The People of The UAE: 6 new stories and gems to discover

After a short hiatus, we are excited to return with a new edition of The People of The UAE. Discover the fascinating stories of six individuals living and working in the UAE.

Find out how long they’ve lived here, what brought them to the country, what their favourite gems are and what their life is like here. Dive in…

The People of the UAEArchie Chico

38 Years Old, Filipino

Born in Manila, Archie has been living and working in Dubai for three years. Prior to his move to the UAE, he lived in the KSA for five years. He moved to Dubai because he wanted a change and he wanted to experience a different culture. He was attracted to Dubai because it’s “such a diverse place, with so many different nationalities and cultures.”

Archie works as a barista at the Appetite cafe in DIFC. In his free time, he loves to hang out with his friends and try the different coffee shops in Dubai. A keen learner, especially when it comes to new languages, he likes to socialise in Dubai’s speciality coffee scene and meet new people to engross himself in different cultures and languages. He can speak a little Arabic thanks to his time in Saudi, and a few phrases in Spanish and French.

Archie gets to go home to Manila once a year. He loves his hometown because it is “so full of life and there are a lot of people around.” He thinks that the Palawan Islands are absolutely stunning, but it’s a little too quiet there for him – he likes to be around people.

Archie usually makes his breakfast at home or sometimes he will have it at work, at Appetite in DIFC. He loves his chicken, and his favourite chicken place is the Al Taza in Dhiyafa.

The People of the UAE

Chang Sup Shin

33 Years Old, Korean

South Korean born Chang moved to Dubai in 1992 when he was just 7-years-old. Fast-forward 26 years and he is now the CEO of 1004 Gourmet – a company that imports and distributes Asian food to some of the city’s top Japanese restaurants (including the likes of Nobu, Zuma and Novikov).

Chang’s company also has a shop in Barsha and an e-commerce site supplying specialist foodie gems to Dubai and Abu Dhabi every day. He is excited to be relocating to a bigger shop space soon, which will feature a premium butcher, crockery from Japan, a speciality coffee shop and his wife’s Korean cosmetics company – Lamise Beauty.

In his free time, Chang likes to play basketball and watch movies. For breakfast, he loves the breakfast wrap at Cafe Rider. And for brunch, his favourites are Zuma and Sea Fu at the Four Seasons.

Shogun is one of his favourite restaurants for lunch and dinner. He says their Korean food is legit. For a special occasion, he loves Nobu and thinks that the chefs there are some of the most talented in the city.

He loves coffee and in particular the “consistent and amazing” Brew Cafe, especially as they get their coffee from The Barn Roastery in Berlin. He also loves Stomping Grounds in Jumeirah.

The People of the UAE

Farah Mekkawi

28 Years Old, Lebanese

Farah is originally from Beirut. She’s been living in Dubai for one year and previously lived in Abu Dhabi for three. She’s a landscape architect for Aecom Middle East. She says the best thing about her job is the people – “I love having my morning coffee with my colleagues before starting work. Sometimes we go for a picnic lunch in the park across from our office when the weather allows us to.”

In her free time, Farah loves to be active – whether that is jogging along the canal or doing some yoga in the Marasi Yoga Hub Park. She also loves Netflix (Manhunt: Unabomber, Gossip Girl, and Riverdale are her favourites) and is guilty of indulging in the occasional shopping spree at Bloomingdales or Dolce & Gabbana.

Her favourite place for breakfast is the Kaftan restaurant for amazing Turkish food on Jumeirah Road (there’s also a branch at La Mer, read The Huntr’s full review here). She loves to visit La Petit Maison in DIFC for dinner and feast on the escargot, ‘gnocchis tomates’ and ‘loup de mer’. She adores HAN Cuisine in Business Bay for lunch and says that the seafood is great – her favourite is the shrimp dumplings with black vinegar spicy soup seafood noodles special lunch combo.

Her favourite cafes are Angelina at The Dubai Mall for its amazing Americano and % Arabica for the cold brew.

The People of The UAE

Omer Gunal

27 Years Old, Turkish

Marble salesman Omer Gunal is Turkish. He moved to Dubai with his family in 2000 and has been here ever since (18-years and counting!)

In his free time, Omer likes to hit the gym or organise football games amongst friends (which is where The Huntr took his photograph).

He says his favourite place for breakfast is at home and that nobody else comes close. He makes sucuk and eggs with a side of grilled cheese toast.

Talking about his beloved Turkey, Omer explains that the Iskender Kebab from Bursa is his number one favourite. And that Bodrum, Mugla is “like heaven on earth in the summer” – it’s the place he recommends everyone going to Turkey visits. “Bodrum Central is where all of the shops and historical places are. You can also get a boat to take you around the coves of the different areas and dive in at every stop,” he enthuses.

He rates the brunch at Warehouse in Le Meridien Hotel. For lunch, he loves Butcher Shop & Grill for its consistently good steak throughout the UAE.

His favourite cafe is a hidden gem called Istanbul Flower. He loves the tea and Turkish desserts. You can find them next to the Safestway Shopping Centre on Sheikh Zayed Road.

The People of The UAE

Paul Southgate

49 Years Old, British

Born in Bristol in the UK, Paul has only been in Dubai for 4 months. He works as a rock climbing instructor at Mountain Extreme in Business Bay.

Paul also worked as a climbing instructor in the UK. A recent trip to India saw him fall in love with travelling. In pursuit of a new adventure, he landed in Dubai.

In his free time, Paul likes to “climb, climb and climb some more”. He is 49 years old but mentally he insists he is still 21.

Paul usually cooks and eats his breakfast home – it is usually just an apple or a piece of fruit. As a health conscious guy, he is pretty careful about what he eats, but Nandos is his weakness. He enjoys spicy food – “the hotter the better”.

Paul doesn’t really enjoy coffee or tea – he prefers juices and milkshakes. His favourite place to get a milkshake is Shake Shack at The Dubai Mall – he says it’s the one thing that will always bring him back there.

The People of The UAE

Tala Deesi

25 Years Old, Emirati

Tala was born and raised in Dubai. She is an assistant marketing manager at Emirates NBD. In her free time, she loves exploring new cafes, reading, watching TV shows and working out. She lives in Al Barsha and she loves it because all of her family – her cousins, aunts and uncles – live their too.

For breakfast, she says you can’t go wrong with Clinton Street Baking Company or The Cocoa Room at the Galleria Mall. She also enjoys the occasional visit to Happy Egg in Jumeirah 3. If she’s in the mood for some Lebanese food she gets her fix at Foul W Hummos in Al Barsha.

For lunch, she adores Maria Bonita in Umm Suqeim and for dinner, she usually goes for “safe options” like Ramusake in JBR and 3 Fils in Jumeirah.

Her top three choices for a good cup of coffee are Alchemy in Jumeirah for an Americano, Dose Cafe in City Walk for their lattes and The Espresso Lab in D3 for an espresso.

Having lived in Dubai all of her life (25 years and counting) she says: “I think I appreciate how I’m always inspired by Dubai. Places like Emirates Towers show you the future of technology and how Dubai is a dynamic city that’s always moving forward, Aserkal Avenue for art exhibits, and Bastakiya for the culture with a design twist, are amongst my favourites.”


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Photography and interviews for The People of The UAE by Amir Dakkak exclusively for The Huntr