Just as New York City is the melting pot of the United States, Dubai is the melting pot of the Middle East. I have met people from all over the world who live and work here. I work amongst people from: Australia, Scotland, India, Kuwait, Palestine, London, and Dubai, to name a few. People come to Dubai for opportunities, and career growth. However, I have not met one person who has come to Dubai to “settle down.” They are here to work, to work very hard, and to play. What is most fascinating about the city of Dubai, is that while the streets and offices are filled with hundreds of expats, the underlining culture of the Emirates remains strong.
Local pride is the heart of Dubai. If you do not respect the local culture of the Emirates, you will be forced to leave. I’ve learned so much during my time here, so I will do my best to explain it clearly. The term “local” has a completely different meaning in Dubai than in the United States. Being a local in Dubai is a powerful, prestigious title. Locals in Dubai are those that were here before the glitz and glam of Dubai. Locals are the people whose ancestors were here when Dubai was nothing but a desert. These people lived in small hut type homes, some of which still exist in what is known as “Old Dubai,” however, people no longer live in them.
Now, the even more fascinating part, being born in Dubai does not mean you are a local. It all depends on the family or family name of which you were born into. I have met many people who were born in Dubai, spent their whole lives here, however, they are not considered locals. Not only are they not considered locals, they are also not citizens of the UAE, nor can they attain citizenship. If you are not a local, you are a citizen of your home country, or rather, the home country of where your parents are from. Locals, or on occasion, extremely wealthy individuals, are the only people who can attain citizenship in the Emirates. It does not matter how long you live, or work in Dubai, you are not granted citizenship if you are not local. If an individual loses their job, unless in school or under a family, or marriage visa, they will have a limited amount of time to find another job, before they have to leave Dubai.
The attire of the locals is well known here. The men dress in the long white gowns, and the women in the long black gowns. However, there are small details in both that distinguish whether a person is a Dubai local, or a visitor. Expats tell me that locals are protected by the government here, because it is important to the ruler of the Dubai to protect his people. However, the locals are very open to expats, and people live and work amongst one another with respect to each other.
Ramadan begins next week. During this time, all the restaurants will be closed during the day. It will be illegal to eat or drink in public. However, rumor has it that the dinners that occur after sun down are incredible. I plan to fully participate in Ramadan while I am here – no food or beverages from sun up to down. I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.
*I did not include pictures of the locals in the post out of respect for the Emirates.