My niece Areeba loves Dubai.
The soul of my writing is my focus on the things that matter to me in one way or another, and my interviews are just an extension of that. The personal introductions to the interviews I do are mostly people whose lives evoke in me one or another emotion – always deep, always moving, never fleeting. My niece Areeba is one of my five favorite people, so writing about her was an emotional inevitability. I wanted his story to be happy.
Areeba became part of my life the day she was born, November 27, 1994. Her face deepened my smiles, her well-being was vital to my existence. It remains unchanged. Among my siblings and their children, my one love forever is Areeba. Her imperturbable smiles and constant presence have brightened up the most mundane aspects of my life. They still do. Areeba became my best friend when she was old enough to understand my silences, my unspoken pain. She is always listening, without judgement.
Over the past twenty-seven years, my mind recounts all of Areeba as if it were my own – her happiness, her pain, her dreams, her fears, her accomplishments, her disappointments, her loves, her sorrows Regardless of good and bad no – so fine, the unchanging light I see in my world is Areeba’s larger than life positivity, very generous heart, deep empathy, never say die attitude, commitment to family and friends , her dream of doing something worthwhile, her courage of introspection, her gratitude for blessings big and small.
Over the past few years, Areeba’s life has become a kaleidoscope of the expected colliding with the unseen. Her dreams about her future died down, making her restless, prompting a bit of paddling and one day, sitting down to take an unfiltered inventory of her life. To get everything back in shape. In the process of restructuring the pieces of her life, Areeba started visiting Dubai, and something changed inside her. There was something about Dubai that concerned her, and in 2022 she moved to Dubai. Every day, for two months, his giant smiles articulate the history of Dubai opening his arms to him.
Areeba’s love for Dubai is a redefinition of Dubai for me. Dubai, the magnificent montage of seven-star hotels, five-star restaurants, shopping malls, Kelly crocodile bags, luxury cars, gorgeous women who walk like they own the world and fabulously wealthy people who literally own some of the best parts of the world. Dubai, the land of the rich, for the rich. I have always loved Dubai, but never saw it as a place where I could settle down. The last two months of Areeba are a new glimpse of the place that I thought was just an expensive but fun vacation destination for a few days.
Worrying about work deadlines, living in a small room in a flat shared with four people, Pakistani and Indian, walking from place to place, taking the metro, enjoying cheap food, doing normal things to young people and find the job that is best for her, I have never seen Areeba happier, mashAllah. Dubai is where she wants to be, where she aims to build a solid career, where she is happy.
Now Areeba, whose early trips to the UAE involved things that evoked Dubai as that extravagant splendor – expensive restaurants, exclusive clubs, designer items, overpriced yachts, lavish homes, penthouses with infinity pools – says what everyone who lives in Dubai swears by this: once you get used to living in Dubai, you don’t want to live anywhere else.
For Gulf News, I asked Areeba Haroon a few questions:
Why, in 2020, did you choose Dubai to do your higher education?
I chose Dubai, first, because of its proximity to Pakistan; it’s a little over three hours flight from home. The UAE has campuses of many American and British universities, and with their international faculties, these universities are simply great. My university, Hult International Business School, has campuses in Boston and London, but I think their Dubai campus is just amazing. I loved everything about Hult. In our program, there were students of about forty different nationalities, and most of these students could have studied elsewhere but they chose Dubai.
You liked Dubai as a vacation spot. What made you choose Dubai as the best place to start your career?
I have been traveling alone in Dubai for almost six seven years now. Whenever I had the chance, I flew to Dubai! My Chachu (paternal uncle) used to work in Dubai, his family lived here and I also visited them. I love the Middle East, it’s the region I’ve visited since I was a kid, Bahrain several times, then Dubai. I loved and still love Middle Eastern multiculturalism.
The United Arab Emirates is a Muslim country, and this is something that is of great importance to me. You go to malls and you hear the azaan, people fast and pray, and there are mosques everywhere. But the UAE is also a mix of so many other cultures and ethos – local, regional, global – and that’s why I thought Dubai was the best place for my career in business, marketing, public relations and event management.
As a young professional in Dubai, what are the advantages of working in the UAE?
The biggest advantage of working in the UAE is that almost all of the world’s largest multinational companies and brands have their offices here. Endless opportunities in all fields: blockchain, crypto, other IT fields, merchandising, hotel management, finance, tourism, HR, law, media, banking, medicine, public relations, real estate. The UAE offers opportunities for everyone who comes here to work. There is so much potential for professional growth and excellence that hard work, commitment and individual merit in a collective mechanism are duly appreciated and rewarded.
I had a few short term jobs in Dubai in 2021; this year i started working on june 1st on a three month project, which will continue later as a long term job, in a real estate company, but the project ended after a month and a half. It was an enriching experience. Immediately I applied to several companies and received interview calls from almost all of them. The response, based on my CV, was overwhelming and reiterated what I think of Dubai: if your merit-based goal is clear, there are plenty of opportunities. Glad to share, I’ll be joining a very established company next week, and it’s something I’m really looking forward to.
Do you think the UAE government is entirely focused on the short and long-term well-being of UAE nationals and the millions of expats who call Dubai their second home?
For me, the most important thing that the UAE government offers to its citizens, expats and tourists is security. The UAE government guarantees everyone’s safety, and I think that’s amazing. Everyone I talk to in Dubai loves this aspect of life here: it’s so safe. Second, it is tax free. No tax cuts on the salary you earn, and that’s wonderful in an inflation-ridden world.
Everything is so organised: infrastructure, law and order, health care, education, women’s rights, foreigners’ rights. The Government of the United Arab Emirates ensures that no harm or wrongdoing goes unnoticed. Even those who don’t earn much have rights in the UAE. The system works on merit, and I think that’s one of the most important facets of the governance of the rulers of the United Arab Emirates.
What is the best thing about living in Dubai?
As a self-sufficient, single Pakistani woman, the best thing about living in Dubai is the feeling of freedom I have here. I feel safe in Dubai. I can walk down a road at 3 a.m. and know I’m safe. Whatever I wear, wherever I am, alone or in company, I feel safe.
Job opportunities are abundant. Everything works on a system, and that is of utmost importance for someone like me who is here from Lahore to work and build a career.
Dubai, like all major international cities, is very expensive, but once you get used to living here, you find affordable, great quality, and great bargains for your everyday life. Once familiar with the place, you realize that it is possible to live well there even with modest financial means.
Another amazing thing is the people you meet. Dubai’s multiculturalism is phenomenal; there are people of all nationalities, of all origins, of all ideologies. Dubai is the borderless universe that welcomes everyone and gives them every chance to feel welcome and make Dubai their second home.