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Dubai Expat Interview – Rachael Harrison

Avator1This week’s Into-yous features British expat Rachael Harrison

Tell us a little about yourself:
I’m a writer, runner, traveller and photographer who is always looking for the next adventure! Originally from historic York, I now call Dubai home, but at the same time make the most of its fantastic location to explore the world! At the beginning of this year, I created to share my adventures and photography with my readers. Through the site, I aim to draw attention to the fact that there is a lot more to the city (and the emirate and UAE in general) than shopping malls, brunches and beaches. Looking further afield, I document my travels, submit reviews, and advise others – namely solo female travellers – on their own itineraries. Through the blog, I hope to inspire others to take the path that I have – one that can be daunting, yet at the same time, thrilling and full of adventures that create a life time of memories!

When did you move to Dubai and what brought you here:
In a previous life, I was a primary school teacher working in international schools after completing my first year of teaching in the UK. Three years ago, I was offered a teaching job in Dubai, and moved here in August 2011. I chose Dubai because it had a huge mix of expats and provided exactly what I needed at the time – bustling city life, sunny days and balmy nights (’balmy’ being an understatement!) – although these needs have since changed.

Have you been an expat elsewhere and if so, where?
Prior to moving to Dubai, I spent two and a half years living and working in Cairo. This was a fantastic experience and I made many friends who are now scattered all over the globe. Cairo was an intriguing place to live, but by the time I left, I was more than ready to move on with fond memories.

The best advice you were given to prepare you for life in Dubai:
Don’t live beyond your means! It’s all too easy to get swept up in the lifestyles that many appear to have, but getting credit is easy and comes with severe consequences if you cannot afford to repay any debt that you accumulate.

What surprised you most about Dubai?
My attitude changed after about a year of living here, and I found myself growing bored of the routine I had fallen into. I considered moving, but then discovered that there is a lot more to Dubai and the UAE if you go out and find it! Desert trips, water activities, and all kinds of new and exciting things to enjoy that one might miss if you restrict yourself to city life.

What area do you live in?
I’ve lived in Tecom, Marina, and Dubailand.

If money were no object, where would you most like to live in Dubai?
Each area has its own advantages and disadvantages. If money was no object, I’d like a few places to live so that I could pick and choose according to my mood and what I wanted to do! A city penthouse suite and a large villa out in the dunes somewhere would suit me fine.

Your favourite Arabic word or phrase you have learned so far:
I learnt Arabic whilst I was living in Cairo, but sadly I rarely use it here in Dubai. ’As-salamu alaykum’ always goes a long way when you’re trying to get things done, plus it means ’peace be upon you’, which is a lovely way of greeting people!

Your least favourite word or phrase you have adopted since moving to Dubai:
Probably everything that comes out of my mouth when I’m driving!

What has been your best experience in Dubai to date?
Learning to wakeboard and completing my first marathon were big achievements that I may not have done had I never moved to Dubai. I’ve had some great moments out camping and every Arabian sunset I watch over desert dunes reminds me of how lucky I am to be here!

Where do you hope to spend your next holiday?
I’ve just returned from 10 days in Indonesia, and it was refreshing to be surrounded by lush tropical hills and natural, unspoilt beaches. Asia is easy to get to from Dubai and provides a great contrast to everyday life here. It’s likely that my next holiday will be there too.

Who is the person you most miss when you are in Dubai?
Family, without a doubt!

What is your favourite restaurant in Dubai?
It’s time to be controversial. I think that many restaurants in Dubai are not up to scratch and that far nicer meals can be cooked at home! It’s often the case that service is poor, meals are expensive and never live up to expectations. Having said this, I recently tried Bateaux Dubai on the creek and it was a deliciously different experience, and the food at Al Maha Desert Resort and Spa is always phenomenal. Oh, and Lime Tree Cafe is always good!

What grocery item do you most miss from your home country?
It’s really hard to get good quality, alternative ingredients here. The other day I spent a while trying to find almond flour and coconut flour, to no avail. Dubai is the kind of place where if you see something you’ve been desperate for on the shelves, you must buy it straight away or risk never seeing it again!

When friends and family visit you in Dubai where will you absolutely take them?
I always take them to the usual tourist spots, but I also enjoy showing them the diversity of the other emirates such as Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah. It changes the impression that people have of the UAE in general.


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