Wednesday, September 28, 2011

TOP 5 likes and dislikes about the UAE

I recently did a quick poll among some expat friends living in the UAE, most of them in Abu Dhabi and in Dubai. Basically, I wanted to find out the things they like most about their lives here and the things they just can’t seem to get used to – no matter how long they’ve been around.

Curious? Check out below the TOP 5 answers I got…

TOP 5 things I like the most:

  • Safety
  • Variety of cultures
  • Sunny days throughout the year
  • Money and tax-free benefits
  • Work opportunities

Other things that came up: ease to make new friends, agreeable weather during winter months, great schools for children, wide variety of food, possibility to hire help for the house and kids.

TOP 5 things I can’t get used to:

  • Heat
  • Lack of freedom to wear all sorts of clothes, express feelings and drink alcohol in public
  • Manic and reckless drivers
  • Distance from home country, friends and family
  • Bureaucratic procedures in order to get anything done

Other things that came up: bad customer service, lack of greenery, difficulty to find good service providers (hairdressers, doctors, etc.), deficiency in work ethics, unpleasant odors, people who do not seem to have manners (people who do not respect queues, who discard waste in primitive ways, who do not say please or thank you, etc.) limited cultural options (still pretty conservative, lack of a vibrant experimental art/film/in many ways, etc.).

Friday, September 16, 2011

Al Ain makes it to UNESCO´s World Heritage List

Most people who come to the UAE usually divide their time between Abu Dhabi and Dubai. But there is a very special place about 160km east of the capital that is definitely worth a visit: Al Ain.

The city, which is the second largest in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and the fourth in the entire UAE, is actually the birthplace of the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan and key to the cultural heritage of the country.

Traces of a traditional past are everywhere – the Al Jahili Fort, built in 1891 to defend the city, the Al Ain National Museum, with an interesting archaeological section, and the beautiful Al Ain Palace Museum, which was once home to Sheikh Zayed and also the center to the city’s political life.

Al Ain is also famous for its greenery, mountains and water springs. You will even be able to find a true oasis (Al Ain Oasis), with palm plantations and working farms, right in the middle of the city!

Another must-see spot at Al Ain is Jebel Hafeet (Hafeet Mountain). You can climb all the way up this 1,300 meters high mountain through a road that extends for almost 12km and many curves. At the top, you will find the Mercure Grand Jebel Hafeet Al Ain, a nice hotel where you can stop and enjoy the magnificent city views and indescribable sunset.

Travelling with the kids? Then you might want to stop at Jebel Hafeet’s base for some outdoor fun at Green Mubazzarah, a wonderful setting, with many streams, waterfalls and hot springs. Or perhaps you can head down to the Al Ain Wildlife Park & Resort to see giraffes, zebras, rhinos, lions and other typical local wildlife.

And there is more! The importance of Al Ain’s distinguished cultural sites and historical background was recently recognized. Al Ain was the first site in the UAE to make it to UNESCO’s World Heritage List. 


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Land of opportunities

I am not really sure if I believe in all this Astrological mambo-jumbo, but I can’t deny that over the past few years I’ve clearly noticed the Gemini in me: impulsive, restless, not pinned down, with a need to experience the world, in constant search for change and freedom and with a curious ability and desire to perform a thousand different tasks all at once.

Astrological influence or not, the truth is I easily get bored. I like the beginning of things, the newness of things and all the ingredients that come with the fresh, the unchartered, the unexplored. And then, once everything begins to settle down and to fall into a routine, I feel an inexplicable urge to break away and look for other things to do. It’s like: been there, done that. Time to move on.

This happens in almost every aspect of my life: with hobbies I take on, instruments I try to learn, exercise plans I pledge to follow through and, ultimately, with work. And this is where the tough gets going and the going really gets tough.

First of all, I have to face my own fears, uncertainties and reluctances. It’s not like I wake up one morning and suddenly decide to move on. I may be restless, but I am not crazy or irresponsible. There is a very organized and pragmatic side to me as well and I only make a move when I am certain of it. So, this is never an easy process.

Then, I have to face the questions, criticism and worried looks of family and friends, who often think I’m crazy for giving up a perfectly stable job for apparently no reason at all. Understandable… For some people, if you don’t follow certain rules and steps according to society norms, then you are not successful and, therefore, probably not happy. I don’t condemn them. I too used to think this was the only way to go. And it was this belief that left me paralyzed for so long, unable to move forward, afraid of what others might think.

Last, but certainly not least, I have to face the reality of the market world out there. Luckily, I have two things to be very grateful for:

1) The fact that most organizations are now much friendlier to us ‘free birds’. They no longer expect their employees to stick around forever and are constantly on the look-out for people who like to step out of their comfort zones, who are ready and willing to challenge themselves and who appreciate a great big white canvas to write on.

2) The fact that I am in the UAE, a land of opportunities for people who are well prepared, competent and determined.

I am not saying everything is easy around here - far from it. I am an expat and as such I am invariably adapting to different values and ways of functioning. Plus, on the contrary to what most people think, the UAE was not immune to the economic crisis that hit the world recently. Many people lost their jobs or were forced to accept offers with less pay and benefits.

However, this is still a good place to be. The country grew so much in so little time and it has so many plans for the future that it is in constant need of knowledgeable and experienced people. So, if you are here, if you network, if you are in tune with what is going on, you will most probably know where to look for your next big break.

During the four and a half years I’ve been in the UAE I was able to experience many different things and broaden the spectrum of my area of expertise – communications. So far I’ve:

  • Acted as a communications consultant for an agency (government) in charge of moving forward with the Abu Dhabi 2030 plan;
  • Implemented and managed the internal communications area for a company (aviation) with over 6,000 employees, belonging to more than 110 different nationalities;
  • Supported the change management team for a company (gas) with over 4,000 employees, most of them locals;
  • Launched myself as an internal communications independent consultant;
  • Became a freelance writer for one of the main local magazines in the country.

What’s next? Not sure, but I’m already looking forward to it!

Looking for opportunities in the UAE? Try the following websites:

- Bayt
- Gulf News (click on Jobs at the top menu to the right of the page)