Tag Archives: UAE

The one comparing expat Dubai vs. Perth

I hesitated using the “vs.” in the title of this post because I don’t want to make it sound like these two fine cities are competing (in this case, for the affection of the expat Blantons)…because in my mind, they are not. There is no “winner” or “loser” in this little post/exercise, but rather just something I’ve been ruminating over for a few months now. I don’t know how many people make this jump from one of these cities to another, but as a summation of the two, I thought it would be an interesting view. So without further ado….

  • Dubai
    • Significant and established expat community: Only 10% of the population in the UAE is Emirati, leaving 90% to the expats (and Americans are few and far between).
    • Cultural diversity: Dubai is the biggest melting pot of cultures that I have ever had to privilege to experience. The vast number of different languages, religions, foods, home cities, and traditions in this city is mind boggling and humbling. I loved that aspect. The downside to this, however, would be that there are some significant communication barriers that ensue. If you’ve ever had to direct a cabbie around or ordered takeout in Dubai, you know what I am talking about.
    • Muslim country: Islam is the official religion of the UAE and the religion permeates into the civic laws and practices. While I didn’t have to cover my hair, there are certain rules citizens must abide by and of which to be cognizant.
    • Haves” and “have nots“: I have never before seen more wealth displayed by material objects than I did in Dubai (cars, villas and apartments, jewelry, clothes, shoes, food, etc). I have also never before seen such a marked discrepancy between the rich and the poor. Dubai was (and still is) being built upon the backs of tens of thousands of laborers, who work all hours in the heat for very little pay.
    • The lack of seasonality: The best way to describe the “seasons” of Dubai are hot, hotter, and “don’t go outside or you’ll melt”.
    • Ease of travel: I forgot the exact stat, but there is a ridiculous percentage of the world’s population that lives within an 8 hour flight of Dubai – that, coupled with the fact that DXB is the Emirates airline hub, means that there is continual easy, quick, and lovely travel all within a quick (single) flight.
    • Hotel and restaurant scene: I love Charlotte, NC, Houston, TX, Louisville, KY and yes, even Durham, NC, but I wouldn’t say that any of these cities are hugely “trendy”; if a hot new hotel or restaurant opens in the states, it typically is in LA or NYC. Globally, you could probably include London and Dubai to that list. And even though I am the furthest thing from trendy, it was fun to go to a new restaurant or hot spot in Dubai that could only boast other locations in London, LA, NYC, etc.

  • Perth
    • Western similarities: I did love the cultural diversity in Dubai, but it was nice to move to a city where English was most everyone’s first language, we could easily find a church to attend (note: there are churches in Dubai!!! We were never religiously persecuted, but Protestant churches in Dubai were few and far between, that’s all), we could hold hands in public, and I could purchase wine with ease.
    • Aussie slang: This is a positive and a negative. On the plus side, I’ve loved learning that while Australians do speak English, they have their own twist with different words and phrases that are completely uniquely Australian – it’s fun! On the (kinda) downside, initially I did have trouble understanding certain faster clipped accents or aforementioned terms. Not really a “downside” I suppose – it’s all part of the adventure 🙂
    • Wine and coffee: The wine and coffee in Perth (and basically Australia at large, from what I have experienced) are heads and shoulders above anything I’ve ever had before – perfection.
    • Isolated: I’ve written to this point before, but it can’t be overstated enough (especially if you’re considering a move to Perth), the city is isolated. There are some great spots within driving distance and Bali is only a 4 hour flight (not to mention all the smaller perhaps less well known WA locales that are within a faster flight such as the Kimberley’s, Exmouth, Albany), but even getting to the east coast of Australia is a long(ish) flight – not just a hop, skip and a jump to be sure. You’ve just got to be ready for long flights (but the perk of that is racking up those frequent flyer miles!)
    • Weather changes: Our first few weeks here gave me a bit of a pause when I thought about my prayers for rain in Dubai because it felt that all we had in terms of weather was rain, rain, and more rain. A friend (and fellow expat) asked the question of “Do we live in Perth or Seattle?” Completely valid query. That being said, the temperatures were mild (for winter!) and we did get some sunny days. And then once winter started to wrap up and spring began, you’d be crazy to complain. The season changes are more subtle than I experienced in the states, but it exists, and for the most part, the weather here that Ive seen is excellent.
    • Gorgeous natural green spaces, walking paths, and waterfronts: Dubai had a handful of green spaces and waterfronts, but most were completely manmade. Perth has some of the loveliest parks, hiking trails, vineyards, lakes, riverside running paths, and beaches (no artificial islands in sight).
Image via Emirates

Image via Emirates

  • Dubai and Perth
    • Expensive: Dubai and Perth are pricey. Period. End of subject. Groceries, rent, cars, eating out. That being said, Dubai’s taxis and petrol are super cheap!
    • Beaches: Ask me if I would choose between the beach and the mountains and Ill choose the beach every single time. Dubai and Perth have fabulous, free beaches in abundance. I will really miss living within either walking distance or a ten minute drive when we eventually head back to the states.
    • Safety: While I didn’t ever feel that Charlotte was “dangerous”, Perth and Dubai are exceedingly safe cities. Of course one always has to be aware of their surroundings and the neighborhood (and not be unnecessarily reckless), but the crime rates in Dubai and Perth is minute and that helped me rest easy.
    • Fabulous local/drivable opportunities: We have been blessed to do a lot of local travel near to Perth (Margaret River, Swan Valley, Lancelin Beach) and Dubai (Fujairah, Abu Dhabi, camel riding in the desert) – these quick weekend or day road trips have been some of our favorites.
    • Dream fulfilling: This is a bit of a personal one (and cheesy), but as our time abroad draws to a close, I can’t help but reflect on these last 18 months as some of the most fulfilling, fun, and humbling of my life. There have been ups and downs (nothing is perfect, y’all!), but Barr and I have wanderlust and have a tendency for itchy feet and choosing the “harder” path sometimes, and our times in Perth and Dubai have filled our desire to live abroad and be citizens of the world to a “t”.

11 Things You Should Know About the Middle East {Dubai}

Someone passed this link along to Barr, and it gave us both some extreme Dubai flashbacks. I’m still putting together my Dubai vs. Perth Venn Diagram (yes, a Venn Diagram) and these little memes definitely hit close to home…particularly the “Inshallah” (God Willing) one below:

Image via ScoopEmpire

Honestly, anytime you’d order takeaway and ask for a time estimate for delivery, you’d hear “30 minutes, Inshallah“. A cab ride: “It should be about 10 minute drive, Inshallah“. Waiting in a government line: “You’ll be seen today, Inshallah.” A repair man coming to fix something at your flat: “We’ll be there this afternoon, Inshallah.”

You get the idea.

I jest, but ask pretty much anyone, and I think they’ll tell you I actually use Inshallah in my vernacular on a regular basis, so go figure…

These humorous little tidbits are not to say that I don’t miss Dubai – there are plenty of things that I miss big time (our friends, the hot weather, the shopping, the Arabic culture, etc).

Furthermore (and don’t worry, I won’t get too political on this point), I am doubly proud of the role the UAE is playing on a global level with regards to fighting terrorism and specifically ISIS.

So Dubai peeps: thoughts on the link above…and has anyone ever used one of those shattafas in the bathrooms? Alarming! 😉 Happy Monday all and until next time..

The one where we said goodbye to Dubai

Tomorrow I go off to do my favorite thing: pack and organize! And in all fairness, only one of those is really my favorite thing (the latter), but I seem to do the former a lot. But that’s okay! Just means we get to go to plenty of new and different places 🙂

Burj Khalifa on National Day 2013

Burj Khalifa on National Day 2013

The majestic Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi

The majestic Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi

I will be making the eleven hour flight from PER to DXB (direct, yall!) to pack up and say good bye to the UAE. As I mentioned before, this is a bittersweet move as we have loved our time in Dubai and met some incredible friends and seen some amazing places. When we went to Dubai for a portion of our honeymoon almost three years ago, I dont think either of us ever dreamed that we would be back…to live. Inshallah this won’t be our last visit to Dubai.

Dubai - I'll miss you!

Dubai – we’ll miss you!

Leaving Dubai is already looking to be a challenge as many of our utilities and documents are in my husband’s name, leaving me in a bit of a pickle until he gets there…so yall know what that means? That’s right: packing and organizing! I thought maybe beach time, but given that the heat index is tipping in at around 110F, I may pass…there’s always shopping! 😉 Shhh, just dont tell Barr!

Cant believe it's almost been one year since we moved to the UAE

Cant believe it’s almost been one year since we moved to the UAE

Given all of this, there may be some sporadic posts over the next week as we ship items back to the states, try to sell furniture, close bank accounts, cancel visas, etc, but I’ll be back, and with one less apartment to concern myself with in this big ol’ world! TGIF and until next time…

National Day fireworks (duh) at the Burj al Arab

National Day fireworks (duh) at the Burj al Arab

Guest Restaurant Review on FooDiva: Don Alfonso 1890

Another day, another restaurant review! 🙂 Check out my second review for FooDiva’s fab site about my trip to Don Alfonso 1890, a hot new Italian eatery at the Shangri-La hotel in Dubai, near DIFC. A true Italian experience: yay or nay? Find out on FooDiva – buon appetito!

Mozzarella souffle: To. Die. For.

The Don Alfonso mozzarella souffle: To. Die. For.

UAE Art: Spotlight on Amira Rahim

Just in time for our move from the UAE (yup, we’ve touched down in Perth!), I found an artist whose work really appealed to me: the colors, the style, and the subjects – everything just worked, you know what I mean? I follow a Dubai-based online marketplace called Little Majlis on Instagram, and they posted a photo of one of Amira Rahim‘s pieces from her shop within their marketplace – I went to her Little Majlis “shopfront” and adored her other pieces! In particular she had a wonderful painting entitled Hajib Figure Study, and as soon as I saw it, I knew that I wanted it for our home.

Our lovely new piece of art


When we first moved to Dubai, Barr and I told each other that we wanted to leave the UAE with some unique art that really represented our time there, meant something to us. The seated woman wearing a colorful hajib by Amira was just the ticket. I emailed Amira the next day and requested the painting on canvas, and within a week picked up the painting from her home in Abu Dhabi – the process couldnt have been any smoother, and Amira was a real joy to work with – it was also really cool to meet her as she was a fellow American expat in the UAE – the world is small, yall! I cant wait to hang our beautiful painting 🙂 I particularly love the henna tattoos on the woman’s hands – such a special touch.

Happy, Sunny Palms: “This painting is a bright, happy illustration of palm trees that appear to be almost dancing. With the Dubai skyline in the foreground, it captures the essence of the UAE. Vibrant, bold, and ever-changing.”

Heat Wave: “This painting was inspired by life in the UAE. Hot, long summers with never-ending heat waves. A city as bright and vibrant as Abu Dhabi needed a contemporary abstract rendering.”

Definitely check out Amira’s Facebook, Instagram, and Little Majlis pages (as well as her personal website and blog) for more information on the artist, her pieces, and her story in the UAE. Her contemporary, abstract art is a true joy.

Amira Rahim's contact information

Amira Rahim’s contact information

Chasing Temperate Weather

My husband and I don’t do cold weather. He is naturally cold all the time (I, on the other hand, am struck with hot flashes – my mom and I have that in common!), and after my years in Calgary (where snow each month of the year is not uncommon), our dislike (disdain, hatred…whatever) for chilly weather is extreme. No skiing vacations for us! Now that being said, 100 degrees in April (+ humidity) is a bit extreme on the other end of the spectrum. Like today in Dubai. After confirming the current temps in Perth, it’s safe to say we are chasing temperate weather…


And while we’re fully aware that we’re moving to a city that is on the precipice of their winter season, we also know that it will be no polar vortex that the states experienced. A little shopping may be necessary, however, as when we packed for Dubai, boots/sweaters/the like weren’t high on the priority list…Off to do some last minute packing! Until next time…

Missin’ ‘Merica

I recently came across this amusing (and accurate) Huffington Post article entitled, “27 Things You’ll Miss About America When You’re Abroad“. Give it a look – I can absolutely relate to numbers 2 and 3 in particular! My chattiness gets me some eye rolls from time to time, especially when a long line starts to form behind me at the grocery store 🙂

I dont, however, miss expensive gasoline (we can fill Blanca up here for about $10 USD)!

What about you, fellow expats? Anything glaring that HuffPo missed?

Visiting Dubai: Our Favorite Tips

We’ve just another set of visitors depart for the states after a full week of tourist-ing…one more visitor coming before the summer hits (every time I think about impending summer, I want to say “summer is coming” a la Game of Thrones’ “Winter is Coming” – super scary).

via QuickMeme.com

But I digress. I know I mentioned our jaunt to the Dubai World Cup, but that was just the tip of the iceberg. And instead of going through this particular visit day by day (I didnt take as many pictures as I should have, and what is a good blog post without plenty of pics?), I thought I’d do a quick write up of some our favorite tips/destinations/companies and the like for those of you planning a trip to Dubai. Bear in mind that I am by no means a travel agent and/or a Dubai expert – these are just some ideas that we’ve found are hits with guests if theyre here for a handful of days!

  • Decide if you want to stay near the shopping or the beach: Yes, there is shopping down by the beach, but we’ve found that when guests come, they prefer to do shopping at one of the big malls off Sheikh Zayed Road.


  • Don’t rent a car: There are plenty of cabs/hired cars, as well as the metro, that are easier to use than trying to navigating the (at times) treacherous roads – plus you dont have to worry about parking!

via Dubai-Taxi.com

  • Visit the Burj Khalifa by way of At.Mosphere: Skip the lines and touristy gift shop “At the Top”, and use that money to cover the minimum at the restaurant/bar/lounge, just a floor below the observation deck. Same effect, but you get a cocktail!


  • Book a desert safari tour: While they are a bit touristy, these desert safaris are awesome! We like to use Dubai Desert Safari Tour.


  • Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding: Dont miss this! I really like the breakfast, and you can learn so much about the culture of the UAE (and GCC at large). It’s about an hour and a half, and we always like to show guests the souks and take an abra ride afterwards. If you only have a few days, this is a great way to show visitors a more “traditional” view of Dubai.


What about fellow Dubai-ites (Dubai-ians?) – do yall have any visitor tips/tricks/places that can’t be missed? Until next time…


Dubai World Cup (and other Kentucky-esque news)

Like me, my husband is a bit of a nomad. Born in Chicago, lived in Tennessee, but his heart and soul are all Kentucky; he’s a good ole Kentucky boy through and through. This means primarily two things: he loves thoroughbred horse racing and lives and dies by the University Kentucky Wildcats. So if you know anything about either (or both) of these, you know it has been a good week in the Blanton household. 🙂

First, UK (University of Kentucky, not United Kingdom) progressed to the Final Four in the NCAA basketball tournament – I wish I could claim the diehard-ness of my fandom, but alas, it was only Barr who got up at all hours to watch two key victories last week. I joined in on the morning celebrations, just not at 2AM or 545AM…


And the Blue Grass State celebrations continued when we went to the Dubai World Cup to watch the ponies race ’round the track! The world’s richest (obviously) horse race was not as much like the Kentucky Derby as I think we thought it would be, but it was a sight to behold all on its own. For one, there was no infield or gambling – what a travesty! (During Derby, the infield of the track at Churchill Downs is Kentucky’s third largest city). However, the fancy British fascinators, Scottish kilts, and continually flowing champagne (sure, sure the horses were there too), made the Dubai World Cup a different type of spectacle. Too bad there wasnt a betting window, as this girl picked the winning horse! Enjoy some IPhone shots I captured below. We’re off to Abu Dhabi today with some friends in town from the Duke days, so Ill be back in action later this week. Until next time…

Go go go!

Go go go!

Hobnobbing with the beautiful people...and their fascinators

Hobnobbing with the beautiful people…and their fascinators

UAE Derby

UAE Derby

What's a Dubai event without some fireworks?

What’s a Dubai event without some fireworks?


Guest Restaurant Review on FooDiva: Social by Heinz Beck

I mentioned a few weeks back that I met with a local celebrity here in Dubai, and the secret is now revealed! Samantha Wood (wholly deserving of the “local celeb” status!) of FooDiva.net, an amazing food blog covering (impartial) restaurant reviews, food features, chef interviews, and culinary travel experiences, was seeking a few guest writers to cover some of the restaurant reviews – it seems like every week there is a new eatery opening here in Dubai, so there is no shortage of material! I emailed Samantha of my interest and  the next thing I knew, Barr and I were enjoying a meal at Social by Heinz Beck. Head on over to FooDiva to check out my review by clicking here. And if you’re local to Dubai, dont miss out on this fab restaurant! Until next time…

Raspberries 1.0, Chef Heinz Beck's signature dessert - and well worth every caloric bite!

Raspberries 1.0, Chef Heinz Beck’s signature dessert – and well worth every caloric bite!