Memories of our expat life in Abu Dhabi always surface around Ramzan Id time. We got a taste of not only the culture but taste the variety of Dates, both local and regional, stocked high on the supermarket shelves. Out short stay in Abu Dhabi was richly rewarded with a definitive taste of Middle East culture. Food, climate, clothing of local Bedeouins as well as the expat population and their work cultures. Both Abu Dhabi and Dubai are quite modern in their outlook, when compared to other Middle East cities. Both boast of plush air conditioned malls, wide roads, multi national schools, Date palm lined expressways mostly funded by the wealth brought in by liquid gold – the oil! As many expats come here to work, families including children need the infrastructure of schools, hospitals and food facilities. It was a wonderful chance for us to meet many expats from European countries, as well as Asian countries like Sri Lanka and Phillipines.
The mild winters brought out a variety of outdoor activities as well as local shopping. Cycling, walks along the Promenade, crusing the marine waters, crochet and knitting clubs, as well as plenty of barbeque nights. I often visited the local market near Al Mina, and had an impromtu conversation in Hindi with many of the Afghani or south Indian vegetable vendors.
See here for a very popular earlier post on the people in the market.
Other migrants to the city were from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Syria, Beirut, Turkey, India, Sri Lanka and also the Phillipines. Interacting with the migrant people in various jobs, it became clear that positions were quite compartmentalized to each community, an unwritten rule.
Here is a guest post by my dear friend Firoza, with whom I shared many a cup of chai and pakoras during the mild winters. At times we did window shopping and saw the expensive watches, bridal gowns, cutlery or ladies handbags at one of the many airconditioned malls. The well heeled local and expat population feasts on the luxury items, and that in return brings in renenue for the state. To soothe the aching feet we would sit down at a French bakery and pour out giggles and endless chatter.
But to taste her delicious Parsi dessert see here. I had to visit her home and indulge.
Covid- 19 & Life in AbuDhabi, UAE
‘The turn of the decade, turned lives across the globe 360 degrees. UAE was no exception. 23rd March 2020, a very exceptional scenario of a ‘Lockdown’ caged us in our homes. In Abu Dhabi, we experienced an unusually comfortable lockdown. Supermarkets and restaurants, were the only places doing brisk business. Hospitals and pharmacies, can’t say were overwhelmed with people but there was an initial surge. Insurance companies still were not so badly off.
Malls witnessed queues for the first time! Else the expanse of space and airconditioned shopping experience were a luxury in the desert. People stocking up food and hygiene products made snake like queues, unheard or unseen here. A futile exercise. Salute, to the country for not allowing anything to go out of stock till date. This scene remained for the first three months. Curfew from 8pm to 6 am was even more scary ,as we saw only delivery boys zipping around as if they owned the streets on their risky bikes. It was a ghost town. Food parcels were the only entertainment for all the residence.
The fashionables thronging the cafes, were having their expensive drinks in disposable cups. Pitiful indeed! Mall culture, even today has not gotten back its luster after a year and two months. How can that be even possible, as most of the expats have been asked to go back to home countries. Remember, Abu Dhabi has a small local population, and the city state has sprung up much due to the migrant population. Expat life here, both for the blue and white collar workers makes up a major transient population. Companies want the bottom line to look good , so they provide the easy targets. Lives of the school going children and our future is at stake but the businesses and banks need to show a good balance sheet. So the scene is the same here, as the world over today.
2020 slapped us with another reality too. Folks who had bought themselves safe havens ( foreign investments are permitted at certain exclusive areas) here were not allowed to return home after their 3 days 4 nights vacation in March, for a good three months. Some expensive and regrettable holiday indeed for those who travelled to home country! Other travel woes are that today, we may not travel as freely between the other Emirates from Abu Dhabi due to many PCR test compliance. )which means for me, I cannnot visit my family in Dubai, as often). But business is as usual. Only the city has become more quiet. However, except for this hiccup UAE and specially Abu Dhabi, its capital have done a marvelous job keeping us safe.
Strict rules and motherly care, vaccinating most of its population without much ado. Hats off to their foresight and good governance the administration has done an un parallel job till date. Hope and prayers are the same as across the globe. May lives get back without masks and kids resume schools and classes, and have fun alongside other children. Universities thrive churning out brave and honest talent. Importantly, businesses start and employment brings smiles back on the faces of the very frightened expat population here. The livelihood of those workers in constuctions, hair saloons, catering and tailoring all come from a population that need to send money home to their respective countries, where living conditions are much poorer and less sanitation than here. So, let’s pray and hope for all those lives in trouble. Till then, stay safe everyone, be thankful for what you have in hand, be kind to your neighbour.
Thank you Firoza, for summing up the life of an expat now to my memories of our stay there. I’m lucky to be living back in my own country, phew!
Till then, prayers and gratitude for all people, everywhere.
If you wish to write a guest post for me, please do share your topic, write up and short brief about yourself and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Variety brings a different perspective.