Today marks the one year anniversary of the time I packed my bags, kissed my hubby goodbye (well not really as he was abroad for work that day, but you get the idea) and hopped on a plane to Abu Dhabi to tackle a three month work assignment I had been offered. Never being one to pass up an adventure and having one of my best friends living in Dubai at the time, the decision to go was an easy one, but it definitely wasn’t an easy three months. There were very lonely days and feelings of terrible home sickness and anger and sadness to be missing out on birthdays and bachelorette parties and baby showers and weddings of friends back home.
However, looking back a year later (and having had quite enough of cold weather), I really did have some wonderful times in those three months – I made the loveliest new friends (and reconnected with old friends); I explored places I probably otherwise would never have seen; I enjoyed lovely warm evenings running and cycling around the Yas Marina Circuit or sitting outside sipping on free champagne (thanks to regular ladies nights) and weekends filled with adventures, boozy Friday brunches and all night parties! So, in hindsight, it was a great experience and I wanted to celebrate that by reflecting on my favorite things about the UAE.
The first thing that has to be said about the UAE is that it attracts really fun, ambitious, young people from all over the world. Most of whom are in the same position of being in the UAE for work for a limited time. Everyone is therefore super welcoming and keen to do things so, it’s really easy to make new friends and of course having one of my best friends there at the time was an extra bonus!
There is a huge drinking and partying scene in the UAE. I suppose it’s not completely unlike other places in the world but it is surprising given that it’s a Muslim country. There are ladies nights, offering free drinks to ladies, in at least one venue every night of the week and there are fantastic Friday brunches which offer unlimited booze and food for a set fee (my favorite being at Nahaam in Etihad Towers and the Bubbalicious brunch at the Westin Abu Dhabi). And then there is Barasti – our number one party spot in Dubai!
(can you tell I’m desperately missing the warm weather while sitting in the throes of winter in the US?)
I was there in winter and besides a few drops of rain (yes, rain in the desert), the weather was warm and lovely. It was surprisingly humid and I’m sure it gets unbearably hot in summer but certainly from January to April, the weather is superb.
The engineering marvels
(am I giving away the fact that I’m an engineer?)
In my opinion, neither Abu Dhabi nor Dubai are very pretty cities and the fact that they are completely un-walkable results in them lacking that wonderful vibe you get on the streets of great cities. However, what the cities lack in atmosphere, they make up for in glitz and glam and as far as impressive buildings go, those in the UAE rank among the highest.
Having seven Emirates to explore and being surrounded by both desert and beach gives you plenty of options for things to do over the weekend. However, if you want to get away, it’s also possible to get to quite a few corners of the world (from Sri Lanka to Kenya and from Greece to the Maldives) within a five hour flight of the UAE.
Having said all of that, perhaps the best part of my adventure in the UAE, is that it showed me that I’m stronger, more capable and more adaptable than I realised. It also made me appreciate more all that I have and made me realise what it is I can live without (but previously thought I couldn’t) and what it is I really don’t want to live without (regardless of what other gains there are to be had).