Who would have thought that Abu Dhabi would be an “it” place for black women professionals, with all the thriving cities here, at home. It goes far beyond location, as Abu Dhabi introduces the unique ability to enhance your resume, lifestyle, and the opportunity to feel financially secure.
First, toss out any of your preconceptions about Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. This is one of the hottest locations in the world (literally and figuratively), employing a vast variety of professional talent, mostly in education, finance, and healthcare. Though it used to be “hotter,” in terms of salary and prospects, it is still not to be dismissed. It may be the one place where starting over is possible, without reminders of what once held you back.
In a nutshell, Abu Dhabi is a starting point for anyone looking for something new, especially me.
Connection Begins Before You Even Leave
Thanks to the internet, I was introduced to a network of black expats from the Caribbean, U.S., and U.K. These groups welcomed me with open arms, and through LinkedIn, I had “coffee dates” before I stepped off the plane. I found other black women from all walks of life—teachers, pilots, investment bankers, Buddhists, and artists. Many of the black women I met were starting over after a death or divorce, millennials looking for new experiences, or reinventing themselves in their mid-life.
Money, Security, and Self
Abu Dhabi is still the “best kept” secret, with its sister, Dubai nextdoor—the more liberal Emirate. With fully paid health programs, flights, and positions with higher salaries than many parts of the world, it makes it easier to thrive instead of survive. Earning more while getting fantastic benefits is a great place to be in. This financial freedom, combined with the exotic surroundings, led to a complete epiphany about my own life: I was in complete control, and it felt glorious.
Find Your Favorite Reggae Spot in Abu Dhabi
If you think having a good job and a paid-for home is everything, that’s just the start. There’s cultural fun, including reggae parties, African markets, concerts, dining at the Shangri-La, Hakkasan, Cipriani, and a must-do brunch at The Rosewood, or the familiar early morning breakfast at IHOP. There was nothing I needed that I didn’t get, even through Amazon. I had five shipping addresses all over the world, which would hand-deliver via Aramex. There are no traditional street addresses or area codes in Abu Dhabi. The delivery guy would call me, ask me where I was, and it was my job to do the best to explain, but it always worked out.
A Network of Astounding People
The women that I met every Friday at Starbucks, resulted in my writing again and publishing a new book. These new friendships offered a sense of groundedness, as we were all expats and needed the same things. I also met with a group of executive women in Abu Dhabi occasionally, to support and swap business ideas.
Broaden Your Perspective
Travel reigns supreme. Several people I knew traveled to Seychelles, Maldives, Kenya, and India. I stayed inside the U.A.E. instead of traveling nearby, because there was plenty to enjoy locally. And yes, I was always tired from work. If there were any challenges, it was my long work hours, but I made sure I had fantastic weekends: Thursdays, drinks after work; Friday, brunches; and Saturdays, a desert excursion or the beach.
What Abu Dhabi gave me was renewed courage, new skills in a global economy, and cultural awareness that helped me navigate some awkward situations. In Abu Dhabi, I learned to take pleasure in self-care, too. It’s a lifestyle that any black woman can benefit from, if she dares.
-Editors’ Note: This article was originally published in July, 2017.