Where you can design your own lifestyle

Envious critics claim we are spoilt. Why shouldn’t we be? I do not deny it

Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor

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Life in the United Arab Emirates is the whole package. It is competitive, challenging and interesting for those pursuing a career and employees are required to stay on top of their game. This is the place where residents work hard and have on hand every facility imaginable to play hard. Everyone is free to go out and about enjoying all that life has to offer at any time of the day or night in complete safety.

Personal freedoms are on par with those enjoyed by citizens of Western democracies provided the country’s laws and norms are respected. Ours is a vibrant multicultural society where dozens of different languages can be heard and just about every cuisine on earth can be discovered. The UAE plays host to over 200 different nationalities and is a magnet for tourists from all corners of the world attracted by pristine fine sand beaches and clear aquamarine waters, super-luxurious hotels as well as a wealth of sporting, shopping and entertainment facilities.

The UAE today is a land of diversity and plenty. Our rulers never stop striving for excellence and the end product is something to boast about

Khalaf Ahmad al-Habtoor

Here is where the daily round is made hassle-free. Telecommunication companies, banks, car hire firms, taxis and all other essential services can be communicated with on line or can be found a stone’s throw away from most hotels and residences. Supermarket staff will carry your shopping to your car or when you are in the mood to put up your feet at home, you can order online or just dial a number. Petrol station employees will ‘fill her up’ and more often than not, you will drive away with a clean windscreen.

Envious critics claim we are spoilt. Why shouldn’t we be? I do not deny it. Who in the world wouldn’t want their daily chores minimized permitting extra time to socialize, to devote to sports and hobbies, to be entertained or just to have fun!

When I was a boy…

When I was a boy we had to concentrate on survival first and foremost. We had to gather dates to feed our camels, tend to our goats, catch fish to eat, dig wells for water and when we had free time the only pursuits available were swimming, diving, camel racing and falconry, which were not only exciting but served to toughen us up for the harsh conditions we faced. We were forced to become men at an early age. We were happy because we did not know anything else but I am glad my children grew up in a different environment where all they were required to do was to enjoy their childhood years. And just when I think things can not get better, they do.

The UAE today is a land of diversity and plenty. Our rulers never stop striving for excellence and the end product is something to boast about. We make no apology for always aiming to be the best. This year, the World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index named the UAE as the most tourist-friendly country in the Middle East and North Africa. Last year, the Emirates was ranked by the “Expat Insider” third on its list of “top ten countries for residence” and was recognised in the U.N. International Organization for Peace, Care and Relief 2014 report as the global first in terms of “peaceful coexistence among nationalities.”

Nowadays, residents and visitors are spoilt for choice in terms of sporting and leisure opportunities, too numerous to mention. Let’s just say, if you can dream it, we have got it from ski slopes and skating rinks to paragliding, skydiving, polo, dune driving and horseracing. Dubai is the venue for numerous events on the global annual calendar, such as the annual World Cup, the biggest in the world; the Dubai Open tennis championship, the Dubai Polo Gold Cup Series plus international speedboat races and professional golfing championships.

There is no excuse for anyone here not to stay fit. I reluctantly took up tennis when one of my hotel’s coaches repeatedly presented me with a racquet and a pair of shorts and now hardly a day goes by when I do not take to the courts no matter the temperature. I became so enamored of the energizing adrenalin rush and the health benefits tennis provides that I was driven to host the annual Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge for professional world-class female players.

A major center

The Emirates has also emerged as a major center for mega exhibitions. Some of the best known fixtures are: GITEX unveiling the technology of tomorrow; the Arabian Travel Market showcasing new hotels, tourist attractions and airline developments; the Sharjah World Book Fair, a must for literary enthusiasts, authors and publishers, the glitzy Dubai Motor Show, and Arab Health where healthcare professionals can network and view state of the art medical technologies.

Much-awaited biannual events include the Dubai Air Show that has evolved from modest beginnings into one of the World’s largest and most important reflecting Dubai’s status as the region’s fastest growing aviation hub, and IDEX Abu Dhabi where international companies present innovative advances in the field of security and defense.

Enhancing the UAE’s unrivalled reputation for glamour is the annual Dubai Film Festival which has been featured in “Conde Nast Travelers” list of the world’s best. Established in 2004 to raise the international profile of Arab cinema and to celebrate Arab filmmaking talent it evolved into an international forum, where celebrity spotters can see gracing the red carpet some of the best known actors, directors and producers.

In recent years, Hollywood has increasingly seen Dubai as a unique movie-making location. “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol”, “Syriana”, “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” and “Fast and Furious 7” shot in my hometown while “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is currently under production.

You do not have to be on the go 24/7 to enjoy what the United Arab Emirates has to offer. Take a leisurely stroll around Dubai’s Marina district. Stop at a cafe for a cappuccino and watch the boats sail by. Picnic on the beach or in one of Abu Dhabi’s many public parks. Get in touch with nature at Sir Bani Yas Island where wildlife roams free or wait for the opening of Dubai Safari Park scheduled to be a world standard for wildlife habitat when it opens at the end of this year. Ultimately just open your eyes to the beauty all around and you will be sure to have a nice day, every day.


Khalaf Ahmad al-Habtoor is a prominent UAE businessman and public figure. He is Chairman of the Al Habtoor Group - one of the most successful conglomerates in the Gulf. Al Habtoor is renowned for his knowledge and views on international political affairs; his philanthropic activity; his efforts to promote peace; and he has long acted as an unofficial ambassador for his country abroad. Writing extensively on both local and international politics, he publishes regular articles in the media and has released a number of books. Al-Habtoor began his career as an employee of a local UAE construction firm and in 1970 established his own company, Al Habtoor Engineering. The UAE Federation, which united the seven emirates under the one flag for the first time, was founded in 1971 and this inspired him to undertake a series of innovative construction projects – all of which proved highly successful.

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