Al Ain, United Arab Emirates Report of what it's like to live there
Personal Experiences from Al Ain, United Arab Emirates
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No. I've lived in Harare, Jo'burg, Sao Paolo, Tijuana, and various cities in China and Japan.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
Washington, DC; about 22 hours.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Comparable to the US, although produce seems cheaper. Mexican and Asian food staples are widely available, although some obscure things are hard to find (like chipotle chiles!).
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Black beans, pinto beans, certain beauty supplies.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Most major chains. . .McD, KFC, Hardees, Pizza Hut, also Chilis, Krispy Kreme, Papa Johns Pizza, etc.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Kenyan, Filipina, Sri Lankan, and Ethiopian maids/nannies are widely available but expensive--visa sponsorship for a year is about $2000 USD. Only certain nationalities can be sponsored. Salaries start at about 400 AED per month plus room and board, transport, etc.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes, in all the major hotels and clubs.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
No problem, although it's still very much a cash society.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Yes. In addition to the Mosques, there is a Catholic church, a general Christian Church (Oasis), and other bible studies in expats' homes.
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
Yes, similar to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, although most TV series are a year behind, so many folks download from the net. Sky TV and E-vision are both available. The Khaleej Times.
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
None, but it is appreciated if you can speak a few words.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Yes, taxis are very affordable and high quality.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
Gulf Specs with great AC and tinted windows.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, about 60 USD per month.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
iPhone, crackberry, etc. are alive and well here.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
Very limited outside of the education sector. Many of the ADEC teachers' spouses have not been able to find work here.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
At work: Covered from ankle to wrist to collarbone. I don't cover my hair or face. In public: At the malls and restaurants, no sleeveless or above the knee. . . Other than that, anything goes. At the hotels and clubs, anything goes, just like back home in the US. In town center you will be gawked at regardless.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
The heat exacerbates asthma sometimes. Medical Care at Tawam Hospital is excellent. The "government" hospitals tend to be a bit 3rd-world.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Extremely hot in summer (March through September). Tolerable in winter (October through February).
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Al Ain English Speaking School is okay for early childhood. The American School is in the midst of crisis. For middle and high school aged students, the pickings are slim.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
Sunflower Nursery, AESS.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, and growing. Soccer, baseball, jiu jitsu, rugby, basketball, golf, swimming, etc.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Not sure, but it's growing each year as ADEC hires more teachers.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
A lot of the social scene is based upon a membership at the Palm Resort or one of the hotels (Rotana, Hilton, or Intercontinental). Swimming, rugby, raquetball, soccer, etc. House parties, dinner parties, jiu jitsu, baseball, various cultural events, movies at the mall, etc
3. Morale among expats:
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Families yes, very quiet for singles.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
The call to prayer, learning about Islam, the melting-pot nature.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Visit the Zoo, Jebel Hafeet, the Hot Springs, Al Jahli fort, the Oasis, go dune bashing, hit a desert safari or camp in the desert, Pop over to Buraimi (Oman) for the day. . .
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
The souqs in Oman tend to be more authentic. Shop for a beautiful Abaya, Arabic calligraphy, fresh dates, Arabic coffee, a nice tea set.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
11. Can you save money?
Yes, but things are tight if you have school-aged children.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
winter Clothes--unless you're headed to Ski Dubai!
3. But don't forget your:
sunscreen, long-sleeved shirts and more modest clothing.