Madinat Zayed, heart of the desert

00:35, Feb 18 2013
Desert dreams: If the sand becomes a problem, it’s only a short trip to the bright lights of Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

 Why did you move to Abu Dhabi?

I graduated in 2011 with a teaching degree and couldn't find a job. I applied for about 20 jobs before I explored the idea of teaching abroad. I didn't have to look hard before I was offered a job here. I don't live in a big city in the United Arab Emirates. I live in a small town called Madinat Zayed, in the real desert.

What do you do there?

Emma Kate Phelps
Emma Kate Phelps lives in a small town in the real desert.

I am a grade-2 (year-3) teacher in an international school.

What do you like or dislike about it?

I like the fact that I work with people from all around the world. I also like that I can cheaply and easily travel to Europe and Asia. I only moved here in May last year and I have already travelled around the United Kingdom. I plan to go to Sri Lanka in April. Covering up in public is tough sometimes, especially when it gets up to 50 degrees. The sand is also a problem sometimes.


How does the cost of living compare with New Zealand?

It is a lot cheaper to live here compared with New Zealand. My income is tax free and food is relatively cheap. Oh, and the petrol is cheap too (the UAE has almost 10 per cent of the world's crude-oil reserves).

What do you do on weekends?

I go into Abu Dhabi, Dubai, or stay with family in another small town about two hours away. I generally just relax, as the weeks are tiring. The holidays are when I explore.

What do you think of the food?

I love the food! I am a vegetarian and I don't find it difficult to find good vegetarian food. My favourite thing to eat is probably the big fresh dates. The biryani with dried fruit, nuts and fried onions is delicious too.

What's the best way to get around the city?

I don't drive here, so I either catch the bus or a taxi. The traffic can be crazy at times.

What's the shopping like?

Where I live it is often hard to find certain foods or other things that I need, but in the big cities it is no problem. You can find some bargains at the souqs in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

What's the nightlife like?

I am not too sure. There is no night life where I live. With being a teacher, I am too exhausted to even think about going out at night.

What is your favourite part of the town?

I like to go further out into the desert where there is a lovely resort. I like going there with friends to unwind after a long week.

What are your top tips for tourists?

Bring loose, light clothing which goes past the knees and elbows. Remember that alcohol is prohibited in the UAE as it is a Muslim country.

What time of year is best to visit?

Around January to March. The temperature is a lot more bearable at this time. It gets down to about 8 degrees Celsius at night. July is probably not the best time to come as it is Ramadan (Muslims observe fasting from sunrise to sunset).

What's your must-do thing for visitors?

Check out the Burj Al Arab (tallest building in the world), go dune bashing, enjoy an Arabic feast or hop on a bus and go for a drive around Abu Dhabi or Dubai. It's a great way to see all of the amazing architecture.

How easy is it for you to get back to New Zealand?

There is no direct flight to New Zealand. It is a bit of a journey, but worth it to see my family and friends, and to dig my toes in the sand at Omanu Beach.

If you know an expat who wants to share the inside knowledge on their home away from home, email with Expat in the subject line.

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