, homemaker:
I came to Dubai from Cornwall, England, about 10 years ago with my husband who is with Emirates airline. Dubai was very different then, and had a small community feel to it. Now it is so huge, and experiences the problems of a growing city. The traffic problems and the rising expenses were not there when we had arrived.
I visit England once a year to be with family. I miss the Cornish coastline... I miss having spring and the different seasons. But it's a lot nicer sailing in the warm waters of Dubai and, since my husband and I share a passion for sailing, we find Dubai a great place to live. My children have practically grown up here, and I am happy that they live in a multicultural environment. We have brought them up well and hope they will be citizens of the world and be happy wherever they are.
The UAE, especially Dubai, is actually a great place to bring up children because it's safe with no drug or alcohol problems in society. Also I think my children receive a much better education here than it would have been possible in the UK. Dubai offers a wonderful lifestyle and like-minded friends... it offers weekends filled with activities such as sailing, horse riding and netball, miles and miles of sand and nice warm waters.
Clive Reed, Senior Vice President, Training and
Development, Emirates airline:
I came to Dubai 19 years ago on a three-year contract with Emirates. I didn't have any long-term plans back then. Emirates was very young, with only six aircraft. I had no idea that the company would grow so much over the years and provide me with so many opportunities to stay on.
I have practically grown with Emirates and Dubai. Now I have bought my home here, and intend to retire here. But at the same time I am patriotic, and feel strongly for the UK. I manage to go to Wales almost thrice a year to meet my family there.
Living and working in Dubai has made me a true citizen of the world. There is so much racial tolerance here, and I have learnt to understand and respect different cultures. I have also taught my children to respect other cultures and today they have grown up with a greater understanding of the world. They have friends from India, China and so many different places in the world, and they have no qualms about that.
The comfort factor in Dubai keeps me going. I am passionate about cricket and rugby, and even played the game till about recently.
Ormonde McDowell, bartender, Irish Village:
I am new to Dubai. In fact, I started working at the Irish Village Pub on December 31 last year. My hometown Ballynahinch is 20 minutes from Belfast. I am enjoying myself here and learning the tricks of bartending at work. I think the secret of good bartending is to make sure that your stock levels are high, you've got the right equipment in your pocket, your bar space is clean and your customers are happy. I usually work evening shifts, for an average of 10 hours. But no matter how late I hit the bed, I am up early for a round of sunbathing.
I don't miss home because I've spent a great deal of time outside Northern Ireland for both work and study. There is always so much going on in Dubai that one can never get bored. I've already been to the desert safari, Global Village, recent concert of Shakira and now waiting for Aerosmith to be here. And in these few months I've already got friends to hang out with after work.