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Being Dubaian

Every major city around the world has become familiar with the concept of tribes within.

Amsterdammers in de Jordaan are distinctly unlike those in Oud Zuid or by the Oosterpark. The Bijlmer and Nieuwe West are a different city altogether, to some.
New Yorkers can relate too: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens… every borough is different.
Beirut is home to those who frequent Hamra, and those who live in Ashrafieh. It segregates Ramlet el Baida from Sin el Fil very strictly, and Dahieh is a different nation altogether.

Dubai is similar, in a sense. The people who live here are, mostly, divided by their neighborhoods: the Marina is home to the young and creative, the media kids and their pals; DIFC and Downtown house the lawyers and financiers, the money machines; Jumeirah is where the old school kids live, those who grew up here and still seek asylum in their parents’ mansions, or have just opted to share a villa nearby; Karama and Bur Dubai are for those of a lower income group; Deira is Little Bombay, and the areas in Old Dubai are for an even older group of Arab expats; Mirdiff was that side of town you lived to save money but still be in the heat of the action: today, it’s been replaced by Al Barsha and Tecom.

What are the Tribes though?

Living in Dubai is a unique experience. In conversation the other day, a friend described it as the transit terminal of an airport, or a perpetual holiday destination. I prefer the former: a place where all you can do is kill time and drink, meet strangers with no desire for commitment, and endlessly wait for your next destination.

Unfortunately, many of the people who live here feel this way about this booming city. Dubai, for most, is a transient town, understandably so. Unlike most countries, the UAE will almost never give its expat residents permanent status. Your residency visa is a 3 year renewable document that you can keep applying for as long as you have a job or own a business, after which you are required to leave the country, coming back only as a tourist.

The reality, however, is that Dubai is more than just a transit terminal. Many of the residents today are shifting towards making a home for themselves, building lasting relationships, growing out of the limitations of the UAE’s immigration laws and accepting that, for the years they live here, their relationships are valid and significant, and can be maintained across borders as time goes on.

Class systems, cultural differences, numerous religious affiliations, and those who mix in between make up the true tribes of Dubai. They’re not the hipsters and the goths, they’re not the yuppies and the bankers: here, they are the Locals, the Indians, the Brits, the Europeans, the Asians, the Laborers, the Arabs, the TCKs, the Waiters, the Media Kids, the Russians, the Aussies, and a number of hybrid tribes who seem to belong in a number of places.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll tell you about each of these tribes, and we’ll write about more as they come along because, honestly, I hear about new tribes passing through every week!

Moving to Dubai

The cultural differences that people experience when they move to a new place have many names, most common of which is the idea and concept of culture shock. Coming to a Muslim country where the rules are different and the laws are confusing is difficult.

We try to simplify it, because reading pages and pages of legalize is just not something anyone enjoys. Unless you’re a lawyer (although, to be frank, most of my lawyer friends don’t actually like housing law in the UAE because it is “endless and painful”).

Here’s a simple list:
– Alcohol is only legal on licensed premises, and that includes your home. Also, when you’re on your way from a licensed place to another, if you do anything wrong and you’re drunk, you can get into serious trouble. Get an alcohol license —it’ll save you a lot of headache.
– Driving irresponsibly is a serious offense. Driving under the influence is punishable by jail time and deportation. If you have an alcohol license, the police could be lenient, but they don’t have to be.
– Across the UAE, cheques are commonly used for most large payments. Housing cheques are the most frequent, and tend to be made out for 3, 4, 6, or 12 months’ rent, as rents in the Emirates are paid in advance using forward dated cheques. A bounced cheque is a criminal offense, so always make sure that you have enough money in the right bank account when a cheque is due.
– All housing in Dubai should be registered with the Land Department of the Government of Dubai (widely referred to as Dubai Land). These rental contracts are called Ejari and are the only legally valid contractual agreement that name you as a tenant: the agency’s or owner’s contract is a temporary paper that is used to process an Ejari contract.
– Home internet, television, and landline subscriptions are managed through Du Telecom or Etisalat. Regardless of which one you choose, the necessary paperwork also includes your Ejari contract.
– DEWA (Dubai Electricity and Water Authority) is the utilities company for the emirate of Dubai. Your home will not have water or electricity supply until you activate your DEWA contract, which can also only be done after you have supplied DEWA with you Ejari contract.