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At home in the UAE

posted on 02/12/2006: 1838 views

Endless sunshine, weekends spent lying on the beaches, diving or camping in the desert - it is no wonder that Westerners love living in the UAE. The sun-drenched lifestyle here is a welcome change from the cold and rain many of them have gratefully left behind.

Another element many Western expatriates appreciate is the extent to which the countless nationalities and races get along with each other which, like the weather, sometimes offers a stark contrast to their own tension-ridden countries.

Nick Dutt, 46, a British businessman who has lived in the UAE for eight years, speaks for many when he says: "The appeal of living here is the ability of the many cultures to work together in the peaceful and secure environment that the government has created.

"It makes you very comfortable and it is a pleasant place in which to live and bring up children."

High-quality schools

Dutt says the high-quality schools in Dubai are a major draw for parents like him, adding that most of them offer a superior learning environment compared to those in his native United Kingdom.

"In terms of mainstream schools, they are a lot better than those at home. The children get more personal attention here and, in general, children are more successful in school here compared to in the UK," he says.

Good infrastructure

Golf course designer Peter Harradine, 61, from Switzerland, a resident of the UAE for the past 30 years, says he enjoys the climate and the "good infrastructure" of the country.

He adds: "There is a huge choice of things to do in the evening with very varied entertainment.

"It's also a great spot to bring people for meetings. It's a freewheeling place, so it sounds good to say: 'Come and meet me in Dubai.'"

British public relations executive Lucy Wray, 35, who has lived in the UAE for a year and a half, says she likes the fact that - despite the traffic - Dubai is much less crowded than London, where she used to live.

"You can get into nice restaurants really easily here - there isn't the same pressure and queues that you have in England. You can just walk in - even if it's somewhere really attractive beside the Creek - and that makes it much more relaxing," she says.

The weekend leisure activities also appeal to Wray, who often goes snorkelling on the east coast near Fujairah.

"It's as though you are on holiday a lot of the time. There are lots of beaches. The lifestyle is great," she says.

Although the sunny weather of the UAE is nothing new to journalist Ruth Edwards from South Africa, in many other areas Dubai scores well compared to her home country.

"Personal security is very good here - that's a major consideration. And I do enjoy the multicultural mix here. There is no tension or acrimony between the races," she says.

Many expatriate families regard the UAE as their second home as they spend a large part of their lives here. For Hasnul Mohammad Yunus and his wife Nooraini Ismail, from Malaysia, the UAE is the country where three of their five children were born.

"We have never lived in Malaysia as a family. The UAE is the only country our family knows as home," says Hasnul.

"Our children go home for a week and ask when they can return to the UAE," says Nooraini. "When we came here, we thought we would stay for two years at the most. But eight years on, we are still here," she adds.

The Malaysian community here is small, with just 2,400 people registered with the embassy.

The couple say that living here has helped strengthen their marriage.

"He's from Kuala Lumpur (in central Malaysia) while I'm from (the north). Living away from Malaysia solves any arguments we might have about where to live (there)," jokes Nooraini.

Better understanding of Islam

She adds that another thing she loves about the UAE is how it has helped her gain a better understanding of Islam. "In Malaysia, we get used to only one way of seeing Islam. Here, we get to learn about other perspectives in Islam," she says.

Keeping in touch with their heritage is not a problem for the Tignos, a Filipino family that has been in the UAE for 17 years. Filipinos are one of the largest communities in the UAE with more than 230,000 people.

"Living here is like living at home in the Philippines," says Dr. Rosario Tigno, who is the first Filipino doctor licensed to work in the UAE. She came here to join her husband, Rogelio Tigno, a mechanical engineer. Her three children grew up in the UAE.

"Growing up here has made them strong, flexible, diplomatic and patient," she says.

The UAE is also special to the Tignos as the couple celebrated their silver anniversary here and renewed their commitment to each other.

"We got married in Iran and we renewed our vows in the UAE. That's pretty special," she says. (Gulf News)


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