UAE-the story behind the veil…

I’ve been living in UAE for 8 years now. And it is quite a story on how I got here and what I found in this Arabic golf country…therefor I would like to share my story, hoping it will answer some questions for the ones that haven’t visited the country yet, and it will lift the corners of their mouth to the ones living here. 😉

You have to know that have never planned for this. In my 20’s I knew that I wanted really bad to go and work outside Romania, but in my mind, the borders never passed Europe. And all those failures…. I tried to go to UK, Holland, Germany, Spain and even Italy. Nothing worked out so I gave up all the trying and I moved on with my life, ensuring I turn every day into a great day…. And then,out of nowhere, suddenly, it happened.

Somehow a company from Dubai found my resume on a website and contacted me for a job opportunity. I was super excited, already envisioning the future….I was there! I had my interviews and got an offer letter. There was one more essential (vital, to be more precise) step …. Now you might think it was signing and returning the offer, right?!?…Well… NO, Not at all! I’ve asked the employer if my sister Anda could get an interview as well. They said that their company policy states that family and relatives cannot work in the same organization. I thanked them for the opportunity, and I wished them a prosperous year with great achievements. I was not about to go to Dubai without Anda!

The thing with me and Anda, although she is my younger sister, and I do have another older one (Paula, the smartest in the family, quite an introvert though), the thing is that I and Anda are soul mates…. like the real soul mates that connect at each level, regardless of distance and other factors. I guess I will keep this story, as well, for another time! 😊

 We have lived together, and alone, away from our family, for the past 7 years (at that time, in 2012). And there you go; you see the sign?! It was 7, 7 years “of magic” with loads of great memories, challenges, opportunities, failures…the magic of number 7 😉 I could go to the end of the world, I could even go to the Moon or to Mars, (if they’ll open” this universal”  flights in the future) butI could never leave Anda behind and start over somewhere else…. This goes to that extend that I envision us together even in the Heaven, and if we won’t make it there, I’m sure her presence will cool down the hell, for me, as well 😊.

A few weeks after refusing the offer from Dubai I got a call from an employer in Abu Dhabi. And there it goes again, same story, different ending though… A reputed chain of hotels has found my CV and offered me a job. And again, I passed all the interviews and got the offer letter. At this point of the story, my “awkward” request to the employer is no surprise for you. Some of you may think that a mature person will negotiate his salary, his commissions or his benefits…well…not me (as I’m super far from being normal and “I couldn’t care less what normal people usually do” when getting a job 😊 ). Having loads of money and being unable to count them, was never a purpose in my life. I could use more money, as most of you would probably do, but I’m used to live the best life I dream of with less. And every time I get more (because I have a way much higher income than I had once I started working, in my 18’s) , I spend more so it’s like a vicious circle! In psychology they say that your habits, hobbies and preferences are directly related with your income. We can talk more about the studies behind it and the every day examples that you all have experienced, so far, another day…not today. Anyhow, you should not let money dictate your happiness as you may never be truly happy. Money gives us comfort….but I would prefer the influence and the power over money. Now, I know, they come hand-in hand…but, if I would have to choose, I’ll choose the influence over money!

I remember asking Mr. M, what makes him happy besides health and family and without taking a second to answer, he said “the power that enables me to change things and to make things happen“. Wise man Mr. M, very powerful…..and wealthy, as I said, this comes as a package.😊

Going back to the story line, I’ve asked the HR team from Grand Millennium Al Wahda to give Anda the chance to go trough an interview. The  “real life” thing is I have teamed up with Anda in 3 different companies by that time, and trust me, we broke all the “family working together” stereotypes as we made the best teams ever. I still recall the Vodafone shop that I have manage for 3 years on Eroilor, Cluj Napoca. Smallest team ever… myself, Anda, as my “right hand”,  and Andreea P., for a really short period. We use to “sky-rock” almost each month. With no special offers and with a huge competition from Orange (on the other side of the street) and another Vodafone dealer that had “racket” mobiles at that time, we managed to be on top with high revenues and a huge number of  yearly subscription plans. So, I’m telling you, myself and Anda, we are the greatest team ever. I do believe it is the passion that you put in everything that you do.Your work has to be more than a source of income, your work has to be a part of yourself and you have to put “all in” as this will define your character (Which, unlike your temper, the other component of your personality, is not something that you’re born with. The character is something that you define and refine all your life). I also believe that a great customer journey has to be a unique experience for every client as there is no script for that. After-sales assistance matters, your attitude matters, your empathy, your knowledge in your field….Anyway, from my personal experience, all this outstanding skills of excellence are more “self-made” skills, rather than education gained.

But, again, the story line….  Anda passed all the interviews and she got accepted as well. And there you go, a dream about to come true. You just have to envision your dreams as they will shape your reality!! As we could not work in the same department, I was appointed as a guest relation agent in the front desk team while Anda was appointed as a bartender in Porters, an English style pub that was on the pre-opening stage.

And so it happened, August 2012…we had our luggage’s packed, ready to take off to UAE. Now, I do not know about you, but I’m quite ignorant when it comes to geography. I have improved a little, meanwhile, but in my school years I was the clown during geography classes. Professor Răduță used to take me out in front of the class and ask me to show on the map cities, countries, mountains…. I was really bad, always looking at Ionuț O., who was like a “walking map”, and waiting for him to whisper some coordinates.  But when you look back at it, I was the amusement for all the colleagues…. I told you, I was born to be a Happy Doctor. 😉 😊

As many of you, I have heard of Dubai, being this exquisite destination with skyscrapers, amazing cars, outstanding desert and sea views and wealthy royals-sheiks. UAE It’s all of that….and much more …

Abu Dhabi?! Did not know much about it …. Although it is the capital of UAE, its marketing strategy was not that strong back in 2012 and I do recall hearing this name only once a year…..maybe you guessed….I heard it during Formula 1. Anyhow things have significantly changed as Abu Dhabi has a team of professionals who brought worldwide recognition to this emirate. Loads of leisure destination for travelers, concerts, events, family activities, city breaks, private islands….a sort of “full option” menu for all tastes and all budgets.

I had some ideas of UAE from my Google searches, but mass media can be deceptive…so stay alert! By now you do know that I have studies in journalism so you may take my word on that…. mass media does not reflect the reality, it portraits the “wow” effect, the fear, the uncertainty. It is a sad reality that we live in and I would not want to spice up this story with all that. Rest assure I can tell you all about journalism and mass media in another post. 😉  (and while typing that I think to myself “very good Laura, keep your readers engaged and curious“)

So, I started this amazing journey of discovering a different culture along side with Anda in 2012. I still remember the heat that I felt once the plane door opened in Abu Dhabi Airport. I remember the feeling of humidity on my skin and the smell of the salty water. It was August and we arrived during the Holy Month of Ramadan.

I have many friends that have not been here, and most of them have all this wrong idea about UAE, a distorted reality which couldn’t be more far from the actual reality. Boris is one of them. He’s been living in UK for years now, and every time we talk he has this “strange” questions about the life in Emirates. He is an artist, a clever guy, not well informed though…😊 So most of my friends and people I interact with, when traveling, believe UAE is a country where strict rules and a Muslim community will make it difficult for any of the expats to integrate, make a good life and have fun. I guess that is the reason why many of my friends have not yet responded my invitations for visiting me in Abu Dhabi. I was lucky though to have Zoli and his family last year on a short vacation and we had the time of our lives while making all this lifelasting memories. Can’t wait for the pandemic to become only an epidemic….so I can start traveling and I can welcome my friends who wish to visit me here, in my second home. It is close….so close….I can already see it happening!

Going back to the idea that most of the people have about Emirates (not all, as I am not judging or generalizing here, just to be clear) Nothing more wrong and far from the actual reality…..my reader friend!

I will not walk you through all the facts that can be easily found on the internet, as I would rather share my personal view on things. I will, somehow, mention some real information that is relevant for what I am about to share with you, as being my personal observation on UAE. This facts that can be easily validated, if you are curious and wish to do your own research:

  • The UAE was founded under the visionary leadership of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, known as the father of the nation.
  • The UAE is home to approximately 40 churches and cathedrals, as well as additional places of worship for other faiths.
  • The UAE resident population consists of more than 200 nationalities and while Arabic is the official language, other commonly spoken languages include English, Farsi, Hindi, Urdu.
  • The UAE is a member of the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council
  • Women in the UAE form two-thirds of government sector workers and make up 20% of the diplomatic corps.
  • The UAE is a federal presidential elected monarchy. It is a federation of seven absolute monarchies of the seven Emirates.  

Let us go to the “personal touch” now. UAE is a “home away from home” for many of us. Beside being one of the most secure countries, worldwide, UAE is the place where diversity, tolerance, community engagement, freedom, and respect have a great meaning. The country sets an example of how fast a community can develop and grow under a leadership with vision. For the ones that do not know that by now, UAE has recently celebrated the 49th National Day. 49 years have placed this country on the world map as being a powerful, secure, and wealthy state. Its local community, known as Emirati, have had significant changes on the quality of life, and this process is still ongoing. Their leaders treat them with respect and work towards ensuring they have the best living conditions, education, professional and personal development support. To be honest….like absolutely honest…. I wish I would have been born in a country as UAE. I’ve never seen or heard of any other state that prioritizes the needs of its people the way they do it around here!

Now, unlike me, but much like the “trend” of our days, you may have questions about the religion, having been misinformed about the strict rules of their culture. You are wrong, again! Muslim culture is all about empathy, good deeds, sharing with the ones in need, and respect the ones around regardless of their believes, gender, nationality or religion. Some of the Muslim women do cover their hair, and sometimes their face with hijab. They do it because they choose too, not because they are being pushed towards covering. And last time I checked, Christian ladies also cover their hair while entering the church 😉 You are all aware that we live in this world that portraits standards of beauty, a world of perfection where looks overtake smartness, attitude and knowledge. That is fundamentally wrong as beauty fades and what really defines you, as a human being, is your attitude, your charm, your smartness and many other life-lasting qualities. And again, there it goes, an idea that can be easily turned into a future post as there is so much more to be said (written, to be more specific) about the “fake reality” in which we consciously choose to live. But going back to the religion, as a super personal note, I do believe religion is something so intimate that should not be discussed at all. In the end your relation with God (or Allah, or Buddha, the Universe, The Architect…. or whatever other name you use for the Creator of all) it’s yours…and this magnificent relation has to involve only you and God!!! I could go and write pages about religion and God, but I guess we wouldn’t want to become so personal, not yet!

Now you may say that Muslim men can marry many women, and that is true! They can marry up to 4 ladies. Now considering the statistics that show the gender breakdown this is no surprise. We have always been more woman than man on this earth and before “gender equality” became a normality woman used to need the protection of a man. Just picture yourself, a lady in your 50s that is unable to give birth,not very beautiful and still single (I know, hard to imagine…but I really need you to do that in order to understand why you don’t have to judge this marriages). At one point everyone wants to have a family, and somehow the comfort of having a husband to pamper and look after you can fulfill your life. For our 50 years old lady, getting married could be a challenge anywhere in the world, but here, in UAE there is a gentleman who will look after her. Rest assured the women around here are treated with respected and the guys who chose to have more than 1 wife will treat all of the wives the same and provide them with the equal benefits. I know, I know…. for some of you this is polygamy, but last time checked, a marriage is better than cheating and having affairs.

The wealthy people and the Royal Families… Yes, yes, yes….you may encounter many of them in you every-day life while walking on the streets, being in a restaurant or visiting a mosque. They are highly educated people, very humble and extremely generous. They won’t use their “titles” and most of the time you won’t even realize, only after, that you have meet someone so well known that has all that power and all those titles.

I have been working with a very influential gentleman for the past 6 years of my life. Mr. M has all the titles and all the power you could imagine. He has as well all the money….enough to buy my hometown probably (the land and the properties, not the citizens, just to be “politically correct”) 😊 Mr. M is a great man with an outstanding personality. I’m seeing him as a mentor and I get all his advice’s as his intelligence and his life experience can be very revealing. I must admit that I have many mentors…and guess what?!…they are not even aware of this “title” that I gave them. The other day I meet C.B. in Cryo….he could easily be my mentor as he is highly intelligent, has a sense of humor and, of course, all the influence to ” make the things happen”. I enjoy every conversation I have with Mr. M as it is something to rewind before going to sleep…..a lot of meanings and lessons in his wise talks!!! I do not get to meet Mr. M very often, but when I do, I make the most of it and  I take a great joy. I will admit that waiting to meet Mr. M can take “forever and more” as there is always a long waiting list. I do believe I will never wait so long for any man in my life (neither father, or husband, or friend, or even business partner) 😊

You may still wonder about all these strict rules that you have been hearing about. Actually, they are reasonable rules as this country has laws as any other country. As a resident of UAE, you are expected to be a good citizen, to be respectful towards others and to refrain from displaying any offensive behavior. To be honest, the base of any civilization, society or state is relying on this “way of behaving while in public” rules and the obedience towards the authority. And when I say every civilization you can easily check the history of ancient Greece, see how the Roman Empire was built or go backwards to Mosis and his people.

 Therefor UAE is a country where you can do anything…. you consume alcohol, you can go in pubs, night clubs and bars, you can hold hands, wear skirts and shorts and party with your friends, have barbecues and even go for camping. UAE country is a country where you can do everything that you can do in any European country or in America “the land of all opportunities” …. And guess what?!? There’s no catch to that!  As long as you respect others, you have your drinks in your home or in licensed outlets and you act wisely and respectfully while in public, no one has anything to object. Somehow this “forces” you to follow the advice written on any bottle I have ever seen: “Consume responsibly!” 😊

The leaders…. great people with a bright vision for their country and their people. They may not have election, but trust me, they do not need any.  Emirati are proud of their leaders and you won’t hear anyone rumoring or spreading bad information about them. They don’t do that because of fear, they actually do it because they feel they are best represented by their leaders.

So yes, UAE is a great country, a country where you can develop at a personal and a professional level. A country where you can meet such a wide variety of people from all corners of the world and a country where you can get some real lifetime friends and great experiences. A country where you can see all corners of the world ( Global Village), you can have the best adrenaline rush ever (if you go for the fastest roller coaster in Ferrari World or jump with a parachute on top of Dubai). A country where you can see the greatest desert dunes (with 7 types of colored sand), a country where you can see mountains in the middle of the desert (Al Ain- Jabel Hafeet), a country where you can see the sea and the ocean, a country that has a Zoos where happy animals are having the best conditions (Emirates and Al Ain Zoo)…..a country that is more than you ever imagined!! A country where you can find everything…and more! You can feel on top of the world while visiting Burj Khalifa and you can feel in a heaven while going for a city-break in Al Maya Island. You can see on the streets the most amazing cars that you only saw in catalogues or in Tv shows and you can try the tastiest cuisine as Arabic food is delicious even for myself…a pescatarian for more than 20 years now. I won’t even start with the Arabic hospitality, their amazing coffee, the Oud scent, the golden souk or the leisure hot spots as I might write a book chapter. 😉

So before you jump to conclusions and before you “think you know what UAE is all about” (what is called in psychology the fundamental attribution error- a cognitive error so known as correspondence bias or attribution effect) open your mind widely and see for yourself. Don’t form an opinion based on news, others people ideas, preconceptions or stereotypes. Own your judgements and be the creator of your ideas! Be the observer, be the investigator, be smart and stay focused! It will help you get a clear view; it will sharpen your mind as you will have to assess the same situation (event, person or feeling) from different angles. So next time you want to jump to conclusions, judge or have an opinion on anything, hold back, be the observer and see what happens….  And that would be the Happy Doctor advice for today, and any other day… 😉

You may not be able to visit UAE now (with all this madness of the pandemic).  But, still, we live in an era where you can search your information (as you have heard on many occasions “Information is one click away”). This is the era when physical distance and borders cannot keep you away from connecting with people from all over the world. You can use reliable sources to get your info, you can watch documentaries about UAE and you can even interact with people that live in UAE. Next time you follow someone on IG or FB try someone from UAE. And, another super personal note, and preference, I do recommend Khalid Al Ameri & Salama as their social media portraits the Emirati Family, Arabic culture and some meaningful and inspirational information about UAE…and not only! Trust me, it will be be revealing. Give it a try!  

And if you reach to this point, I must admit my reader friend, you are awesome!!! My type of audience, the type of person that I hope to meet and chat with one day. Getting here means you still enjoy reading. I always believed that reading is a great blessing as it helps us imagine. Beside that , reading helps us develop our cognition, our memory and significantly improves our communication skills. You won’t believe it…..I am an example of all that I have just mentioned. I have read thousand of books…still reading….still writing…. 😊

As you know by now I write a lot (you should hear me talking 😊 ).  Getting here means I have raised your interest therefor I might have start gaining some influence and there is a vision…a vision that I will share with the ones that will stay tuned!

So, we are all good, soooo good, super good!!!  😊 You could just subscribe and like (if you really liked the post), you could share it with your friends and write your thoughts in the Comment section below. If you reached to this “end line” it means that together as “One team, One goal” we can build up a community of happy people and we can make this world a better place (as MJ use to sing us back in time) ! Stay Safe & be happy…. As you might get very lucky! 😊