Discovering the UAE: Surprising Freedom, Diverse Cultures, and Modern Marvels

A Welcoming Blend of Cultures and People

The United Arab Emirates is an amazing place, and surprisingly open and free. of course it’s two main economic drivers are oil and tourism, as well as an ever growing tech sector. But what surprised me the most was the people. 

 Think about the countries you have heard about in Africa, Southeast Asia, or Middle East that you have heard are poor or dangerous, or perhaps full of extremists. Then come to UAE and find people from all of those countries with a food standard of living, moreover friendly and open minded. I met people from Uganda, Cameroon, Pakistan, India, Lebanon, Ghana, and many more countries, and most were doing pretty good! 

 Like any country there were some people struggling, like the taxi driver from Ghana that works 16 hour days and brings in maybe $1000/month (but car and apartment provided by the company). But then there was my friend, the Pakistani developer, who brings in $5000/month. 

Architectural Marvels and Luxurious Living

 In Abu Dhabi, almost everyone has their own car, and nearly every building in the city looks marvelous. I felt it was a little similar to Orange County, but even nicer in terms of the investment in buildings and infrastructure. 

 Dubai is more crowded like New York with lots of tall buildings, including the tallest in the World, the Burj Khalifa. But this is just one of many, many stunning masterpieces of architecture. One similarity it has to China is that in public places there are cameras everywhere, so crime is quite rare. On top of that, about 88% of the people are immigrants and they don’t want to get deported, so people behave. 

The Evolving Social Landscape and Nightlife

 Behind the scenes, there are still some (somewhat) seedy bars (Indian, Pakistani, African), but not too crazy either, or else they would be shut down. I saw a questionable “massage” place with a couple of native Arabs appearing to be going in and selecting their “therapists” who were wearing short skirts (but not “that” short). My point is like any city Dubai has its underbelly too, but it’s pretty safe and not too crazy. People are free to indulge a bit. 

 And speaking of indulging, as I understand, only in the last several years has alcohol been allowed, at least officially. Dubai first, and Abu Dhabi perhaps in the last year or so. As far as I can tell you can’t buy it and take it home (ex. Convenience store), but there are bars and clubs where alcohol is served. 

 Price wise, Dubai and Abu Dhabi are on par with places like Orange Country or San Francisco. But perhaps there are also some more affordable options available for the working class.And there are perhaps more Super rich, but not sure (seems like it). Mostly they are natives who are hooked into the oil money!