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Dubai Expat Interviews – Najla Borjini Hamdani

This week’s Into-yous features Tunisian expat Najla Borjini Hamdani

Tell us a little about yourself
I am an English Literature and Linguistics gradate from the Tunisian school of language. I worked as a teacher last year but took a year off as I’m now mom to a 6 month old princess, Sara. Right now I’m fully devoted to my daughter, but this is giving me time to think about where my life is heading. I had a bumpy start in this country due to the rigid contact with people when you first arrive, you don’t know anyone or belong to a community.I even started asking silly questions to people in the mall just to have a conversation. It gets better with time, when you find a job, but still you always wonder what are you doing here. Dubai is the land of opportunity, everyone knows that but it does make me ask myself thousands of questions everyday.

When did you move to Dubai and what brought you here?
I moved to Dubai two years ago. I got married and came here with my husband who had moved here one year before me.

Have you been an expat elsewhere and if so, where?
Yes, I’ve been a student abroad in Japan for a year – one of the loveliest experiences of my life.

The best advice you were given to prepare you for life in Dubai
Honestly, I haven’t been given any good advice that I can remember. Everyone was just thrilled when I said I was going to live in Dubai. For them, Dubai just seemed like such a flashy city – the lifestyle, money and luxury. Some of them could tell you ‘yes, I have a cousin (or a sister) who lives there,’ but no one knew what it is to really live in this city.

What surprised you most about Dubai?
The cultural diversity and the daily use of English over Arabic.

If money were no object, where would you most like to live in Dubai?
The Greens. I love that place, I find it so close to all the places I need.

Your favorite Arabic word or phrase you have learned so far
“Bacher” (I hope I spelled it right) which means ‘tomorrow’ in the local dialect. Despite being a native Arabic speaker I’d never heard this word before and it struck me how different the Arabic dialects are!

Your least favorite word or phrase you have adopted since moving to Dubai
Not a word but I hated finding myself obliged to adopt the Lebanese or Egyptian dialect to speak with Arabs here as they get nothing of my own Tunisian dialect and because theirs are the easiest to understand – or at least it seemed that way.

What has been your best experience in Dubai to date?
Amazingly it’s my hardest, loveliest, most challenging and demanding experience all at the same time. I was a home room teacher for a grade 1 class last year. Having this diversity of cultural backgrounds, personalities, communicative skills and talents was just amazing. I had to have nerves of steel to manage 23 active brains but sometimes, a surprising progression from a child classified asĀ  “very weak” or a hand made picture of a child holding your hand, children smiling or saying “I love you Miss!” makes all the troubles melt away.

Where do you hope to spend your next holiday?
My holiday destinations seem to have become routine since I moved to Dubai. As soon as I take leave I head to my home country. I would however love to try a new destination next time. I have plenty of choices but my favorite right now is “Incredible India”, I dreamt about such exotic and flavored place since I was a child and I can’t believe I’m mere “kilometers” away and I still haven’t visited it yet.

Who is the person you most miss when you are in Dubai?
My family, but especially my grandmom who raised me and to whom I owe everything in my life.

What is your favourite restaurant in Dubai?
I’m not very picky when it comes to food, but I love sushi places out here.

What grocery item do you most miss from your home country?
We have a kind of homemade “green soap” that I cannot find here. Well some people would laugh at me because I would find better brands and choices here but I’m convinced that soap is best with hard spots, especially when you have a baby.

When friends and family visit you in Dubai where will you absolutely take them?
Oh we started to have a routine for that now. The first day it would be Mall of the Emirates and the second it’s Ibn Battuta. We keep Dubai Mall for the weekend and we shuffle other places such as JBR, Sharjah Islamic Souk, Deira and the Marina. Of course the two unmissable places to visit are the indoor ski park and the aquarium. The places I was surprised my visitors wanted to go to are the beaches and parks. As a resident here I thought they would be exhausted by the weather, but it seems these are still appealing attractions.

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The team at Expat Echo Dubai would like to feature you in our Into-yous section

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