Dubai's China Town
More than 200,000 Chinese residents will celebrate their new year in Dubai this week. Here, we discover where they work, rest and play. Happy new year! Discuss this article
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The Chinese round table
Does Dubai have a China Town?
Johnny: Five thousand Chinese people live and work in International City. It’s certainly the biggest Chinese community in the UAE, and everything is Chinese-style here. Some old men come over to look after our babies for us, while both parents are at work. They only speak Chinese, but can still get by because there are Chinese supermarkets, clothes – even the barber shop is Chinese-owned. We all feel relaxed here.
Kuku: There are 3,000 Chinese companies in Nasr Square in Deira too, so the population there may be greater than those that work and live in International City.
What makes you stay in Dubai?
Johnny: Frankly speaking, we make money here, and Dubai is more ‘internationalised’ than the neighbouring emirates. And I like the air here – it’s clean. In our home town the air is quite dusty.
Wu: More Chinese are coming to live in Dubai all the time. It’s cheaper here than before.
Angie: International fashions and cosmetics are cheaper here.
Johnny: Also, more tourists are coming from China than ever before. On August 26 last year, the UAE and China signed an agreement to promote tourism between the two countries. Now all China’s travel services have pooled their resources, but they’re still too busy to accept everyone’s UAE travel applications. All flights here are currently fully booked.
Kuku: About 90 per cent of Chinese tourists wanted to come to Dubai for the Chinese New Year. Europe and China are too cold at the moment.
What do you miss from home?
Johnny: The food and the green trees and grasses.
Harrison: My family and friends. But I am Muslim and like the Islamic environment here. For example, I always take my clients to a restaurant called Abu Ali. One day I left Dhs200 in my chair. When I returned six months later the shisha man gave it back to me. That was great.
Johnny: I am a Buddhist, and I can’t find a temple here. I miss those.
Wu: I miss the food. There are only a few restaurants here that achieve the true Chinese taste. We get our ingredients sent over from China, although we source seafood from Oman and Fujairah.
How will you celebrate the new year in Dubai?
Wu: We watch Chinese Central TV. Every year it airs a four-hour performance at a big gala event. All China’s top stars appear. It makes everybody feel a bit homesick!
Wu: Southern people eat sticky cake – it symbolises high hopes for the new year.
Which are your favourite Chinese restaurants in Dubai?
Kuku: Splendid in International City is one of the best. It serves food from the south of China. Whenever the Chinese have a big gathering in Dubai they have it here.
Angie: They need private rooms in restaurants, because Chinese people don’t enjoy eating in open restaurants.
Do you take New Year’s Day off work?
Johnny: The majority don’t – they keep their businesses and shops open for customers. We’re all very much hoping to get the day off, though!
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