Been Away Such A Long Time…

It’s been a whirlwind of a past couple of months. There are many things I would like to share here, but have been busy enough to not have the time. Which can be a blessing this far from home and on your own.

I promised myself I would not make this a blog about anything technical (how to obtain residency visas, apartments, utilities, driver’s licenses, etc.) because there are many many other blogs out there that do this and much better than I ever could. However, after having been through a few processes (buying a car, obtaining a driver’s license) myself, I just want everyone to know that it isn’t nearly as hard as it is sometimes made out to be. The hardest part about getting my Abu Dhabi license was getting my original license translated, which I was able to do in just over an hour for AED350. And the hardest part about getting my car was obtaining the plates before I could drive the car off the lot – and that was simply because I was anxious to get the car and thought it an inconvenience.

Aside from these routine and necessary things, I have been privy to a myriad of other amazing experiences and cultural things. Particularly, the food. Oh so much delicious food.

I am lucky enough to work with all local ladies, who are some of the most generous people I have ever encountered. Not only do they bring in homemade treats like genuine arabic bread (pita) with local honey, and stuffed grape leaves (waraq ‘inab), but they also bring great little goodies from the whole gulf area. Thanks to these ladies, I have tasted treats from Jordan, Palestine, Pakistan, Lebanon, Syria, and Bahrain. It is slightly amazing I have not doubled in size in my three months here.


Additionally, I have been privy to some great local events, including Art Abu Dhabi (where I listened to a live band from the Sudan whose members used to be child soldiers), the Dubai Comedy Festival, and several concerts at du Arena.




I also recently attended the opera at the Emirates Palace. In addition to being an amazingly grand and beautiful structure, it is┬áthe closest thing to what feels like “old Abu Dhabi” than almost anything else in the city.


And speaking of “old” Abu Dhabi, the country is about to celebrate it’s 44th birthday. Very few know that the UAE was cobbled together out of several Emirates that did not become a united country until 1971. I think most people (myself included) believe the UAE has been a country for nearly as many years as any of the other Arab countries. This may be attributed to the fact that the Arabian Gulf area is one of the birthplaces of history. However, the UAE was the product of a constitution uniting the seven Emirates after the discovery of significant oil reserves in Abu Dhabi. The ruling family (the Nahyans) used the oil revenues to build a strong, educated, and healthy country. Due to the forward-thinking of Sheikh Zayed, the UAE is one of the most progressive countries in the entire gulf area.

And this proud history is about to be celebrated this week with festivities and events. We have gotten into the National Day spirit at the office and done a little redecorating.


Being a resident member of this country and being so welcomed by it and its nationals has given me a sense of pride. I am very glad to share in this celebration and feel honored to be part of this country’s burgeoning history. I hope to be a part of many more.


Get to work.


Things (obviously) are different in the UAE. Life here has many advantages – tax-free living, a progressive national population, excellent career opportunities in specialized fields – and, as such, the Emirates have put a number of procedures in place to curb illegal immigration. Because of this, any person hired to work or approved to live in the UAE has to undergo a series of medical tests and processes in order to obtain an Emirates ID card. This card is more official than the US equivalent of the driver’s license. In nearly any transaction of business – opening a bank account, obtaining utility services, subscribing to cable and internet packages, purchasing a mobile phone – you are required to show your Emirates ID (and, in some cases, your original passport and residency visa). While I suspect some people try it, it would be very difficult to live in the UAE without this card.

Having gone through this process, I realize how much I have taken for granted that I have mostly lived and worked in the country of my birth. The most bureaucracy I’ve dealt with is changing my driver’s license from one state to another. And it made me appreciate that there are people willing to wrestle the red tape to bring us their talents and perspectives – both here and in the US. And it made me especially appreciative of the fact that I was fortunate enough to be hired by a company that has employees specifically designated to walk expats such as myself through these procedures. If I had to navigate the windy streets of obtaining my residency documents myself, I probably would have returned home by now. I guess this is another way the UAE prevents illegal immigrants…