Want to work abroad but feeling unsure? Looking for a destination that serves as a healthy workplace, with a mixed population, a luxurious lifestyle and an easy transition?
Most people with these requirements immediately think of Dubai. However, barely two hours from Dubai lies Abu Dhabi, more culturally sound and peaceful, and the richest city in the world with booming job opportunities!
The less-marketed capital of the UAE has always had a low profile. The only times we hear about it is when we read about the world’s richest city or check out a list of the most prolific oil producing cities in the world. But Abu Dhabi offers much, much more than that.
Diverse growth opportunities
Abu Dhabi has taken concrete steps to diversify its economy from oil to other industries such as financial services and tourism. While Dubai had to diversify due its exhausting oil supply, Abu Dhabi's plans are well-rounded - for a sustainable, healthy, more secure future. Hence, the city has a number of growing sectors open for jobs in industry, real estate, tourism and retail. While Dubai is beginning to get saturated and is very expensive, Abu Dhabi holds a lot of promise and scope for the near future.
Around & about
People who have been to Abu Dhabi speak of it as a modern city without the urban blandness of Dubai. Beautiful parks, wide roads and tree-lined streets co-exist with tall office and apartment buildings. And there’s plenty of shopping too - with independent shops and shopping malls in abundance. Driving your own car is the most convenient mode of transport, but taxis are also widely used by expats for short rides around the city.
Expats from everywhere
The crowd comprises professionals from the United Kingdom, Europe, Australia, Ethiopia, Somalia, Philippines, the Indian sub-continent and various Arab countries. This makes the place a veritable melting pot. Apart from Arabic (which is the official language), you can get to hear many tongues here - including English, French, Hindi, Urdu and Bengali.
The main religion of Abu Dhabi is Islam but the people here are tolerant of all religions and for most purposes one can follow one’s own religion without interference. Drinking alcohol and eating pork, though restricted, isn't illegal but available at designated outlets only.
Zip to Dubai
Now, if you want the lifestyle of Dubai complete with the party scene, you can have the best of that as well. Since the two cities are only a couple of hours apart, you could just zip down to Dubai when needed, or live in Dubai and commute to Abu Dhabi for work. A five-lane highway connects the two cities and the 130 km distance can be covered with ease!
The coming boom
In 2005, the Abu Dhabi government established the ‘Plan Abu Dhabi 2030’, which includes development of infrastructure, environment, transport and heritage. The objective is to make Abu Dhabi the most sustainable Arab capital.
Under this, a number of projects have been planned and some are well on their way - these include the Yas Island, a Ferrari park (both of which are already operational and a must-see on any tourist’s list). The Danet Abu Dhabi is a much-awaited development which will feature 36 mixed-use towers, two shopping malls, two mosques, and a five-star hotel. The Saadiyat Island is another much-hyped development as it will be home to the stunning Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and the Louvre Abu Dhabi.
Abu Dhabi plans to sustain itself through energy resources other than fossil fuels because it believes that the future lies in sustainable, renewable energy resources and plans are to fully develop these sectors by the year 2030.
With all these plans in place, the sectors expected to boom in the near future are:
- Real estate
- Arts & culture
- Transportation engineering / design
- Renewable energy (other than the already-existing opportunities in oil and gas)
We saved the best for last. If you have a family, then you’d be interested to know that Abu Dhabi offers good educational facilities, cheaper food and, of course, tax-free salaries!
So how’s life for a working professional in Abu Dhabi? Apart from the very attractive tax-free salaries, companies give about 30 calendar days of leave a year and many pay for annual flights that take you home and back. Some organizations may provide accommodation or may include a housing allowance in your package. Medical insurance is also included for some and complete relocation packages are also available for the more senior positions.
The working week usually begins on Sunday and ends on Thursday.
Contrary to what some may believe, women can live extremely comfortably in Abu Dhabi. They can go out, drive, work and don’t need to wear a veil (though dressing modestly is recommended). Education and healthcare facilities are good too.
Ramadan is a period of fasting for Muslims so restaurants are shut during the day, but the night-time dining during this period is full of zest. Most companies usually work only about four hours a day during this time and the Eid holidays post Ramadan go on for up to a week.
Getting a job
Getting a job in Abu Dhabi is tough even with growing opportunities, as many expats are constantly on the move in the Gulf. But the system is more flexible now and skills aren't as specific as they may be in other countries. So the best way to go about it is sending your CV across to expat career websites, making the right friends and spreading the word. Word of mouth is invaluable here!