Dubai has a large Pakistani population. We asked some recently-emigrated Pakistani women what they love most about Dubai, and what they miss about home
What’re your favorite shopping haunts and why?
Zara Khan (Associate at KPMG)
I love exploring the collections of the Lebanese designers that sell their clothes and accessories through private trunk shows here. My favourite nowadays is a label called DeebyDalia because of the fabrics they use for dresses and tops.
Zunaira Tamur (Homemaker)
Harvey Nichols, Boutique1 and Massimo Dutti. I can always count on them to have just what I need.
Alina Talha Rizvi (Entrepreneur, Founder at Allure)
I love to explore new and different designers. I don’t like wearing or shopping for what is easily available in the Mall. I like to pick up dresses from Ayesha Depala, Entre Nous and sometimes from Aizone. These days, I love Balmain’s Pearl Collection.
What do you love about Dubai? What do you dislike about it?
It truly is the best of both worlds. You have both the comfort of Pakistan and the taste of Europe all in one place. It’s the land of opportunity and something new is always taking off. But I dislike the superficiality of some of the people here. It starts getting to you after a while.
The thing I love the most about Dubai is that it is home away from home, yet it has the perfect touch of everything I love from the West. But I absolutely hate the traffic!
Dubai is my second home after Lahore and the best description for this place is that it’s the perfect mix of East and West. The weather is the biggest issue, but hey, it’s hard to hate Dubai!
Alina Talha Rizvi
I love all the options for entertainment and the complete sense of security one has living here. Also, I love to travel spontaneously, just pick up my bags and set off. Dubai is so easily accessible to any destination in the world. But I do hate how almost everyone here is so materialistic.
I remember talking to an older Emirati trader who talked so fondly about Karachi from the 70s that it brought tears to my eyes
What’s your favorite Dubai night out? What’s your go-to dinner place?
I love to go out anywhere in Dubai, really. It just comes down to what I’m in the mood for. A great night out can be a house party, a club or even sometimes a nice meal in a good restaurant. I’m a real foodie so restaurants are always a go-to for me. My favorites are Nobu, Zuma, Sass Cafe, Buddha Bar and Okku.
A nice relaxed evening with friends and family beats everything else. My latest restaurant obsession is Sass Cafe that recently opened up.
The best, most chilled-out place during pleasant weather is for sure 101 in the one and only Palm Hotel. For a casual, laid back night, it’s definitely Souk al Bahar which has great eating places like Shakespeare and Cafe Habana.
Alina Talha Rizvi
Favourite nights out include mostly yacht parties and fine dining. I loved Iris when the weather was nicer and these days, my go-to is Roberto’s.
For many Pakistanis living in Dubai, it’s a home away from home. Many things are similar: the heat, the help, and the fact that you can hear an azaan mostly everywhere. How far do you think this is true and what do you think you would like to see from your life in Pakistan included or excluded in your life in Dubai?
Despite loving my life in Dubai, I really miss my family being here.
Dubai is definitely a home away from home. I love the freedom and sense of security in Dubai, something that is missing in Pakistan.
The reason I decided to settle down in Dubai was to be closer culturally to my homeland. I lived in London during my university days and it used to give me pangs of homesickness, but in Dubai I hardly ever get that feeling.
Alina Talha Rizvi
My lifestyle in Dubai is very similar to Lahore. Yes, the heat, the help, the azaan, exist in Dubai too. Socially too, I’m busy in both Lahore and Dubai. The only difference is that I don’t have my parents here with me. I miss them terribly.
Amina Ajaz (Lawyer)
I remember having mixed feelings when I moved to Dubai six years ago. People would talk almost exclusively about what car they had just bought, what property they were planning to invest in, and what holiday they would take. I missed my friends in London terribly, and compared to our hangout spots in some wonderful dilapidated nooks and corners of Russell Square, Dubai seemed crass, commercial and a bit too shiny.
But then I remember one of my Emirati friends, who could not speak a work of Urdu, randomly belt out some 80s Indian song from an Amitabh Bachan movie. I remember going to Barasti and loving the live music, the food, the beach and the chilled-out crowd. I remember standing for the first time on the extensive coastline of the man-made Palm Jumeirah and could not believe this all used to be the sea. I remember talking to an older Emirati trader who talked so fondly about Karachi from the 70s that it brought tears to my eyes. And I remember the taxi driver who refused to take money when he found out that I too was Pathan.
I began to realize I was in a really interesting place. Michelin star restaurants, the Rolling Stones, Prince, and Eric Clapton in concert, Formula One weekends, the most incredible restaurants on the beach, lavish brunches, man-made islands with your villa opening up to a private beach, having a buffet in a palace, a meal in a hut in the sea and dinner in the sky. You name something outrageously extravagant and it exists in Dubai. Once you decide to partake in the luxuryâ€”Dubai will just offer you more and more wonderful surprises.
Often I feel like moving to Lahore in the hope of “making a difference” but get strictly told off by friends living there not to even think about it because of how unsafe it has becomeÂ
But the best thing about being in Dubai is that you are so close to home. On my way back from Lahore to Dubai I distinctly remember the chaotic airport, the shuffling and pushing, someone always smoking in front of the no-smoking sign, endless hours of load shedding but as I entered Dubai I could see every single building flashing with stroboscopes and a 6-lane highway lit up like it was day-time. The contrast between Pakistan and Dubai is upsetting and jarring. Often I feel like moving to Lahore in the hope of “making a difference” but get told off strictly by friends living there not to even think about it because of how unsafe it has become and how frustrating it is to live there with the load-shedding, broken work ethics, etc. Even your mother who misses you all the time lectures you to stay away.
In Dubai you will see women wearing short dresses. But you will also get invited to Pakistani parties where the wives sit separately from the men discussing their challenges in procuring the right bag. As you walk into a Mall in Dubai you can see the peaceful coexistence of the loud and the modest, the sophisticated and the kitschy, and most importantly, the liberal and the conservative.