Expatriates in the United Arab Emirates have praised a country of growth and opportunity as the UAE marks its 51st National Day; an annual nation-wide spectacle to mark the unification of the seven emirates.
It was on December 2, 1971, that the rulers of Abu Dhabi, Fujairah, Dubai, Ajman, Sharjah and Umm al-Quwain agreed to unite their emirates into one country, under the guidance of the UAE’s founding father and first president Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
Ras al-Khaimah decided to join the union later in February 1972, becoming the seventh emirate.
On this day each year, UAE citizens and residents celebrate both at home and on the streets, with decorations in red, white, black and green – colors resembling the Gulf country’s national flag.
After last year’s lavish Golden Jubilee celebration, UAE residents said they were excited to rejoice once more, with a long weekend of jam-packed with events, activities, and firework displays across the country.
‘Making dreams come true’
Twenty-eight-year-old Egyptian expat and entrepreneur Mohamed el-Magairy said that after four years in the UAE, he was excited to see what the future held for him in the country as Dubai’s burgeoning business ecosystem continues to grow.
“Dubai offers people the best opportunities for growth, especially for younger generations,” he said. “I have seen a lot of young people here starting up their own businesses and succeeding, and making their dreams come true.”
“Next year will be my fifth year in the UAE and I am really happy here. I love it because it is the perfect mix of Western culture and Arabic tradition, which is something I have really grown to appreciate over the years.”
He added that the UAE offered him a sense of safety that cannot be found in any other country.
“The UAE’s leadership is amazing, they have shown true leadership of how a country should be led and this is reflected in the sense of security we feel here as residents.”
The UAE recently topped the list of countries where people feel safe walking alone at night. A 2021 Gallup report found that 95 percent of residents felt safe in the Gulf country.
“The security level in Dubai, and the whole of the UAE, is very high. I feel very safe and secure, especially because my mother, who is almost 60, lives here and I have that peace of mind knowing that she is safe. This is a feeling that you don’t get anywhere else in the world and this is because of the country’s leadership.”
He added that he was excited to watch the fireworks this weekend, and was looking forward to other events in Dubai Festival City.
Italian expat, fitness influencer and comedian, Stefania Totolo, 33, also said that she initially moved to Dubai two years ago because of its large fitness community, offering her “many opportunities” for career growth.
In fact, a wellbeing study released last week found that the UAE was among the fittest countries in the world, surpassing Spain, the United Kingdom, the US, Australia and China.
“I love it here, I love that people are smiling to each other, always ready to help if you need that. Dubai is very clean - I love that,” Stefania said, adding that the high standard of living in the city has motivated her to stay and continue to pursue her career.
‘Tolerance and diversity’
Peaceful coexistence, diversity and tolerance are intrinsic to Islamic culture, aspects that are heavily reflected in the UAE. Pakistani expat Mohiuddin Akbar, 38, told Al Arabiya English that these were an integral reason why he decided to settle in the UAE.
“Tolerance and diversity! UAE is probably the most cosmopolitan place in the region, if not the world. I love to meet people from diverse cultures and backgrounds [and] UAE offers this opportunity every day.”
“Sometimes you get to meet people from countries you haven't even heard about and get to know about different cultures and values,” Mohiuddin, who works as a sales manager in the energy sector, said.
“UAE leadership has shown great commitment toward [the] country and society. They have instilled the society with values of diversity, tolerance and unity. Love and respect for UAE Leadership.”
‘Sky is the limit’
Lebanese expat Mabelle el-Koreh, 29, moved to Dubai in March 2020 due to the financial crisis in her country.
Echoing Mohamed’s sentiment, she said that one of the main reasons why she enjoys living in the UAE is the sense of safety.
“The UAE leadership should be an example for every country. They are determined to provide the best for their people and for expats, they made almost everything possible with all the limitations like [its desert] nature and weather,” she said.
“They are in constant progress and evolution, they’re ambitious and the sky is their limit,” Mabelle said, adding that she was particularly impressed with how their ambition is reflected “on so many levels,” especially in the fields of business and medicine.
The success of the country’s medical sector is important to her because she works as a psychomotor therapist and hopes to one day open her own business in the UAE.
Ray Tinston is a British expat living in Dubai.
“I love the UAE as it has given me the freedom to experience life in a way which would never have been possible back in the UAE,” he told Al Arabiya English.
Dubai resident Monty Guhathakurta, 40, said the UAE is a country “where dreams become reality.”
“UAE is the land which rich cultural values, rich traditions and modernity,” he told Al Arabiya English. “Dubai my home away from home and I’m glad to have lived in this city for the last 15 years.”
“As an expatriate here, I am truly blessed to live in this amazing country that provides us with the best lifestyles.”
“What I love about this amazing country is that we can celebrate various festivals. When it comes to enjoying your sport, the UAE hosts various sporting events such as the cricket T20 Asia cup, the Dubai Rugby 7s, Formula 1 in Abu Dhabi, the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships and many more sporting competitions so that people from different nations can enjoy their sport. All in all, I love the UAE as it is the most peaceful country in the world.”
“I would like to wish the UAE a Happy 51st National day and long live the UAE and its people.”
Dubai expat Natasha Hatherall, who hails from the UK, said the UAE - where she set up her PR business - is now her home.
“As a resident of the UAE of 13 years, not a year goes by when I do not feel a sense of amazement at all this country achieves and the opportunities it provides us with,“ she told Al Arabiya English. “I have personally achieved more in this country than I ever could have imagined, and I am super grateful every day for the safe and wonderful lifestyle it provides us with.”
“As a business owner and property owner, I am glad that the new visa options and law updates mean I can now stay and plan a long-term life here too.”
Iraqi expat Rafat Shawe has lived in the UAE for more than two decades.
“The UAE has been my home for 21 years and I love how I do not feel like an expat and how I am made to feel at home and have so many opportunities for an amazing life allowing me to support my family,” he said. “This brilliant country brings so many nationalities and cultures together and also gave me my wife, whom I would never have met otherwise.”
An exceptional quality of life
The UAE has long offered expats an exceptional quality of life, with modern facilities, a fast-growing economy full of opportunities for the ambitious, and a hub for business and tourism positioned at the nexus between the East and West.
Mauritanian expat Sidahmed Kerkoub, 27, told Al Arabiya English that he particularly enjoys his lifestyle and the quality of services in the UAE.
Having left Geneva to move to Dubai in 2019 to pursue a master’s degree at Hult International Business School, he initially did not plan on staying in the country after his graduation. But after the pandemic’s onset, his plans changed, and he decided to launch his own startup – a brokerage in oil and gas and construction – through which he found great success.
“I think I am from the minority of people who didn’t know anything about Dubai before coming here. But when I came, I was so surprised about many things. I visited basically all the emirates by now and I discovered there are also many common things between here and my country,” Sidahmed explained.
Mauritania, like the UAE, is a relatively new nation since it was only founded in 1958. The UAE’s evolution over the last 51 years has “inspired” Sidahmed to think of how much his country could have achieved within this timeframe, as the UAE continues to “attract tourism,” “break records worldwide,” and build magnificent buildings.
The 27-year-old added that compared to countries in Europe, the UAE offers a host of services that should be provided everywhere, but aren’t, such as valet parking and being able to get things delivered to your home at any time for free.
“The lifestyle here is more comfortable… and as a Muslim, I like the mix between the modern and the religious. For example, here you have clubs and bars, and at the same time mosques, and you can eat halal everywhere. There’s a mix between all kinds of religions, so everyone can find themselves.”
“As we say in Dubai: you come to Dubai for one year, and you end up staying forever,” he said when asked if he was planning to live in the UAE in the long run.
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