Turkish expats in Dubai

From one of Europe's most vibrant and diverse countries to a new life in the UAE. Turkish expats talk about their life in Dubai

Expat focus, Area Guides
Semih Ozkan, 28M

My first impressions of Dubai? Artificial. In Istanbul, you feel the whole city has character, and it goes back 3,000 years. No one feels they belong here, or that they own the country, which is unfortunate.

I didn’t plan to come here, it just happened. I was working for a bank in Istanbul, and I got a call from a recruiter at Standard Chartered, and said, ‘Why not?’ I’m from Mersin, a small town in the south. Dubai’s big compared to there, but I worked in Istanbul, which is so big it makes Dubai seem small. Also, the traffic in Dubai is nothing compared to Istanbul.

Being a Turk in Dubai is easy because they appreciate our history, and that our culture dates back to the Ottoman Empire. Here, they praise you everywhere you go. I think we can thank our soaps, especially Noor, for that.

There’s a lot of good Turkish food here. For lunch, I like to eat at Mado in DIFC. I also enjoy Istanbul Flowers and Istanbul Doner. Kosebasi, an upscale chain, is opening in JBR. Next year, they’re opening a Turkish-themed hotel, the Ottoman Palace, on the Palm.

When people back home say they want to move to the Middle East, I always suggest they come to Dubai, because I think they’d find it extremely challenging to move somewhere like Riyadh or Doha. What’s hard is not having open spaces to walk around, which we have a lot of in Istanbul. That’s why you’ll usually see Turks in places like Barasti and the Irish Village, which are more open, or places like Dubai Creek; anything natural that reminds them of Turkey.

Isil Akcan, 30

When I arrived in Dubai, I couldn’t eat for a week. Everything seemed so foreign. It was my first time leaving Turkey. We moved to International City, which was strange for me, because there was nothing green. One thing that’s helped me adjust is penir, a Turkish cheese that’s available in Spinneys and Carrefour. It saved my life.

I came to Dubai last January after my husband got a job here. Back then I used to work as a general co-ordinator at the Turkish Business Council, so I got to meet a lot of people. Expats would call me with their problems and I’d help manage them. Now I work as a business development manager for a printing company.

I’m used to Dubai now. I like the city and the nightlife, and my husband and I have a lot of friends that we met on www.bilgidubai.com, a usergroup for Turkish expats in Dubai. It has about 1,000 members, and I’m close to about 50 of them. We go to the beach and have picnics, go to restaurants or take turns hosting dinners. During Ramadan, we went to Iftar at Istanbul Flowers, which is one of my favourite Turkish restaurants. Another good Turkish place is Istanbul Doner. I also like going to a nightclub called Lailla, which is run by a Turk. We left everything to come out here, and that was very scary at first. But there are so many of us that are in the same situation, and the Turkish community in Dubai is very close. I may not have any family out here, but the friends I’ve made are like a new family.

Haluk Yalinkaya, 37

I knew after the first day that I could spend the rest of my life in Dubai, even though it was my first time travelling abroad. I arrived eight years ago to work for the careerglobal.net. I love the sun, beach and all that Dubai has to offer. Wherever you are in the world, work is always nine to five, but you don’t have the stress here that you get in other cities. Now I work for a subsidiary of Arab Media Group. I used to teach salsa at night, but stopped after I got married 18 months ago. Now we go salsa dancing together. We met online. She was living in Ismael, one of the largest cities in Turkey. She loves it out here.

I pretty much spend most of my time taking care of my marriage, which is the most important thing to me at the moment. In Dubai, you’re limited in your social activities in terms of concerts or theatres. In Istanbul, you can find something to do every given hour of the day. Here, you don’t have that opportunity. But we have a small community of Turkish friends and we go to the beach or the desert together. Now that I’m married, I eat in, as my wife is an excellent cook, though we do go to Istanbul Flowers, and when taking out associates, I go to Ottoman’s at Grosvenor House, which is just excellent.

Dubai has changed a lot since I first arrived. When I came here there was nothing. Now, there is no desert any more; it’s all covered with towers and towers and towers. I can honestly say they built the whole city on me.

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