I came to the UAE in August of 1987, 30 years ago. I’d never heard of Dubai or Abu Dhabi, neither had anyone in Belfast, where I’d been living and working. They all assumed I was going to Saudi Arabia. I was offered a job at Tawam Hospital, in Al Ain so I thought I’d give it a try for a year.
I worked in the dental department there for 2 years and was ready to go home, but at the last minute I accepted a job in Dubai, and in 1989 I joined a clinic in Jumeirah.
We had so much fun in those days; when the Trade Centre was literally the only tall building for miles and Sheikh Zayed Road was a mostly deserted dual carriageway stretching into the desert. I joined the Dubai Country Club where I played squash and made a lot of friends. I was also lucky enough to join the newly opened Emirates Golf Club, an absolute oasis of green, peace and tranquillity far, far out towards Abu Dhabi. The far-in-the-future Mall of the Emirates was indicated by a huge hoarding in the sand. The Chicago Beach Hotel stood where Jumeirah Beach hotel is now and stretches of unspoilt beach were easily accessed in my Jeep Wrangler for days out and bar-be-ques.
I remember when the Crowne Plaza was built, and when Emirates Towers opened. I can remember when they let the first flood of water into Dubai Marina and I can remember when the Chicago Beach hotel was demolished. Dubai was a much quieter place back then. We would think nothing of popping to Sharjah to browse the souq or going down to Al Fahidi Street or Satwa to buy fabric for the tailor. The roads weren’t busy.
I lived in one of the old Shk Rashid villas, behind the Karate Centre. The kids and I would often go to Safa Park for a picnic or if it was too hot in the soft play area in Spinneys. As a treat on a Friday, we’d go to the Hard Rock Cafe opposite the golf club and play pool upstairs and wait for the waiters to sing. We’d go ice skating at the Hyatt Regency. Happy memories. ? Now I go to the mail and wonder where all the people came from and what they are doing here!
I still love living in Dubai but it is fast paced and hectic now and I get very nostalgic about the old days. Sometimes I’ll have a little tear in my eye when I see a photograph that reminds me of those simpler times. I’m so glad I knew it as it was then.