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Dubai: A hot location for expats and tourists

By Sneha Koshy

The city of Dubai, UAE has been in a constant state of flux over the past thirty some years, rapidly transforming into the expat and tourist haven it is today. Why is the world paying more attention to Dubai? This can be attributed to many factors: geographic location, a “tax-free” environment, enterprising leadership, the leveraging of oil revenues into improving infrastructure, and subsequent attractiveness for foreign investment. Seemingly never-ending expanses of sand were thus replaced by an indoor ski slope, the world’s tallest building, and the world’s largest mall, to name a few.

While the UAE is an Islamic country that observes Shar’iah law, Dubai in particular is considerably more liberal than its counterparts. The government exhibits its tolerant attitude by allowing the practice of religions other than Islam (although proselytizing is prohibited), consumption of alcohol given the proper licensing, and bilingual communication, be it through newspapers or road signage. This being said, an expat may experience significant culture shock due to societal norms such as the observance of Ramadan which necessitates non-practicing Muslims except children, pregnant women, and the elderly to refrain from eating or drinking in public during daylight hours; other notable societal norms include dressing modestly in public and the prohibition of unmarried couples cohabiting. While these norms are but a few of the cultural differences that an expat would need to adjust to, the multiethnic community in Dubai increases the likelihood to find others with a similar, if not the same, cultural background. In addition, Dubai has evolved into a city that boasts many advantages that incite expats to give it a chance regardless of the inevitable culture shock.