The Middle East is one of the most interesting places to live as an expat. The sheer diversity, beauty and history of this region may help you to challenge some of the stereotypes of the Middle East that you may have encountered in the West.
Living in the UAE, has helped me to appreciate life in the Middle East. Here are some of the things that expat life here has shown me:
- Beautiful Arabic calligraphy is everywhere: The Arabic script and Arabic calligraphy are an important part of the everyday aesthetics here in the Middle East. Shops, street names and restaurants will all have their names in Arabic; quite possibly even your Starbucks barista will scribble your name down in Arabic on your café latte to go.
- The Middle East has incredible natural landscapes: The Middle East is home to incredible natural landscapes. My favorite is of course the desert and the simplicity of its beauty. Camping in the desert under the stars is one of the most enjoyable experiences of life in this part of the world.
- Gas is the same price as water: Gas (or petrol) is almost as cheap as water in many Middle Eastern countries like the UAE and Qatar. Coming from the West, this will be a welcome change and friends and family visiting you in Dubai will definitely gasp at how much you pay to fill up the tank.
- The Middle East is incredibly diverse: Living in a melting pot like Dubai, you will live alongside over 200 different nationalities and mix with people from all around the world. The Middle East is incredibly diverse and cities like Dubai, Abu Dhabi or Doha will allow you to experience this first hand.
- Skyscrapers and Souks; old and new go together: The charm about many Middle Eastern cities is how the old and the new combine together to weave tradition and modernity in one fine thread. The skyscrapers and souks stand next to each other, each painting a different skyline of the city.
- Arab cuisine is delicious: Middle Eastern food is incredibly delicious and there are so many more things to try than just falafel and hummus. Shwarmas make the best late night snack, Arabic pizza known as Mannakeesh is a must-try and fresh pomegranate lemonades are the perfect thing to beat the soaring summer temperatures.
- Stunning architecture of mosques: When my American friend visited me in Dubai, the first thing she said was “architecture is the one thing you notice immediately that the Arabs get right”. The stunning architecture of the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi is enough to make a lasting impression on any visitor to this region.
- Life as a woman here has favourable factors: Life for a woman expat in the Middle East is defined by security and opportunity. It is safe to walk the streets of Dubai alone at night or to take a pink taxi (specifically designed for use by women). There are also special “ladies queues” in most government offices as a convenience to get things done faster. There are plenty of opportunities for women as well; the opportunity to start your own business is a popular convenience listed by many expat women as a huge plus.
- Travel access to so many amazing destinations: Living in the UAE, means you are so well-connected to exploring many amazing Middle Eastern destinations such as Egypt, Turkey, Oman, and Jordan. While often grouped together as a region, the Middle East has incredibly varied experiences to offer; you can swim with dolphins off the coast of Oman, take a bible tour through old Jordan or marvel at the pyramids of Giza. Travel is a must when living here.
- The Middle East is a great place to raise a family: The Arab culture is very welcoming of children in particular; they are appreciated and welcomed in society. Living in the UAE has highlighted the amenities and infrastructure that are geared towards young families and everything from international schooling to diaper changing stations in shopping malls is provided for, which makes the Middle East one of the best places to raise a family.
What do you love most about life in the Middle East? Share your experience on Expat Connect!
About the Author: Mariam is an eternal expat who 15 years, 7 countries and 3 continents later, is embarrassingly a seasoned expert at getting lost in every new city she calls home. She is the founder and writer of the blog ‘And Then We Moved To’ where she writes about her expat life. She is a regular blogger for Expat Connect and currently lives in Dubai with her husband and two children.