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Dubai Expat Interviews – Debbie Nicol

This week’s Into-yous features Australian expat Debbie Nicol

Tell us a little about yourself
* Business owner of ‘business en motion’ and author of the ‘Embers of the World’ series.
* Ever-curious, ever-willing and ever-in awe.

When did you move to Dubai and what brought you here?
I originally arrived in Dubai in 1997 staying until 2002 working as an area trainer with the Rotana Group of Hotels, at the time a small yet burgeoning group. Thereafter, I ‘took leave’ from Dubai and ventured into the European world for some years. When I decided to open my own business in 2006, I felt comfortable to return to Dubai for four reasons: a. Ease of setting up b. A strong reputation, foundation and database of contacts c. a connection to the Arab way of doing business d. I love the heat (am I the only one?)

Have you been an expat elsewhere and if so, where?
Yes, I travelled to Dubai from postings in Malaysia and Singapore. Thereafter I worked in Brussels and London.

The best advice you were given to prepare you for life in Dubai
I really didn’t receive ‘advice’, yet living in Malaysia was my first real exposure to the Islamic way of life, something I found quite interesting and felt compelled to get to know more. I had also chatted with a lady who had been to Dubai in early 80’s who informed me of ‘this place where camels roam through the sandy paths between shacks on the edge of the creek’! She was referring to the original gold souk. I was also influenced by the rumour of ‘real gold on the taps’ in the hotels in the 90’s.

What surprised you most about Dubai?
My very first impression when I stepped off the plane at 5am on an October morning was the sheer heat. Then, as we drove to the Al Bustan Rotana Hotel, I saw nothing but yellow-ness – was left wondering where were all the trees. Today, it would be a very different first impression 🙂

If money were no object, where would you most like to live in Dubai?
Where I currently live – Downtown Dubai has such great energy down on the lake!

Your favorite Arabic word or phrase you have learned so far
Yeallah Shebab – literally ‘let’s go guys’! I learnt it when I was doing the pre-opening training of a Sharm El Sheikh property, and had to round up the employees from all over the resort before any training session!

Your least favorite word or phrase you have adopted since moving to Dubai
None really! I did try to learn Arabic but gave up after a while – it seemed very difficult and the best way to learn a language is to absorb it. I’ve absorbed about twenty words and they successfully get me into many treasured interactions – don’t really need more than those twenty!

What has been your best experience in Dubai to date?
I often say that I’d be a rich person if I had a dirham for every time I utter the words ‘you could only see that in Dubai’. Anything goes and anything is possible!

Where do you hope to spend your next holiday?
Next week I’m back off for more trekking in Jordan and then on to Lebanon! Holiday? Life is one big holiday if you love what you do!! The next big one hopefully will be Macchu Picchu….

Who is the person you most miss when you are in Dubai?
No one really – with Internet, Skype, and all the other mod cons of today’s life, you can be as connected, or disconnected as you wish 🙂

What is your favourite restaurant in Dubai?
I do love Teatro in Towers Rotana – especially for the hospitality of Sheetal there. I also love the setting of Royal Mirage’s Beach Bar and Grill

What grocery item do you most miss from your home country?
When Spinneys has Tim Tams I get rather excited! I also miss the powdered Glucodin too from Australia….a power top up when I have it….

When friends and family visit you in Dubai where will you absolutely take them?
For the Friday brunch: Bab Al Shams
For a weekend:
1. Musandum and the cruise on the Everglades
2. Qasr Al Sarab

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