Simon Kachar, 27, business consultant
‘I come from Kornet Chehwan, a typical Lebanese village with pine trees – it couldn’t be more different from Dubai with its enormous buildings. Lebanon is home, but Dubai offers me more experience. I came to advance my career as a business development consultant, before hopefully taking home everything I’ve learned to help educate Lebanese institutions and companies.
‘My mates had compared Dubai to New York – fast-paced and bursting with opportunities and I was finally tempted here in July 2008. It has a fantastic reputation for its hospitality – everyone here is so friendly. Being Lebanese, you carry around 6,000 years of culture and that’s well respected.
‘I have friends from all over, but my closest circle are Lebanese – that’s normal, because you have an inbuilt understanding of people from your own country. I miss Lebanon but there’s plenty here to absorb. I’d like to see better urban planning and a deeper cultural identity within the arts, but life is good – I’m single, enjoying meeting friends. Lebanese supermarkets are on my doorstep, such as Lifco on Sheikh Zayed Road. There’s no specific Lebanese community here, so we tend to head to JBR’s The Walk. But generally, if you want to find us, we’ll be wherever the nightlife is!’
Ziad Shakar, 39, exhibition stand contractor‘
Thanks to the media, Dubai has a real buzz about it – for work and pleasure. It’s the most attractive destination in the area. I first visited in 2001 and, after a job offer, moved here permanently in 2003. Even in those two years things had changed – Dubai had settled down and everything seemed simple and organised.
‘ Fitting in has never been an issue because Dubai is such a multicultural place. Its greatest draw is how diverse and cosmopolitan it is – everybody socialises together. The only time nationality becomes a factor is on the job front, with offers, salaries and work associates. I’m an exhibition stand contractor and working with different nationalities isn’t always easy, especially coming from Lebanon where there are fewer expats. With work colleagues, clients and suppliers all from varying backgrounds, we all have different expectations and work ethics. It’s a perfect formula for conflict! But after time everyone adjusts to each other’s approaches.
‘I love that the government has allowed for a real multicultural infrastructure to flourish, with each community enjoying its own schools, clubs or restaurants. These aren’t area specific though; we definitely don’t have a central Lebanese community here. My wife and I are busy so we don’t socialise much but we hang out with friends – they’re from all over, not just Lebanon, the mix happening naturally.
‘We live in the Mamzar area because it’s close to work and we generally spend time with our son, taking him to parks, restaurants like Andiamo! or shopping in Mall of the Emirates. Lebanon offers better health and education systems (plus an unequalled social life!), but I like it here, especially the multicultural aspect. We will go home, but for now I’m enjoying what this city has to offer.’
Youmna Yammine Moussa, 26, translator
‘I used to visit my sister here, so Dubai has always felt very familiar to me. I moved here in 2006 for several reasons – my husband, better salaries, international exposure, a cultural mix and a fancier lifestyle. Dubai has tons going for it. What I love is what we lack in Lebanon, such as a leader’s vision, security and order. Don’t get me wrong; Dubai has its own challenges – rent prices and taxis being its biggest downfalls. I work as a translator and we live in International City, one of the only places rent is affordable!
‘Life here is busy, so I hardly have time for hobbies or activities. I spend time with friends, mingling mostly with other Lebanese expats. We go to Wafi Gourmet and Romano Macaroni Grill. Our latest hot spot is a Lebanese Diner called Roadster in The Dubai Mall. Lebanese people are everywhere – just head to 400 or Sho Cho on a night out and we’ll be there.
‘Lebanon may have a history and culture that dates back to ancient times, but Dubai’s is also rich – it’s just newer. The culture is different here, too. I come from Mount Lebanon, an almost homogenous community where families stick together and everyone knows everyone. Dubai is different; it’s a kaleidoscope city, bringing multiple nationalities together.
‘I’ve learned that other people perceive the Lebanese quite differently here – I’ve heard us called arrogant, special and the Mafia! But I’ve never felt any negativity and it’s the mix of cultures here that I love so much about Dubai.’
LIFCO SZR, 04 332 7899
Roadster, The Dubai Mall, 04 339 9110
Romano Macaroni Grill, Festival Centre, 04 232 6001
Sho Cho, Dubai Marine Beach Resort, Beach Road, 04 346 1111
Lebanese Independence Day, 22 November
Lebanon’s history dates back to around 4,000BC, when it was home to the Phoenicians, a maritime trading culture. Since then it has been part of numerous empires, including Persian, Roman, and, more recently, the Ottoman Empire, which ended with World War One. Lebanon then fell under French control, before it became independent in 1943. While the country enjoyed economic growth, it was troubled by sectarian rivalry, and a bitter civil war that started in 1975 and did not conclude until 1990, 15 years later.
The country has also suffered at the hands of its immediate neighbours. In particular, the Israeli invasions in 1982 and in 2006, which have been blamed for the deaths of thousands of Lebanese and Palestinian refugees in the country. Despite its problems, Lebanon is blessed with breathtaking beauty and a rich culture. Now it’s hoped the election of general Michel Suleiman last year will bring renewed peace to the country.