SAY WHAAAAT? We’ve been living in Abu Dhabi for six whole months already?
But it feels like only yesterday I moaned about the uncertainty of leaving my vibrant comfort zone and dreaded moving to a city that was a perfect mismatch for me 10 years ago.
The thing is, 10 years ago I was an entirely different person. 22, fresh out of uni with tremendous amounts of energy to dispense doing anything and everything. All I wanted was to break free from unreasonable social boundaries and take over the world. Having too much fun doing it didn’t hurt too bad.
Dubai, with it’s man-made islands and grand shopping malls sounded like a better fit to my personality, so I quit my job and moved there.
Fast forward to today, I am learning a very valuable lesson in life inspired by the laidback tempo of the slowly cooking capital; to CHILL THE HELL OUT!
I mean what’s the exasperation and wrath all about anyway?
Don’t get me wrong; I have overgrown into a busy woman with much on my plate. I am probably chasing too many dreams for one lifetime, and Ideally I’d want to achieve them all NOW. No wonder I constantly sense that I am falling behind schedule and must rush! But if meeting my targets also means missing out on enjoying the journey, alienating everyone around me to tend to constant emergencies, and compromising my well-being because I couldn’t fit eating healthy and working out in my schedule, then “we’re going to need a bigger boat!”. Except that is not really an option.
Life is too short to spend merely trying to stay alive, isn’t it?
While Abu Dhabi’s noiselessness struck me as a major disadvantage that will minimize my exposure to essential life experiences before, at this point of my life I feel blessed with a chance to avoid vanishing due to a stress attack before my time.
Here are few more things that I learnt while living it one day at a time out here:
1. I know where all the locals are
A quick recap on the UAE’s demographics>> 9.3+ million live in the country, only about 11% of those are Emiratis, Abu Dhabi accommodates 40% of the total population, 40% of those are locals.
Evidently, the highest concentration of Emirati’s is in Abu Dhabi. If you complain that you visited and never had the chance to interact with the locals, or lived here and wasn’t able to make Emirati friends, I’d say you didn’t exactly make an effort to integrate yourself into your new community.
With that in mind, it’s fair to expect a more conservative lifestyle, a better conserved culture, and traditions authentically put to practice.
As the city continues to grow, and more expats are making it home, this might not be the case for long. Meanwhile I am enjoying getting back to basics in the balanced side of the country.
2. It’s not cheap living in this swanky capital
A new law came out days after we moved and blew up the 5% rent cap. I have friends whose rent went 20% – 30% up forcing them to shuffle around. On top of that, few months into it I noticed the significant hike in our monthly expenses. 85kms away our income went a much longer way for us for sure. Who would’ve thought that living in the city of gold is actually more affordable?
Haven said that, It’s a well known fact that inflation rises to catch the average wages earned in most cities around the world. Abu Dhabi’s residents are “rumoured” to make a better living than their Dubaian neighbours, hence they are expected to pay.
But hey, who’s complaining, I am local and I supposedly take home a fatter monthly cheque than my foreign peers. I wonder if I actually do!
3. The weekends are nice and slow
Once everyone has gone to Dubai seeking further excitement, the weekends are truly times to unwind in Abu Dhabi.
Weekend shopping has gone from a daunting chore to a recreational activity for us. The malls are getting busier now in the summer, but it’s not overwhelming at all. No more queuing for hours in the ladies changing rooms just to try one or two pieces that I might not end up actually buying. And there are always always cinema tickets available at good times.
PS. I am impatiently awaiting the opening of the “Yas Mall” (the second biggest in the UAE) in November, I should have my shopping claws sharpened by then.
4. Beware of the old Nissan Patrol monsters on the road
Like other busy capitals, Abu Dhabi has its share of traffic congestions and parking issues, but that’s not my biggest worry on the road.
Since my commuting days, I’ve always dreaded engaging in a life threatening encounter with one of those 2 door Nissan Patrol 1990s leftovers. With thickly tinted windows and annoying illegally modified engines that are too powerful for the flimsy bodies, they’ll aggressively tailgate you out of the fast lane, or else…
I failed to get out of one’s way once, to let me know how he really felt about it, the angry teenager slipped into the hard shoulder to level me at 120km/h. He then signalled me to roll down my window, not sure why I actually did, but before I had a chance to think about it an unopened plastic water bottle flew in through my window at incredible speed and barely missed my face. Just imagine my horror.
I drive a sizable 4X4, but these road bullies won’t back down even if you look bigger.
Always get out of the way!
5. It’s a pedestrian friendly capital
The one stress buster that has proven successful in keeping me within acceptable levels of insanity is my evening runs. I worried a ton about potentially having to give that up when we first made the call to move. Al Raha Beach is a developing neighbourhood, and it didn’t occur to me that they will build running tracks before connecting bridges.
Imagine my happiness at being able to map out various 3 – 5 km routes around the area. That was before injuring my knee, and getting temporarily suspended from training by the doctor’s order. So now I’ve got the tracks but not the knees to run them. The irony of thing!!
Moreover, Angel and I have frequented the #trainyas event at Yas Marina Circuit on Tuesdays. Runners and cyclists of all fitness levels come to sweat it out on the Abu Dhabi F1 circuit. It’s a truly unique experience that allowed me to train for my first 5k at the Abu Dhabi Color Run this year.
At the break of the next outdoors season I intend to try out different tracks, I find that a nice way to further explore the city. Perhaps at the courniche or at Zayed sports city.
Any other suggestions?
The good news is; the urban planning council of Abu Dhabi has announced plans to double the walking and cycling trails around the city by 2020. Sweet.
6. You could end up with too much on your plate
Now that I am all into healthy living and working out, I couldn’t help but notice that the portions served at restaurants here are bigger than usual. At the beginning I thought it was no big deal, but my scale disagreed shortly after.
Maybe it’s more value for money, but I hate leaving food on my plate so Angel and are finally sharing food. It also just happened that he is much better at ordering than me, so win win.
Besides, I broke my knee and can’t run the extra bites off remember…
7. There’s something in it for everyone
It’s not home until your mom comes over, cooks up a feast and serves it in the tableware she just gifted you.
We settled down pretty quick in our new home, but it always felt like a certain experience was still missing to make it whole, until my family visited.
Not only did I enjoy arriving home from the office to be greeted by the nicest smell of a home cooked meal prepared by loving hands, I also got to play tour guide for few days.
It was a short visit; so I had to ensure that everyone got to play. My younger brothers went go karting with Angel at Yas KartZone; after that we ate a lovely meal at Johnny Rockets overlooking the F1 circuit. My sister’s kids loved it.
The next day I took my sister, engineer extraordinaire, for a tour of Masdar City. She loved the iconic building and managed to explore further engineering studies opportunities.
On the last day we visited my favourite Abu Dhabi attraction, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. My mother has been meaning to go since it opened in 2007. I am glad her wish finally came true.
Everything then fell into place.
8. The beaches are as gorgeous as the desert
You thought I moved to the desert, and will have to go far and beyond if I ever wanted to see a pretty beach again, didn’t you?
Well, I knew this wasn’t the case, but I never expected the choices of gorgeous beaches will be so plenty. The down side is that the majority are private and must be accessed via a hotel or a beach club facility, usually for reasonable fee.
9. Some men are stuck in the 50s
You know, back in man’s world where woman is expected to aimlessly follow his exalting lead!
Fortunately, the men in my life have long received the memo. They know it’s 2014, and that I am going to walk, talk, and spend the money I make however I wish. In the business world however, I have had to knock on many closed doors (mostly majlis doors), where key decisions are made and major problems are solved, but never got an answer. At times it feels like I have to make double the effort to demonstrate leadership.
Then there is speaking up, which honestly I must do better at. Yes, you’ll be surprised to learn that I am a woman of few words, unless I am typing. The hardest part is getting over the social conviction that such entitlement is men’s birth right.
Well, for what it’s worth, I must admit that no one has stopped me from making new rules, yet.
10. Others are stuck in the 90s
You will not believe the kind of pickup lines that I’ve been getting here.
The other day I went shopping at Marina Mall with my bestie (let’s call her Mariam). She’s tall, tanned, and rocking a pair of big dark almond shaped eyes. She’s also stylish and incredibly feminine; in local standards she’s typically gorgeous.
One of those Nissan Patrol bully kids had his eyes on her. He decided to block traffic behind him to give us way at the zebra lines. As we crossed towards the mall, he leaned out of the car’s window to his waistline, and showered Mariam with the tackiest compliments I have ever heard in my life.
First he tried a physical approach; he called her a bamboo stick, a cello, and the moon of the 14th night. Translation: he likes her curvy body and beautiful face. Then he got emotional, he claimed that she squeezed his heart and walked all over it. Translation: I am pitiful and this is a serious cry for help, please give me some attention. Then he gave her about seven mobile numbers. Finally, I believe he appealed to her wanderlusting side by calling out European city names such as Paris, Moscow, London, and Rome. And that’s when he got my attention!!
How is it that this kid has failed to crossover to the current millennium? I have to give it to him though, he’s got tricks…
11. I love Abu Dhabi and can’t wait to learn everything about it
What an interesting surprise this has been, beaches, bullies and all.