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DUBAI: Dubai has for long been seen as the ‘best of both worlds’ — amalgamating the east and west in terms of culture and lifestyle, and balancing recreation with business.

Last year, it was ranked the fifth best city in the world in the ‘Resonance Consultancy’s World’s Best Cities Report 2021’ that placed Dubai ahead Tokyo, Singapore and Los Angeles, reported the Khaleej Times.

Modelled on the city state of Singapore, with almost no natural resources of its own, the 21st century has seen Dubai metamorphosed into one of the world’s most modern, technologically advanced, vibrant, affluent, and safe cities. Not a lot of cities can boast having these qualities, packaged into one.

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With expats from around the world vying to make it their home in an effort to partake in its wealth, it is also the top choice for Pakistanis, from all strata of society, to seek employment for several reasons. This is on top of the hundreds of thousands of tourists it sees from Pakistan, which has remained among its top-source markets for tourism.

Over the last few decades, many Pakistanis have begun to call Dubai a ‘second home’. Hence, it is no wonder that United Arab Emirates was the source of over $6 billion dollars’ worth of remittances in fiscal year 2020-2021. Over 400,000 Pakistanis live here, accounting for 13% of Dubai’s total population.

Hina and Akbar too, are among the hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis in Dubai, residing with their children and Akbar’s parents in a quiet street off the busy Dubai artery, Sheikh Zayed Road.

Hina was born and brought up in the United Arab Emirates. Barring the few years spent studying in university in Pakistan, and a few years in London after marriage, she has lived life in Dubai. Akbar, a chartered account, has lived in Dubai since 2008 and for 12 years prior to it lived in London having gone there to attend university.

For them, the rationale behind moving to Dubai was quite straightforward.

“We were looking at our children’s future. Our parents were getting older and we felt that we wanted to explore other options besides London. We considered both the Far East as well as Dubai. At the time many of our friends had moved to Dubai and through them we got a better idea of what life entailed here.

“That gave us confidence in choosing Dubai rather than anywhere else,” Akbar explains.

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“For me, it was like coming back home, and most importantly, the children would be closer to their grandparents,” adds Hina.

One of the most obvious reasons for Dubai’s popularity is its high quality of life. Safety and security and high standards of schooling are a big consideration for parents thinking of their children.

In comparison to living in the West, Hina and Akbar feel life is much easier in Dubai, especially in terms of raising a family. “It’s great family life here, there is a lot for children to do, parks, beaches, indoor play areas, and it’s really safe. You can let children go be on their without the need of chaperoning them all the time.”

Living in Dubai has also allowed families to maintain their Pakistani identity, a quiet, but important consideration.

Close physical proximity allows for easy and frequent travel. “We celebrate at least one Eid there every year. Travelling from here is also not too expensive as compared to elsewhere so we are easily able to attend weddings and special occasions. In addition to this, there is such a large Pakistani community here that it never feels like we are detached from Pakistan,” elaborates Hina.

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“Each city has its pros and cons. Proximity to Pakistan and then being a Muslim country make a big difference. To be honest, when we decided to move here we did not take this into account but once we got here we realised what a huge benefit that is,” adds Akbar.

His advice to people seeking employment in Dubai or elsewhere in the UAE is to ensure that one does diligence and research into the prospective employment — who the employer is, what the role is and package being offered.

Salaries are computed differently in the UAE and that needs to be taken into account. There are a lot of job scammers taking advantage of the uninitiated. Also before upping sticks, those coming with families must ensure that the package is financially rewarding enough to allow the unit to come along.

While it may be one of the top places in the world to live, expats in Dubai realise that their time here could be temporary. “We debate a lot about how long we can live here, whether we will retire here too. But ultimately it’s linked to employment. Most expats do not retire here because it’s an expensive place to be in without a source of income,” says Akbar.

However, the UAE authorities have started making efforts to tap that market as well. Apart from freelance and golden visas for highly skilled professionals like engineers and doctors, retirement visas are aimed at attracting people to ‘settle’ down in Dubai as well.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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