Why would a Colombian choose to live in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, an Arab and Muslim country? This is typically the first question I get asked. In the West, we don’t have much information about this part of the world, so to some, my decision seemed somewhat outlandish.
Cultural diversity and languages: Dubai is known to be one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world due to its cultural diversity. According to several sources, only 15% of the population is local. It is presumed that there are people from nearly 200 nationalities, some from countries I didn’t even know existed, and whose names, in most cases, I find hard to pronounce. As a context, in a casual meeting, you can easily find fifteen or twenty different nationalities, all sharing the same situation: we are far from our countries, working to make our dreams come true. Although Arabic is the official language, English is the only way we have to communicate, regardless of the level or pronunciation. Just talk, and somehow, we understand each other.
Myths and dress code in Dubai: There are many myths, such as the idea that all women must wear a hijab or cover our faces as if we were Muslim. Upon arriving here, you discover that you are free to dress as you wish. However, in sacred places like mosques, you should cover your hair, and in governmental places, modest dressing is expected, something that is not different from our own countries.
How safe is it for Women: To be honest, as a woman, I haven’t found a place in the world where I feel safer. Here, you can walk the streets talking on the phone, or just be completely carefree out there… regardless of the place and time.
In Dubai, they are very respectful towards women, and there are spaces designated only for us, such as in the metro, buses, priority queues, and places like nightclubs, bars, etc. It’s common for there to be a special ladies night where we can get meals and drinks at special prices or completely free.
From a Desert to a Top Metropolis of the world: Dubai is an extraordinary place, where you can witness unprecedented things. It’s amazing to see the transformation that this place has had. Fifty years ago, it was predominantly desert, sea, and home to a few fishermen who lived off pearl trade. But today, despite not being blessed by nature, it has positioned itself as one of the most important cities in the world, a feat achieved thanks to human effort.
Some criticize it for its artificiality, but I see it as an example of innovation, a city that, in the absence of natural gifts, has carved out a place in the world, becoming the dream of many and the home of millions of people from all over the world. All this while facing the challenges that come with such rapid and exponential growth.
Impressive Architecture and Unlimited Guinness Records: To share some surprising facts, Dubai is the place where tourists spend the most money, it has impressive architecture, and it is the city with the most Guinness records in the world. Here you can find the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa, the most luxurious hotel, the Burj Al Arab, the only one in the world that could have seven stars, the largest shopping mall in the world, the deepest pool in the world, the garden with the most flowers per square meter, the largest water, lights, and music fountain in the world, Global Village, a theme park where you can enjoy the culture of more than 27 countries in one space, the largest indoor sky slope in the world, the famous Palm Jumeirah, an artificial island in the shape of a date palm, which is the main symbol of the United Arab Emirates, Aura, the highest 360 infinity pool in the world, one of the most memorable places I’ve been to, and last but not least, I can’t fail to mention the sunsets in the desert, with colors mixing oranges and blues in an incredible way, which gets engraved in your soul.
Innovation, entrepreneurship, and startups: At the moment, Dubai is working intensively to promote innovation and entrepreneurship. Here you can find Silicon Oasis, several free zones dedicated to different sectors like technology, food, fintech, education among many more.
An Unstoppable Emerging Global Hub: I am completely sure that given the way the government is managing the economy, policies, and future vision, Dubai will become in the next three to five years a hub of innovation, technology, and startups that will make the world turn to look at it. As a passionate person about innovation and entrepreneurship, I am very excited to be able to contribute and show what is happening here, learning, demystifying, and understanding more every day this part of the world.
Imagine a growing city, one of the safest in the world, with low taxes, a strategic geographical location between the main economic regions of Asia, Europe, and Africa. This is undoubtedly a strategic point to expand businesses, establish international connections, and learn in one of the fastest-growing ecosystems with a very promising future. No wonder Dubai has become home to thousands of billionaires, entrepreneurs, artists, and visionaries.
Final Message from my experiences: I wanted to share with you how I have lived my experience. I understand that other people have different perspectives, but it all depends on how you see and perceive people, places, and moments. From my point of view, I can tell you sincerely that although it’s not easy to leave your country, your family, and everything you’ve known and nurtured throughout your life, the adventure and continuous learning are worth it.
I encourage people to go out and live different experiences, to challenge themselves, and venture into unknown life or business paths, because despite fears or stereotypes, in the end, you realize and understand that we are all humans, with the same fears and aspirations trying to become better people.
A strong entrepreneurial hug for you, and I hope to continue sharing this path full of discoveries and learnings.
L. Jhoana Lombana Ortega