A dedication to Dubai

Expat Life

June 27, 2020

As you may know, I’ve lived in Dubai for the past six years. It’s crazy that its been so long because it really doesn’t feel like it! I’ll be moving to Washington D.C. either this fall or in the new year (depending on the pandemic) for college. Either way, I’m saying goodbye to living in Dubai, so I thought it would be nice to write a sort of dedication to Dubai and what it was like to live here.

I’ve honestly loved my time here, even though it may have been a hard adjustment at first. I spent my teenage years here, so it’s really where I grew up and learned about the person I am now. I’ve had a lot of amazing memories here, and in this post I’ll share 10 of the things that I’ve appreciated the most about living here!

1. The people

You could live in the most amazing place in the world, and it still wouldn’t feel like home without a great community of people. The connections I’ve made with people who aren’t even my close friends and family have added to the experience of living here. Whether it’s my teachers or the guard that helps everyone cross the zebra crossing before school, the people I’ve met are so caring and kind. Living in Dubai, most people don’t have extended family here, so with all the connections we make, we almost become one big family.

2. The hummus

I’m sorry, but after living in a Middle Eastern city, if I try hummus anywhere else in the world, it just does not compare! On that note, I’ll miss all the Arabic food here. I’ve grown so accustomed to casually having shawarma served in our school cafeteria, that I’ll have to go looking for the best Arabic food in DC next year!

3. The Friends that became family

As I mentioned, as most of us are expatriates in Dubai we don’t have extended family here. You learn to grow close bonds with friends, and they become your expat family! I’ve met so many amazing friends here that have been a part of my family while I’ve lived here. I feel like it’s something that any expat can relate to, there’s a special kind of bond that you make when you’re living abroad. I’m definitely going to miss them a lot when I move.

4. Wearing flip flops everywhere

Okay, so maybe this doesn’t seem like a big deal to most people, but seriously, I hardly ever wear closed shoes here unless I’m exercising. It’s so easy to just slip on a pair of flip flops with any outfit I wear, because it’s always so hot. I’m not only going to miss wearing flip flops, but just being able to walk around without worrying about rain or matching a jacket to my outfit.

5. The Arabic words I’ve gotten used to

When you live in Dubai, even if you don’t speak Arabic, you grow used to hearing certain words in the language and using them in your own sentences. When someone’s running late we always say ‘yalla’ or it’s pretty normal to say someone’s name followed by ‘habibi/habibti/’ which directly translates to ‘my love’ but it’s just a way of showing affection around here.

6. Always finding sand in my shoes

For that fraction of time where I’m not wearing flip flops, I’ll always empty out my shoes to find grains of sand. I swear sometimes after going for a run on a desert trail, I’ll empty out my shoes to find a mini dune on my floor! Most tourists forget that Dubai is an actual desert, because they just see the the buildings downtown. But, there’s sand everywhere here! It’s definitely annoying sometimes, but I’m going to miss it.

7. Looking forward to rain days

When I lived in London, I absolutely hated it when it rained. However, since it only rains twice a year in Dubai it’s a really big deal. Sometimes school even shuts because it’s raining. It’s funny because anywhere else in the world people just think rain is normal, but in Dubai people specifically go outside in the rain for fun, or kids spend all day checking the forecast on a grey day to see if there’s a possibility that school may shut for the rain.

8. Religious holidays

Since I am a Muslim, I really like that we get days off school (and work for my parents) for these religious holidays such as Eid. Also during the month of Ramadan where Muslims fast, we have shortened school hours which I really like!

9. People randomly speaking to me in Arabic

A lot of people say that I look like I’m Middle Eastern, so whenever I’m at the mall or even at airport immigration, people always start speaking to me in Arabic. They always look so disappointed when I tell them that I have no idea what they’re saying! This has actually inspired me to take Arabic in college so that when people start speaking to me in Arabic, I can actually reply.

10. 1 dirham tea

I saved the best for last! Incase you didn’t know, dirhams are our local currency in the UAE. Something that I love, is that you can buy a cup of karak chai here for only 1 dirham. It’s the best thing ever! A cup full of creamy, spicy, goodness. My family and I always drive out to get a cup on the weekend, which are some of my favorite memories here. I actually wrote a whole blog post about it here!

I owe a lot of who I am and my experiences to this city, and I am really going to miss it! Who knows, maybe one day in the future I’ll be back to live here? If you have anything else that you think should be on the list, leave it in the comments!

See you next week,

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