39 Signs You've Been Living In Abu Dhabi for Too Long

I've lived in Abu Dhabi now for 2 years. That's just enough time to realize all the things you love to hate and hate to love about a place. I feel blessed to call this place my home for the time being. And when I go back to the U.S. now to visit family, I'm shocked to realized how much I've changed. Here are "a few" things I've learned about living here that I wanted to share with you all. But, keep in mind, this is mostly my perspective as an American, a wife, and a female. Enjoy :)

39 (originally 25) Signs You've Been Living in Abu Dhabi for Too Long


  • You’re friends are jealous because you post beach pictures all year long.
  • You’ve looked up at least once because you thought someone was spitting on you, and then realized it was just the sky trying to rain.
  • You can’t get anything done between 1-4:30 because businesses close down for afternoon break.
  • You know that finding a parking space in most places is a gift from God and you wiggle in your seat when you find one. Or…you just do what the locals do and create your own.
  • You or someone you know drives a Land Cruiser or Nissan Patrol.
  • You no longer double take when you see a Corvette, Masserati, or Bently. But you will stop for Ferraris, Maclarens, Lambourginis, or a beautiful vintage piece.
  • You’ve gotten used to the creepy guys that stare at you like you’re from out of space.
  • You have an umbrella that serves no other purpose other than sun protection.
  • You’ve cancelled plans just because it was too hot outside and didn’t feel like being slapped in the face by the humidity.
  • You’ve ordered ridiculous things like toilet paper, a case of water, ice cream and more to be delivered to your doorstep and you’re not ashamed, even if the store is in your building.
  • You brunch, lunch, and coffee morning with the best of them, and always looking for the next restaurant to spend a leisure afternoon.
  • You know there’s no such thing as customer service here, and that no matter how many times someone says “Yes, Madammmmm,” in a sing-song tone, you still struggle to place an order, remedy a mishap, or file a complaint.
  • You’ve switched 5-6 lanes in moving traffic and didn’t feel like a complete douche.
  • You swear your family back home has never tasted a proper shawarma, falafel, baklava, or hummus.
  • You’ve gained at least 15-20 lbs (see the above) and have no idea how to drop it.
  • You’re constantly planning your next getaway, vacation, or exotic trip.
  • You know that hiring help is perfectly necessary, and wouldn’t dare live without your nanny, housekeeper, or live-in maid.
  • You say things like “Khalas” and “Inshallah” because no other phrase seems to express what you're feeling.
  • You know that most things are negotiable. Nothing happens on time. And "official" rules and regulations change regularly.
  • You give friends directions to your house by citing the nearest mall, landmark, or GPS coordinates because there are no real addresses here.
  • You’ve had so much things shipped to your home that you’re starting to feel like a cartel.
  • You go to Dubai for shopping, good food, and fun on a regular basis.


  • You’ve drank 14karat gold at Emirates Palace.
  • You know how to order in broken English when necessary (i.e. “same same”, “special full”, “big big one”, etc.)
  • You have friends from places you’ve never heard of until several years ago.
  • You look forward to cloudy days.
  • You own at least one expensive pair of shades and don’t sweat it because you wear them all year long.


  • You know that if you search hard enough, anything can be delivered to your door. Even Pinkberry.
  • You’ve ridden a camel, smoked shisha, got a henna tattoo, and attempted to belly dance at least once.
  • You expect everything to be open until midnight. And know that during Ramadan the city never sleeps.
  • You’ve had ongoing construction in every single neighborhood you’ve ever lived in. 
  • You’ve seen a sandstorm and said several prayers because you were sure this would be your last day on earth.
  • You live in a high rise apartment over-looking the city and you're not rich.


  • You’ve pulled up to a store or establishment in your car, placed the order, and then waited for the guy to bring it to your car door, like a boss!
  • You know to buy perfumes to take back home to your family and keep some for yourself.
  • You’ve made some of the best friends in your life and can’t imagine ever leaving!

What else would you add to this list?


My Abu Dhabi Essentials!


One of the requirements of being an expat in a foreign country, is opening your mind and eyes to new ideas and learning to adjust. It hasn't always been easy, and I often miss home. But, Abu Dhabi has exposed me to cool things I wouldn't have normally used. Here are a few things I can't live without: 1. The Ample Supply of Art Supply Stores in the City

Abu Dhabi is essentially a big shopping center in the desert made up of an infinite supply of shopping malls. These malls house bookstores, and in Abu Dhabi, most bookstores carry art supplies. This means that with any trip to the mall I can quickly pick up a few canvases (or a lot) and paints to keep this artist happy!

Recently, I also discovered Green Branch, which is a fabulous independent art supply store in the city with walls and walls of materials. I do believe it is the best art supply store in the city. Don't be fooled by its humble accommodations, this place is a gem!

2. A Black Abaya


The black abaya has traditionally been worn in the desert for over a thousand years. Fast forward to 2014, the abaya has since evolved into a fashion-forward, sometimes sexy, often expensive garment for the modern Muslim woman. In the UAE, everyone wears them and for almost any occasion.

I love that I can throw one over my pajamas for a quick errand or two. Or I can jazz it up for an upscale event. It's versatile, elegant, and to be honest, I feel like a princess when I'm wearing it.

3. Burning Bakhoor

I have a feeling bakhoor can be found in every flat and villa in the Emirate. Purfumed wood or "oud" is set on burning charcoals to smoke your home into a decadently smelling abode. It's faster than burning candles, and with the many shops in the city, you can experiment with countless fragrant combinations including rose, frankincense, french perfumes, and more. Lately I've been loving the stronger "Oud" blends which are a favorite amongst the locals. In fact, I have some burning now!

4. Sandals, sandals, and more sandals!

I have to admit, I've never been much of a sandal-wearer. But in this sand-pit, you quickly get over any inhibitions at showing your pretty piggies. The weather is often too hot to wear anything else, and with Steve Madden, Aldo, and other shops being just a drive a way, what more can a girl want? I'm currently rocking these beauties from Steve Madden. BADEN in Gold/Cognac. It's a sexy one.

5. Sunscreen and Sunnies

My absolute favorite sunscreen. I'm pretty much allergic to everything else. This one keeps my face safe from the scorching desert sun. Oh, and yesterday's temp? 113 degrees Fahrenheit. Yea... cover up!

And last but not least, my beloved Ray Bans. Still the sunglass of choice in the Emirate, and an absolute essential with my black abaya and handbag.

What are some of your expat essentials?


Images sourced from Pinterest and Steve Madden



Random Musings Post-Four Months in Abu Dhabi

1. I do get homesick. Often. I'm particularly missing a proper Jersey slice of pizza, orange leaves, and rain. 2. I'm living in a sandbox and yet I am not getting nearly as much sunshine as I would like. Hopefully that will change in a few more weeks.

3. It actually does get cooler here and 100+ degree weather is not a permanent form of torture. Amazing, how your body adjusts and suddenly low 90s is quite agreeable provided the humidity is in check.

4. Camel milk is actually not that bad. In fact, I think today I realized I like it better than cows milk, which never liked me anyway. Camel milk is also more nutritious.

5. My painting is going well. My sanity on the other hand, questionable. My emotions are getting the best of me lately, and being a perfectionist and self-critic doesn't help the case.

Oh and check out my latest painting at www.facebook.com/amirarahimart :))

Poem & Latest Painting

Heavy pockets, empty hearts.Next door neighbors, worlds apart. Mixed races, closed minds. One God, all mankind.

A crafted paradise, for this hell on earth. A king of servants, with no worth. Wanted gold, till they found oil. Bought their diamonds, with discarded soil.

An empty nest, now a guarded cave. Copy the leaders, carve the sand with slaves. Stories untold, for people long ignored. Ship off the truths, and keep the lies on board. - Amira Rahim (c) 2013


8x10" - oil on canvas panel

I miss the sun! :(

We've been in our apartment now for about 2 months and I'm already ready to move. It doesn't get that much natural sunlight seeing how our windows face other buildings and are small and only on one side of our flat. I feel like the regretful Ruby who wasn't more demanding or picky at first. I'm starting to wonder if our previous options were better. Our flat is fully serviced but what's the point if you feel like you're still in a hotel?

As a painter, natural sunlight is very important. If its not the right time of the day in our room I can't even think about painting something without dragging the easel to the little wedge of light coming from the only window pane facing a little bit of sky.

I never thought it would affect me this much but I think I'm ready to move. At least to another flat in the building with better location. Maybe we should've gone with Reem Island after all :/

Ugh 10 more months to go.

In the meantime I'll get back to building my website and try not to be so anxious about painting.

*Post update*

Yes, this update comes not even an hour later as I enjoy my morning chai. I do have a few possible adjustments I can make to help cope with the situation.

1) Get out as much as I can a few times a week. Going to the grocery store around the corner doesn't count, unfortunately. I need to have more meaningful interactions with people other than my husband on a regular basis here, or else, well, I'll feel how I feel now.

That's not hard to do considering the many meetup groups here hosted by the many expat women in Abu Dhabi. I'm looking forward to one today actually at the Hilton near the Corniche. I went last week and it was very relaxing and fun.

2) Get better lighting for my art studio. This shouldn't be hard to do. It will just take some effort on my end to research the best type of lights, how to install them, and then go purchase them inshAllah.

3) Indoor plants, indoor plants, indoor plants. It may seem unrelated, but indoor plants are very essential when living in closed spaces like this. I'm a bit worried though, I can't even keep my fruit from dying on the counter in two days on account of AD's ever-present Humidity Monster.

4) Be sure to take my Vitamin D. I know I'm not getting any now. I take large doses ever since I read a few books on the topic. Now, it's important that I keep my levels high more than ever. Not trying to get depressed in the United Arab Emirates!

5) Work on my spirit. How I feel about me. The thoughts I entertain. Over the years, I've been reading quite a bit on the topic of self-nurturing. Not just self-esteem, but how our thoughts affect us. I've learned that usually when I'm feeling down and out about external factors, it's my internal hard drive that's really screaming for help. I'm going to give myself a few more hugs, read a few more positive affirmations, and listen to another kumbayah podcast here.


Peace and Light (no seriously, more light),