The UAE is a country full of both pleasant and disagreeable discoveries.
The first surprise I had was with the extreme prominence of Islam. In the UAE, other religions than Islam are tolerated, but are to be quiet and discreet. For instance, it is frowned upon to use words such as ‘Easter’ or ‘Christmas’ because of their Christian connotation. Residents, whatever their religion, are in certain aspects submitted to the country’s Islamic laws. During Ramadan, non-Muslims are asked not to eat, drink, or chew in public as well as wear conservative clothes at all times. Considering the extreme heat while this period, not being able to drink in public is not an easy task. Moreover, almost all of the restaurants are close during the day and open only for Iftar, which corresponds to when the sun sets. The only advantage of Ramadan is that work shifts are reduced during the whole holy month by two hours a day for non-Muslims and by three hours for Muslims. Thus, from the 17th May to the 18th June, my shift was from 8.30 a.m. to 4.30 p.m., giving me more time to work on my reports and to relax.
My most unpleasant surprise was that the UAE have blocked every single application used to call for free: WhatsApp, Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, Skype and so on… The only one that sometimes worked was Facetime, but as it is an Apple application, it can only be used through IPhones. Eventually, because the communication was made impossible between me and my parents, my father decided to invest in an IPhone so that we could finally call each other. Without this purchase, we would not have been able to communicate over the phone throughout my entire internship. The reason why the UAE decided to block these applications is simply to make the residents pay expensive options to one of the two government-owned telephone operators Du and Etisalat.
Another surprise I had when arriving in Dubai was my area of accommodation. Indeed, it happened to be the poorest zone in the city, where all of the workers are accommodated by their company. Sadly, some workers, depending on their status, country of origin and richness of their enterprise, are requested to live with a dozen of roommates in a ten-meter-square apartment where air conditioning is nowhere to be found. No tourist would ever know about this situation or this area unless they get lost or take the wrong turn.
Nonetheless, I have been pleasantly surprised more than once. Indeed, it is undeniable that the beauty and impressiveness of Dubai’s architecture astonished me more and more as I visited the city. When my parents came to visit me for a week, I finally got to go out and fully discover Dubai as well as Abu Dhabi. Though most of its beauties are artificial, Dubai is home to various landscapes such as the desert, the sea, the lakes and the city. The skyscrapers are all out of this world and it feels truly disorientating to walk between the buildings.
Another incredible thing about Dubai is how safe it is. For example, even in our area of residence, I felt in security walking in the streets at night, or leaving my belongings unguarded on the beach while bathing in the sea. However, the only moments one can feel unsafe is on the road. This seems to be the only place in the UAE where the laws are bypassed. I cannot count the number of times I thought the company bus would have an accident, and, eventually, it happened. Luckily, I finished my shift one hour earlier therefore avoiding this shuttle, but one of my roommates was in it and witnessed the bus crash. No casualties to be declared, but it was only a miracle considering the state of the vehicle afterwards.