Anyone ever work in Dubai or the middle east? If so, what was it like? Any advice for people considering it?

There seems to be a lot of interesting work happening there right now, and, more importantly, there's job openings. I'd love to stay in Atlanta, but I'm not seeing many jobs or getting many interviews...

So, how is working overseas?

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I currently work in the ME, have worked in Dubai, UAE and Doha Qatar involved in projects across the Gulf region, N.Africa and Asia. What do you want to know?

ps. I am actively seeking skilled design focused individuals for our design team
Hi Steve -

I've got so many questions, so I'll just start with the critical ones....

Pay - how is it? How does it compare to living expenses?

Working conditions - typical office? What is is like working in a culturally mixed office? What's the typical workweek? 40 hours? Significantly more?

Time off - 2 weeks / year, or significantly more?

Languages - is english the dominant language, or how handicapped will I be as a mono-lingual american?
In response:

Pay, it depends on nationality, experience and gulf experience. So there are alot of variants
Senior proect LA should expect between 5500 - 9000USD per month, but it is dependent on the firm. It is TAX free, but that % gets eaten by the rental prices. Alot of firms will sell the picture to you, not being open about the true cost of living here......... research housing prices and location is a must.

Offices are generally open plan with divides, as post of the practices have set up on the back of engineering consultants. Not very inspiring. Although one fir i'm aware of has started to address this and create a more studio dynamic working environment.

English is used most places, but you'll start to pick up on key words of Arabic, Indian, Pakistani, Filipino, sari lanken etc etc

There is almost ZERO crime out here.

Driving is crazy, very crazy......... but you get used to that too.

Normal working day id from 8 to 5 / 5.30 or 6 depends on the firm. the working week runs from Sunday to Thursday, with Friday and Saturday off. You get used to it after a while.

It's very multi cultural, and you need to have appreciate and respect other cultures and religions, especially during the religious month of Ramadan. No eating, drinking, chewing, smoking in public. The extent of religious influence differers from state to state. In Qatar, you need a license to buy alcohol, you buy this from one place or in the bars (which are only in hotel) there is Zero Pork in the country, while in Bahrain and UAE you can get both in a restaurant or supermarket.

Most western contracts allow 1 calender month paid leave a year. there are public day off too, these are based on religion again. and different states acknowledge different days...... profit Muhammad's Birthday..... covered in Bahrain and UAE but not in Qatar. don't ask me why. I think Bahrain and Kuwait have the largest % of public days off, followed by UAE and Saudi with Qatar last.

Saudi is a different kettle of fish compared to Bahrain, UAE, Qatar etc. There is zero alcohol in the country (sorry kingdom) and women can not drive.......... yes we all knew that anyway, but they are not allowed to drive there, and are covered when in public....... so don't head to Saudi as your first experience.

My wife and I (with 3 year old) love it out here, and don't look forward to the day we head back to the UK, nasty weather, crime and TAX.

Sorry it's a little rambling, but i hope it gives you a rough idea about life ad working out here. If you have any other questions just drop me a email ( We are currently recruiting, so you could attach your CV too.


I have family who live in Dubai, and have visited. Personally I think it would be a great experience, but Like Steve is saying, cost of living really dictates the salary of a job. In Dubai, English is used widely but knowing Arabic or Farsi helps a lot in communication. Most jobs I have come across are only looking for LA's with 5+ years under their belt. If I came across something worth while I'd look into it. Its a big move. And expensive one too.
Thanks for the feedback.

I'll definitely keep this in mind. My wife is open to the experience, but we can't go anywhere for another year until she finished her PhD.
I got offered a job in Dubai just by emailing the firm to ask about employment, before sending in my resume or work, so it shouldn't be that hard.


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