Originally from Houston, Tx, Selena is currently teaching English in Rabat, Morocco.
During my previous visits to the UAE I’ve questioned the likelihood that I will return to the country. Yet, it was clearly meant to be. For what? I’m not sure. Maybe I’ll decide to move to Dubai to work one day. Or, maybe, I will find myself an Emirati husband and live the life of a queen. (Just kidding. Sort of.)
Regardless, this visit has allowed me to further develop my thoughts on the country, especially Dubai. There’s no doubt that Dubai is an incredible city. This might be my third time here but I’m still amazed by the glamour of everything. I can’t get over the beauty of the skyscrapers and huge malls but I also can’t get over the lack of Emiratis and Arabic in the streets.
On our first full day in Dubai we visited the Burj Khalifa, the tallest skyscraper in the world that opened in 2010. I’d never gone up the tower because it’s so expensive but this time the Ibrahim Foundation paid for our visit (Thank you!) and we were able to take the elevator up to the 124th and 125th floors. The view was impressive and slightly scary. You’re able to see the large buildings, the ocean, the endless desert lands, and even, the man-made islands shaped like a world map.
Once my anxiety at being so high up got too strong, I decided to go back down. Really, I just wanted to get to Dubai Mall and stare at its beauty because I’m broke and can’t afford anything there. Outside of the Burj Khalifa and the mall, you can see the largest fountain in the world.
I’ve talked about Dubai Mall in a previous post so I won’t say too much about it except that it has an aquarium where you can scuba dive (!!!) and after being there four times, I still have only gone through maybe 1/4 of it.
On our second day we went to JBD and spent an hour enjoying the warm water. I’m used to the warm Texan waters so I enjoyed JBD a lot but for those who are used to colder waters it might not be super enjoyable.
Overall, Dubai looks beautiful and clean. There’s a low crime rate, according to what I’ve been told, and many expats choose to work in Dubai because of the many job opportunities. We were able to speak with one expat from Greece and when asked if Dubai was home for her, she replied no. She explained that for many expats Dubai is not a “home” because it is only a temporary place for work. Yet, for those migrants who move to Dubai to have better job opportunities and provide for their families back home, Dubai can become a home. Some migrants have lived in the country for decades without being able to call themselves Emirati citizens because the path for citizenship is incredible difficult and limited. As a result of the large migrant community and the difficult path to citizenship, the country has become 13% Emirati and 87% Expats. Many of the expats are of Arab and Southeast Asian origin while there is an increasing population of European and American expats who are joining the workforce. Dubai, specifically, if made up of 90% expats while some of the other emirates have larger populations of Emiratis.
One of the consequences of this diverse population is the lack of Arabic in the streets of Dubai. If you were thinking of studying abroad in Dubai to improve your Arabic, you might want to rethink that decision. The Arabic language is struggling in a country where a large majority of the expat population does not speak it but they commonly speak English instead. Someone described Arabic as a “dying language” in the UAE and I would hate to think that in a few years that could be the case. Yet, I do have hope seeing as how the country has implemented programs to bring back Emirati language and culture.
My third time in the UAE was successful and I felt that I learned more about the country but I’m still far from understanding the complexity that is the United Arab Emirates.