Naveed Khan 26th April 2008, maybe a regular day for professionals living in Pakistan and UAE, but it was a life changer for me. It was the day when I flew to UAE in search of a better future.
I had so many dreams and ambitions regarding my decision. I was hopeful and promised a lot considering the success stories of the people working there, all hope and promises seem to be true.
It was my first ever air travel and it wasn’t a local travelling I was going to altogether a different country with a different culture, traditions and language. It was the relief that religion is the same.
This single point gave me the courage and strength to face the upcoming challenges in the job hunt. I flew from Lahore at night and landed at midnight in Dubai. Dubai Airport was my 1st interaction with the fast-paced economy. It is said, if someone wants to get an idea of any country’s living style visits their transportation hubs, Dubai Airport gave me this opportunity.
It was spectacular to see so much variety of people and languages found under one roof. This was and is my dream to see people from different ethnicity, language and religion living in peace together.
I later realized that this only could be possible when all are equal before the law. No matter who and what you are if you broke the law then you can’t escape. People living there may differ from me, but even if they are right how many people will be enjoying special treatment maybe on 5% to 10% of the UAE population, even they are to somewhat are accountable before the law, but rest which is living in cities and creating societies are strictly under the laws.
Anyway back to Airport, I was dealt gently by the profound immigration staff which was a wind of happiness for me. Later custom staff was equally polite. Such staffs are the face of every nation because they are in the front row and at the doorstep of the country for the people coming from abroad, I saw some cases people are creating a fuss and yet the staff is trying to explain them calmly.
What I understood that if you are dealing fairly with a staff of airport they will rationally treat you well, and you will have no fear if you have not done anything wrong, this statement of mine will be proved in last stages of my article. Hats off to the airport staff they are very diligently performing their duties and handling such a huge flow of people from different cultures without disturbing the operations. As Dubai Airport is one of the busiest airports of the world still functioning so smoothly is the result of the tireless effort of all staff. Sometimes they are more helpful than your own people.
The environment at the airport was so comfortable that it didn’t make me feel the external extreme weather condition, which usually prevails in UAE in those days. I was awaited by a person of my host family. Despite it was midnight I could not see a single wrinkle at his face while receiving me so late. He had to travel 139 Km from Abu Dhabi to pick me up from Dubai.
People are well aware of not only the distance but also the traffic. Roads of Abu Dhabi comparatively much more convenient to travel than Dubai, due to its non-congestive and non-commercial lifestyle. Anyway, that young man cheerfully greeted me, whose family has been living there for years. I realized later that his gesture was because of the influence of the UAE culture of treating guests which he incorporated in his attitude. The night was warm due to the hot day.
We roamed on the roads of Dubai before leaving for Abu Dhabi. Roaming was because he wanted to dine out as a generous host he was aware of the fact that I have travelled from another country and must be hungry after custom, immigration and luggage collection process.
We stopped by a food point and really don’t remember what we ate from there, but what I remember is it was delicious. On the way back my host played a tour guide role as well, he has been telling about the landmarks from which we pass by. Corniche, malls, palaces and towers there was so much to tell about Dubai that even that long distant travelling covered without being bored.
He was so much proud telling me about Burj Khalifa (Then Burj Dubai) which was in its final phase of completion or finishing. Now I realize while writing this, he could have taken a small route to the main road to Abu Dhabi, but instead, he took a detour to show me the majestic and splendour of the city. All the way he was continuously praising Sheikh Zayd whom he was calling him Baba Zayd (Commonly called by Pakistanis). As if paying homage to this great leader is the part of their discussion.
When we left Dubai and when we merged into main Shiekh Zayd road leading to Abu Dhabi, I don’t remember but, it was amazing to see traffic system with such huge vehicles is so smooth and planned that driving is so easy on the main road as long you are abiding by the traffic rules. My host and guide told me that getting a driving license is so much difficult to get. He himself got it in the third attempt. This shows how laws are strictly implemented in the state.
This also shows that the state cares about the safety of people and incompetent can be on the driving seat whether its vehicle or state business. Showing my interest I asked him many questions as well, for instance, I saw bridge and pillars and I inquired about it, he told me it’s under construction railway track, a swift train is to run on this soon from Dera Dubai to Jebel Ali.
I was so much amazed to see how simultaneously state is working on mega projects. Landmarks, infrastructures, recreational places you name it and you will find the construction. On the exit from Dubai, my host showed me a lane which was taking to Palm Jumeirah, and I never got the chance to visit it. He said its highly expensive area. Where we see so many constructions for the general public we see some are to earn money as well. It’s alright to generate money but how you use it that matters and the leadership of UAE have a splendid vision regarding this. They know how to earn the money from elite and spend it on general public like Robin Hood but this not outlawed J, in fact, an official one.
Apart from the construction, the landscape is also exotic, the night the silence and the desert always fascinated me, you are more close to your creator at such places and this journey gave me the chance. Breaking down of the vehicle are very rare because there are strict laws of regarding fitness of vehicles if any car does not pass the mandatory yearly fitness test won’t be found on the roads, such laws are always beneficial for the public to avoid any travel hazard. While I was there I heard a law regarding pedestrians soon to be implemented. J Walkers are going to be fined soon. Yet another law for public safety. And people are aware once the law is implemented it will adhere strictly.
This fear of law is a guarantee of peace and smooth process of state business. My personal experience is not going to be covered in one blog there is a lot to write and it will be written in the next blogs to come. This is not just a blog but my life lesson and experience, which I will share time to time. People who live there might not consider it seriously but its an effort to help people understand UAE, many things may have and have changed but the core will remain the same. Buildings may construct and destruct but the builders remain there and the builders are the leadership and people of the state…….
After a long journey, I reached my destination Maroor Road Abu Dhabi. I spent my first week in observation of the environment, people and surroundings. The most beautiful experience was the Masaajid of the area which later I saw in whole UAE Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Al Ain and Ras Al Khaima have the same elegant masaajid. The best thing that in all masajid Adhan is read at the same time. Beautiful voices of moazins spread in the beautiful mornings, noons, afternoons, evenings and nights. Arabic as their native tongue azan seems the most melodious voice on earth.
Good thing that Masaajid are run by the government so no preaching of any sect or personal agenda is possible. Imam of area masjid where I lived was an Iraqi, he was very kind and humble. Though I am not well versed with Arabic yet he gave me a lecture on some Islamic issues and I was amazed that being not aware of Arabic. I was understanding each and every word he was saying to me. I think it was Islamic brotherhood which made us talk heart to heart.
The Masajid structure was so much elegant that it justified being called the home of Almighty. I saw the children from the neighbourhood brought their school bags and did their homework in Masjid. It was so refreshing that Masajid is playing the role of a community centre not just at prayer times. This culture is worth following in all Muslim countries. My host told me that the month of Ramadan is the beautiful month in UAE in which people pour out their love and emotions and generosity, every day of Ramadan is festive. I could imagine that what he is saying nothing but the truth.
Now to the markets, like all planned structures markets were also built with planning catering all basic needs of community living nearby. Barbers, bakers, grocery stores and video game shops. All small shops are run by Asian community specially Pakistani, Indian and Bangladeshi. The quality of the foods is excellent.
Fun factor for me was gaming zones, I saw groups of young Arabs playing shooting games with and against each other via network. The game was so annoying for me but what amused me was their involvement in game. When they were screaming in Arabic was so funny for me. Game shop literally vibrate by their shouting, I usually go their to enjoy it.
One thing I noticed that perishable food vegetables and fruits are good by appearance but by taste not so well. The reason may be, those do not have the ascent of the soil in it. UAE is a hub of every trade so the availability of every item which is produced, manufactured or cultivated around the world can easily found here and having dessert all around harvesting is not easy. Therefore it had to be preserved food available in the market. But the quality of soft drinks, juices, dairy items is beyond the top.
Olive oil, Khubuz, Houmous seemed to be the usual meal of every house, it’s a nutritious meal and matches the desert-like environment of UAE. A new generation was more inclined towards fast food Burgers and Shawarmas. At that time I bought a good enough McDonald’s meal for AED 12. It was worthy to buy. To me, if we go for a simple meal AED 20 was enough for a person usual expense on the daily meal.
What I remember now that khubuz was of filis 75 and a soft drink can be of AED 1 in Abu Dhabi. For the reference in Dubai please add fillis 25 in both items when I bought it in Dubai. Zohrat tul Lebanon was the delightful treat from the host, the variety of food was awesome taste was exotic. It was overcrowded but yet well managed. It was one of the busiest restaurants of Abu Dhabi. I was told that it has its chain of restaurants throughout the UAE.
The malls are one of the greatest attractions of UAE. Even if you don’t want to buy anything, still it has something for you. There are cinemas in every mall with an excellent and comfortable environment. So you can enjoy and spend time there. Once I had to visit airline office in Dubai, and I reached the office at noon time and like most of the commercial offices, it was closed at that time and was to reopen in the afternoon, I had to wait for 3 hours. I was wondering what to, then I entered Marina Mall and really didn’t know where the time has gone, it was like a blink of an eye. I did nothing just stood and watched the hustling and bustling of surroundings. There I realized Dubai is a something which can’t be sum up in words ever.
Weather condition in those days April Abu Dhabi is bearable outside, days are a bit hot but in the evening sea breeze cool the atmosphere down. For Locals (Muwaatin) weather is not an issue at all because don’t leave their houses until the sunlight is up from roads.
The sense of security and freedom was so much in the community that I started roaming around alone in just 2 days without any fear. It seemed that it is my community. Welcoming a new person is part of their culture.
Transportation services were excellent throughout UAE, Taxis, vans busses every mode was up to the mark of convenience for passengers, Taxis were a bit expensive but if it is privately owned taxi it was competitively economical with taxis owned by any company, busses were comfortably huge and with best seats and fully air-conditioned which is also required of extreme weather. Vans were available for short distance travelling which were also comfortable. Due to strict traffic policies, it was very rare that any passenger had complained about the vehicle or vehicle staff.
In two weeks of my above activities, I had made up my mind to make UAE my second home. In the next episode, I will be writing about my hunt for a job.