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Working in the Middle East

27 April 2005

With literally hundreds of developments going on in the Middle East, it's not surprising that so many people are seeking hospitality positions there. If you follow current affairs, you might understandably be a little worried about heading to an area which is renowned for its volatility and susceptibility to violence. But trouble in the Middle East tends to be confined to particular pockets, and if you have any worries you should follow up with the Foreign Office website www.fco.org for the latest details on where not to travel.

UAE

The United Arab Emirates is a confederation of seven emirates, at the south-western corner of the Arabian Gulf, but the one you are going to hear the most about is Dubai.

Dubai

In just a few years, Dubai has placed itself firmly on the tourist map. Unlike some parts of the Middle East, Dubai does not have vast supplies of oil and has consequently turned its focus to tourism.

Upsides

  • Weather is definitely a bonus, with days full of sunshine and very little rain
  • Tax-free salaries
  • Accommodation is generally included and, if you are working in a hotel, the likelihood is that you will get your food thrown in as well
  • Fast progression and full-on responsibility in a fast-moving business environment
  • Access to watersports and many other activities that you might not have thought of trying at home, such as scuba diving
  • Great shopping at great prices, especially if you like gold
  • As cosmopolitan an area as you will find anywhere in the world
  • Great hub to start exploring other areas of the world with your annual leave - Australia is not nearly as far from the Middle East as it is from London.

Downsides

  • A six-day week, with Friday as your weekend - yes, you will most likely be working both Saturday and Sunday
  • Heat and humidity in July and August - you won't be going outside much
  • Beyond the sun, sand and sea, there's not a whole lot of culture on offer, so take a lot of books
  • Your working life may not be as simple as in the UK, as you will be dealing with a lot of different cultures whose working practices may be rather different to yours.

General facts:
Official name:
Dubai
Population: around 971,000
Languages: Arabic (official), English, others
Religion: Muslim (96%)
Currency: dirham
Land area: 3,900sq km (1,500 sq miles)
Climate: From 24ºC in January, the temperature soars to 41ºC in July. Rainfall is infrequent and irregular and reaches around 13cm a year. Temperatures range from a low of about 10ºC to a high of 48ºC.

Where to find out more General facts: www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/ae.html
Tourism: www.dubaitourism.ae
Chat group set up for expatriates in Dubai: groups.yahoo.com/group/dubai-expatriates
Official site: www.dubai.com
Tourist information: www.hello-dubai.com
Shopping in Dubai: www.mydsf.com/

Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, is a modern city like Dubai, where high-rise buildings and luxury hotels are continually under construction. However, Abu Dhabi has oil, unlike Dubai, so the hotels are primarily for business people, rather than tourists.

General facts
Official name:
United Arab Emirates
Population: 2,600,000
Capital: Abu Dhabi (population: 528,000)
Languages: Arabic (official), English, others
Currency: Emirati dirham
Religions: Muslim (96%), others
Land area: 83,600sq km (32,278sq miles)
Land divisions: seven emirates: Abu Zaby (Abu Dhabi), ‘Ajman, Al Fujayrah, Ash Shariqah (Sharjah), Dubayy (Dubai), Ra's al Khaymah and Umm al Qaywayn
Climate: the desert weather of the UAE is hot and dry throughout the year, with very little rainfall. The winter months, from December to February, do bring some cooler weather, particularly in the hills and mountains in the northeast.

Where to find out more

www.abudhabi.com/
www.uae.org.ae/
www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/ae.html

Bahrain

This group of 33 islands is located in the Arabian Gulf off the east coast of Saudi Arabia and has been a key trading centre since Roman times. Bahrain Island is the largest and is now connected to the Saudi mainland by a 16 miles-long causeway.

The land is barren desert, and petroleum processing and refining as well as international banking are the major industries. Tourists generally arrive in the cooler months from November to February.

General facts
Official name:
Kingdom of Bahrain
Population: 690,000
Capital: Manama (population: 159,000)
Languages: Arabic, English, Farsi, Urdu, others
Currency: Bahraini dinar
Religions: Shi'a Muslim, Sunni Muslim
Land area: 680sq km (263sq miles)
Climate: Bahrain is hot and dry in the summer months, with very high humidity. Winters are mild and pleasant.

Where to find out morewww.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/ba.html
www.bahraintourism.com/
www.bahraintribune.com/

Qatar

Independent since 1971, Qatar is now a rich oil country with a modern and well-developed infrastructure. Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani assumed power in 1995 with the support of the ruling family and the Qatari people, putting the country on the route to becoming a democratic society.

General facts
Official name:
State of Qatar
Population: 842,000
Capital city: Doha (population: 610,000)
Languages: Arabic (official), English
Currency: Qatari rial
Religions: Muslim (95%), others
Land area: 11,000sq km (4,247sq miles)
Climate: Qatar is extremely hot and dry in the summer months, with very high humidity. Winters are mild and somewhat pleasant, and occasionally chilly.

Where to find out morewww.qatartourism.org/eqnhc.asp?ID=55
www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/qa.html

Oman

Oman has been ruled by Sultan and Prime Minister Qaboos bin Said Al Said since 1971, when the country gained complete independence - it had been a British protectorate until the early 1950s. The capital, Muscat, has long been a prosperous trading centre. Recently, luxury resorts have started to take advantage of the beautiful country that combines deserts, mountains and beaches.

General facts
Official name:
Sultanate of Oman
Population: 3,100,000
Capital: Muscat (population: 237,000)
Languages: Arabic (official), English, others
Currency: Omani rial
Religions: Ibadhi Muslim, Sunni and Shi'a Muslim
Land area: 212,460sq km (82,030sq miles)
Climate: Oman is hot and dry throughout the year, especially in the interior desert areas. The coastal areas are quite humid, with dependable, seasonal monsoons (May to September).

Where to find out more

www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/mu.html
www.destinationoman.com/

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