Before I moved to Dubai, I moved from Rio to Lima to Belo Horizonte back to Rio to to Angola back to Rio to Oxford to Maputo to Lagos to South Africa to London. By the way, this all happened in 5 years. So yeah- its very possible that I’m biased and any place would seem great if after so long you get a chance to build some roots.
But I also think Dubai is a very special place thats almost unlike any other. Before this, my top 2 cities (to live, not to visit) were Rio and New York- I couldn’t imagine any other global cities that could compete with Rio on climate, beaches and beauty or with New York on diversity, shopping and night life. And maybe Dubai doesn’t directly compete on these metrics but for me, its as close as I’ve ever come to a perfect place to live.
As a tribute to my adopted city (even though I’m in London at the moment), here’s a few reasons to love living in Dubai:
1. Never cold and always sunny. The coldest day of the year thus far was 65 degrees- at night.
2. Diversity on Fleek. With 85% foreign born population, day-to-day life exposes you to Emirati, Philippino, Lebanese, British, Indian, Pakistani, Moroccan and about 180 other nationalities, including food, clothing, music, customs, a wealth of new perspectives in a global village. Diversity and cross-cultural learning are good for the mind and spirit.
3. Beauty everywhere. From the Arabian arches of palatial hotels like Atlantis to towering heights of Burj Khalifa to the brilliant blue of the city’s private and pubic beaches to the illuminated palm trees lining the downtown Boulevard (UAE’s version of Champs Elysees), most days are full of beautiful sights.
4. Unparalleled safety. Women can walk alone at 10 pm, 1 am, 5 am, You can leave your iphone on a table in Starbucks and come back in 2 hours! Many people leave their doors and cars unlocked because there are cameras everywhere and strict deportation laws so nothing ever happens. Plus since expats can only be here with a job or a sponsor, theres pretty limited economic incentive for stealing and crime.
5. Luxury lifestyle. Totally affordable to have a maid, dry clean all your work clothes and go to the spa every week. Plus everything from prescriptions to bedding to a can of pepsi can be delivered nearly 24 hs/day. If you want the cost breakdown on this, feel free to comment- but its a small fraction of prices in the USA.
The caveat (and I gotta be real about this) is the externalities or hidden costs of bringing low-skilled labor to a global hub at low hourly rates which makes these services so affordable. ?
Just being real, although an equitable solution would be very complex and dependent on multiple statekholders.
6. Round-the-clock convenience. Malls close at midnight, supermarkets are 24-7, restaurants are open til 4 am, hair salons are open til 10 pm. Basically, no matter if you work late, you can still get stuff done or hang out late on weekdays.
6. Low or no taxes. The latter holds true for all but U.S. Americans and even we get significant exemptions as foreign residents.
7. Auspicious gender ratios. 3 men to every woman, which means men are plentiful and willing to invest in a good woman. I’m married now so this is no longer a consideration- but for single educated women, this place has extremely favorable odds.
8. No police brutality, frisking laws or anti-Black racial profiling. Compared to USA and Brazil, Black people are afforded better civil rights.
9. Real estate value for money. Compared to similar location in New York, equivalent rent payment lands you 3x as much space. Compared to Washington DC, 2x as much space. Plus will usually come with doorman, intercom, security access, pool, gym, sauna and sometimes balcony.
10. Cosmopolitan ammennities. From the likes of Nobu, Koi, Rosa Mexicana, the best US/European chains are all here! This applies just as much to top restaurants like Trader Vics and Nobikov to top brands like Armani, Gucci and Hermes. Now Dubai and Abu Dhabi are doing similar partnerships with top museums and cultural institutions like the Louvre so cultural offerings will only get better. Hopefully there will be some kind of partnership with the Schomburg (a girl can dream, right?)
11. Biggest mall in the world. And its great.
12. Beautiful beaches! And yes we can wear bikinis.
13. Never rains– because (duh) we are in a desert! UV rays and blow outs in full glory year-round.
14. Amazing connectivity. Within an 8 hour flight to 80% of the world population. With carriers like Emirates, Etihad. FlyDubai and AirArabia, its super cheap to go to all of Asia and Europe and significant portion of Africa. For example. RT to Delhi was 200 bucks and Bangkok Thailand 350 (though I got the latter free with FF miles ? ). You can easily travel to a dozen countries in a year without breaking the bank.
15. Not as racist as USA or the Americas. Every place has social stigma, barriers and inequality. But unlike almost every other global capital, Dubai has a Black/Brown majority as well as Black/Brown leadership and economic elite- so naturally, the racially-related socio-economic barriers for Black/Brown people are presumably relatively more auspicious. Which is not to say there are not barriers related to nationality, religion, language or skin color. Just that its better than USA/ the Americas in terms of the socio-economic and security disparities associated with race.
16. Family oriented. The expat population (which is over 50% Indian/Pakistani) is typified by countries with high birth rates and the local population has average 4-5 kids/family. Add to that Arabian cultural values which emphasize family and you get a place where its normal to see families all over the mall, where the airline gives you free strollers, where there are special lines for moms and kids and where there are special amusement parks just for
kids. Its pretty cute. And no doubt adds to the ease and appeal of raising kids here.
17. Excellent benefits for skilled labor. Twice as much vacation days as in the USA. Plus (at least at my company) six months of maternity leave, which is like 10 times more than back in USA. I’m not a mom yet but damn lets give them the respect they deserve.
18. Ramadan. 1 month of reduced working hours plus beautiful, neverending Islamic feasts with dates, apricot juice, hummus, sujouk and more
19. Support for women. From women-only taxis to VIP lines for women at some airports/ government entities, women are sometimes sometimes treated as separate but equal but different. Rather than discrimination, these seem more like additional ways to protect women and children. And thats cool with me. Also, the predominance of the abaya makes life easier, increasing women’s ability to be efficient with their daily routine and have more time for the important things in life
20. Shisha. While Dubai will never join Cali and Colorado in legalizing ganja (this blog does not advocate or have an opinion on whether legalization is an appropriate public policy!), we have endless venues to relax with fragrant intoxicating relaxing fruit-flavored Arabian argileh.
21. Arabian fragrances. I DO love Tom Ford ( NdN, Noir, Black Orchid) but I’m telling you even the top Western perfume houses can not even touch the amazing, intoxicating and hypnotizing artisanal fragrances crafted here in the Arabian gulf. Especially when the oud hits your head like a memory from a past life lol.
22. A historic first. Its kind of exciting to be a part of the ascent of one of the top global financial and business hubs out side of the Western world.