Oh… in the Middle East…

I live in Abu Dhabi. I would say 75% of Europeans have NO idea where it is. It’s not entirely true, the look on their faces and their grimace, tell me they in fact locate this city in a very bad region in their mind: The middle east. This region is so complex, I won’t blame them. Myself, before going, knew so little about it. And I’m learning stuff every day. But I do think they stopped trying to understand it and they just kept this idea of the Middle East:

Bunch of countries where oil comes from. Super rich people. Some wars, past and present, I’m not sure, but each one makes my Gasoline more expensive. A lot of sand. Super religious. Don’t eat pork nor drink alcohol. Women cover up and they cannot drive. Nothing there to see, way too complex, not on my travel list

I’ve been told this over and over before I came here. And each expat living here tells me the exact same story! How before they came here, while they had researched about the way of living in Abu Dhabi and knew how it was, people kept telling them “No, no, you are wrong! As a woman, you won’t be able to drive, you won’t be able to go out without your husband and you will have to cover yourself entirely. I saw it on TV. You will see….” It personally made me really mad at the end. Those “TV travelers”, “bon voyage magazine” followers, trying to give me advices for this move I had prepared for 6 months… really??? but I smiled, tried my best to stay diplomatic – part of the job – and just said “We will see, but I really don’t think it’s like that”. (I can already tell you that one year, and a lot of Instagram pictures later, some changed their mind and suddenly want to visit us. Only fools never change their minds, right?)

It’s crazy but this gorgeous region is so full of bad clichés. I’m tired of those clichés. But I cannot really change them. I don’t know a lot about the other countries of the middle east, so I won’t talk about them. The only thing I can do is show you MY new country, the United Arab Emirates. Try to share with you what made me fall in love with it. Explain to you the face of Islam I discovered here. Maybe it will change some perceptions. Even If it changes just one mind, it would make me happy.

This is me. In Dubai. Yes, Dubai is in the same country as Abu Dhabi and no Dubai is not an island nor a capital. Abu Dhabi (the city) is the capital of the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E), which counts 7 Emirates. One of them is Dubai. It’s an hour drive from my home. As a trendy city trip destination for Europeans, Dubai is more popular than Abu Dhabi, and for some weird reason it has a much better image. Although, the biased woman that I am prefers Abu Dhabi.
As you can see, I have to cover a lot of my body. In fact, compared to Belgium, I think I have NEVER shown more of my body all year round! Although respectful clothing is asked in public places, there is no religious police here in the UAE, so basically, it’s up to you to chose how you dress. 365 days of sun per year. Only two seasons: hot and hotter. But don’t worry, there’s AC everywhere. Sometimes a bit much, you will need a jacket. Almost never one cloud. A couple of sand storms and a dust pollution problem. The roads, shops and restaurants will make you think you’re in the USA. But the level of safety and service will remind you that you’re not. The UAE is one of the safest countries in the world. 
This picture was taken at the Dubai mall, one of the biggest malls in the world. It shows the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. If you are a fan of architecture, the UAE is for you. And if you are (like me) a fan of shopping, STAY AWAY. Shopping here is far too good; your savings don’t stand a chance.