The People of the UAE: Discover the stories of 6 people living and working in the UAE

Welcome to the fifth edition of The People of The UAE, The Huntr’s unique storytelling series sharing the portraits, tales and favourite gems of folks living and working in the UAE. Discover the unique stories of six people here, now…

The People of the UAE: Discover the stories of 6 people living and working in the UAE

Yacoub Mohammad

42 YEARS OLD, Indian

Born in Kerala, India, 42-year-old Yacoub has been working at Al Farwania Restaurant for the last 15 years. He is the only person in his family who lives and works abroad and he goes back to visit them once a year. When The Huntr met Yacoub, he was feeling revitalised after a 5-month stay with his family back in India.

The eldest of his siblings, Yacoub is single and ready to mingle and told us he’s looking for a wife – admitting: “we all dream of having a family of our own.”

He works a double shift at the restaurant for 13-hours most days and doesn’t take a day off in order to maximise his salary and the money he can send home. As such, he usually eats breakfast, lunch and dinner at the Umm Suqeim gem. He told us “I like working here. It’s calm and the people I work with are the best.”

He loves to have the paratha for breakfast and a biryani for lunch. And says: “I like living in Dubai. It’s exciting and I have no complaints. But of course everyone away from their family will be a little homesick, and I am no exception.”

Yacoub lives in Al Quoz and loves to go to the beach opposite the restaurant in after he finishes his shift at work, telling us “It’s very nice. Especially when the weather is good. I like the breeze there.”

The People of the UAE: Discover the stories of 6 people living and working in the UAE

Asih Wulansari

34 YEARS OLD, Indonesian

Wulan was born in Jakarta, Indonesia. She works as the Associate Vice President of Business Marketing at Mashreq Bank. Before ended up working in the banking sector, she initially wanted a creative career in architecture or design. She started off working at a marketing agency, which exposed her to a lot of different sectors. She said she feels lucky that she’s happy in her job and loves what she is doing.

The 34-year-old has been living in Dubai for 11 years. She moved here with her mother, who used to work for the Ministry of Trade of Indonesia and represented their office in Dubai.

She lives in the Downtown area, her favorite part of the city. She also loves the fact that it is close to Jumeirah – a neighbourhood bustling with interesting coffee shops and homegrown concepts. She prefers to have breakfast at home but if she goes out, she likes to have Arabic breakfast at Mama’eesh in DIFC. For lunch, Wulan loves Betawi, an Indonesian gem with two branches – one in Karama and one in JLT. Whenever she visits she always orders Nasi Padang and Gado Gado (a type of salad with peanut paste). She also likes Mamak for Malaysian food and usually orders Nasi Lemak – a dish with rice cooked in coconut milk, chicken, peanuts and sambal.

In her free time, Wulan loves to discover new gems and places in Dubai. She and her Emirati friend Hala run a social media platform called Table Number 34 documenting their discoveries. When she wants a dose of culture she visits “Dubai Creek – where it all started” and told us that she loves living in Dubai because “Compared to Jakarta where I previously lived, it’s a lot easier to get around and plan your day because the traffic doesn’t get as busy here.”

Adding: “I also like the diversity and the ability to meet new people from all walks of life. Generally when people move to a new place they tend to mingle and stay within a specific circle of what they deem familiar (in my case the Indonesian community in Dubai) but this city allows you to break that pattern and meet new people, people that you connect with on a personal level. That is how I met my husband who is Lebanese.”

The People of the UAE: Discover the stories of 6 people living and working in the UAE

Hala Zamani

34 YEARS OLD, Emirati

34-year-old Hala Zamani was born and raised in Dubai. The Emirati works as a Marketing Manager for Emirates NBD. She told us that she loves her job because it allows her to “make banking interesting.”

Hala lives in Al Tawar, close to Terminal Two. She likes it because she has a lot of family around the area. Her favourite neighbourhood in the city is Al Quoz because it’s an “area that has a little bit of everything – coffee, food, art, plants, karak, fitness and more.”

During the weekdays she sometimes has a pre-work breakfast with her work colleagues and they go to places like Izu Brasserie and Bakery in City Walk or Mama’eesh in Jumeirah. Her order usually varies from boiled eggs to Shakshuka – but it’s always an egg dish of some sort as she says “eggs are a must in the morning.”

On the weekends, especially on Fridays, Hala will have lunch at home with her family. More often than not they eat traditional Persian and Middle Eastern food. Usually a base of rice with fish. She loves “any type of Persian stew with white rice.” For dinner, she enjoys visiting Dubai’s older hotels, like the Grand Hyatt. She particularly enjoys an Indian restaurant called iZ Lounge, there: “They have live cooking stations where you can sit at the bar and they cook the food in front of you. It’s nice because you can have a conversation with the chef, and if you have any requests you can customise the spice level. I love their Paneer Tikka.” Another favourite is “Shabu Shabu in Al Diyafa. As the name suggests they serve Shabu Shabu, a Japanese hot pot dish of sliced meat and vegetables.” Hala’s favourite coffee shop is Cafe Rider in Al Quoz, she “loves its vibe and I usually visit on a Saturday. My go-to drink is a flat white.”

Her favourite hidden gem is a place called Creative Minds. It’s a huge store that she visits for art supplies and is located in Al Barsha near Lulu Hypermarket – “It has everything from art supplies, kitchen supplies, and basically every tool you might think of or you might need: Glue guns, wood carving tools, paints, tailoring equipment, knives and cutting boards, and the list goes on.” As you might have guessed from this, Hala’s hobby is artistic in nature – “I sometimes experiment with abstract painting. I love mixing colours, I find it a type of therapy and a way to express myself. Abstract art, unlike other types of painting, is free, there are no restrictions on what you can and cannot do. I get my inspiration from places like Art Dubai, the Sikka Art fair, events in Alserkal Avenue. My paintings depend on my mood and inspiration, which is heavily affected by music. I listen to orchestral music like Hans Zimmer or electronic dance stuff. One of my favourite songs is called ‘Age of Emotions’ by Mahmut Orhan.”

The People of the UAE: Discover the stories of 6 people living and working in the UAE

Jasim Mohammed Said Almazrooei

19 YEARS OLD, Emirati

19-year-old Jasim was born and raised in Ras Al Khaimah. He was studying Mechanical Engineering at the Emirates University in Al Ain, but he left to complete his military service, which is 1.5 years. He has one more month left of military service, which he says was “a new and wonderful experience, but tough” and he’s ready to go back to university soon. Ever since he was in Middle School he wanted to study Mechanical Engineering and loves “modern style buildings” – something that he credits with being so close to Dubai and seeing it change so dramatically since he was a young boy.

He says: “I love everything about Dubai. From the iconic Burj Khalifa to The Creek, to The Frame and the Water Canal. The creativity and effort put into building such landmarks is so inspiring. I love all the landmarks in Dubai.” Right now Jasim lives in Ras Al Khaimah but he comes to Dubai as often as he can – sometimes every day.

In his hometown, Jasim loves Al Marjan Island in Ras Al Khaimah because “it’s full of good restaurants and places to relax.” His favourite place to eat is Al Murjan Restaurant located in the Al Murjan Hotel. He also adores the beaches in Ras Al Khaimah – “They’re just so beautiful and serene. The weather in Ras Al Khaimah is a little cooler than Dubai so that helps a lot. My favourite of all the beaches is Maarid Public Beach.” 

Jebel Jais, which is the highest point in all of the UAE, also offers adventure for people who love the great outdoors,” and Jasim told us that he “likes to go camping at the many designated public camping spots to get closer to nature.”

In his free time, he loves to pursue his passion for architectural photography, which is why he spends as much time as possible in Dubai because he feels it has the best buildings in the UAE.

For some culture, Jasim loves the Al Shandaga Historical Area – “The architecture there is amazing. It really takes you back to how our forefathers used to build their homes and live.” He also loves to visit art exhibitions, Al Etihad Museum is his first choice.

His favourite hidden gem is in Dubai and it’s “An Indian restaurant that is more than 20 years old that serves the most amazing chicken biryani out there. It’s called Gazebo and it’s located in the Bin Sougat Center on Airport Road opposite Dubai International Airport.” He also loves to eat at Cocoville in Jumeirah 1 and Leila Restaurant on The Boulevard in Downtown when he’s in Dubai.

The People of the UAE: Discover the stories of 6 people living and working in the UAE

Zhanna Asymbekova

30 YEARS OLD, KAZAKHSTANI

Zhanna was born in Kazakhstan but moved to Russia when she was 21 and spent most of her adult years there. She first came to Dubai in 2014 and is a stay at home Mum, which she says is “the hardest and most rewarding job in the world.” She has two children, a 3-year-old boy called Umar and a 7-month-old baby girl called Aya.

She studied International Management at the University of Moscow, which is where she met her husband. Before moving to Dubai four years ago, Zhanna had visited Dubai twice before – once with her Mother and once with her husband on their honeymoon. They fell in love with the city and decided to move here.

The family live in Rimram in Dubai Land, which she says is a bit far away but the community is great – “it’s very family orientated, our neighbours are very friendly and we are very happy there.”

One of her favourite places in Dubai is Mushrif Park, because “it’s very beautiful plus there are a lot of things for kids to do.” Another is Deira: “Especially at night! When all of the lights are on and the people are walking and gathering on the streets. It’s just amazing. My husband says it’s like Las Vegas during rush hour. It’s so different from the rest of the city.”

Her preferred spot for lunch is Sheikh Al Mandi: “We love to order the Chicken Madhbi. Their kebab is excellent as well. They offer complimentary tea and the staff are so friendly.” We also love Breakfast to Breakfast in DIFC, their freshly baked sandwiches are great. “Plus, if we want to be adventurous, we just head to International City. There are so many gems there and all sorts of different cuisines – Afghani, Indian, Russian, Chinese and many more. You can find the best Laghman in the region at Zam Zam Suyi in the China Cluster.”

The People of the UAE: Discover the stories of 6 people living and working in the UAE

Shaima Tahboub

28 YEARS OLD, Jordanian

28-year-old Shaima has been living in the UAE for all of her life. Her mother was born in Hebron and her father was born in Amman. Her parents moved to Abu Dhabi the the mid-70s. She works as the PR and Marketing Manager for Luxe House, which is the family business: “I’ve always wanted to work in the family business. I knew it was my calling. But I didn’t do it right away. After graduating I pursued a career in PR before moving to Luxe House, which is part of the Tahboub Group – our family business.” Shaima studied Advertising and PR at the American University of Sharjah.

She lives in Meydan with her husband, which she loves because it is “so peaceful and quiet.” Her favourite place to have breakfast is at La Serre, which holds a special place in her heart because it is where she met her husband. She always orders scrambled eggs and jasmine tea. Her favourite spot for lunch is Boca in DIFC. And her favourite hidden gem is the Arabian Tea House Café on Al Fahidi Street.

Ramadan is Shaima’s favourite time of the year: “You get to experience and see the true colours of the community, traditional food, cultural practices, the closeness of families, and friends.”

Two interesting things about Shaima are, one: “I get these phases where I spend a certain amount of time trying out new things. Salsa, off-roading in the desert, jewellery making, and I even almost started a travel blog.” Plus: “Growing up I was obsessed with the Spanish language. So right after I graduated, I decided to go to Barcelona for 3 months and lived with a Spanish family (who didn’t really speak english) to learn Spanish. Barcelona holds a special place in my heart.”


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