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Moving to Dubai

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What’s life like for architects who live and work in Dubai?

Moving to Dubai

£1 = 5.45 dirhams (AED)

The lowest winter temperatures are in January, with an average of 23°C. Summer months are extremely hot with an average of 40°C between June and September. It rarely rains, except occasionally between December and March.

The language of Dubai is Arabic, but according to Afzal Suman, associate director at Ramboll Whitbybird in Dubai, English is ‘the unofficial first language’. Contractors will have a translator to speak to workers on site, mostly from outside the UAE.

Getting a visa
Tourist visa

As a British citizen, you’ll get a free tourist visa in your passport upon arrival. Valid for 60 days, it can be extended by 30 days for 500 AED (£91).
Working visa
For a work permit, you’ll need to present your degree certificate to the UAE Embassy in your country of origin. You’ll also need a valid passport, no criminal record and a medical examination. An offer of employment is necessary. Employers usually pay the £1,000-1,500 fees.

Salary expectations
Based on £1 = 5.45 AED (tax free)
Junior architect £39,391.45
Architect £43,784.29
Project architect £75,586.03
Head of architecture £120,353.48
Source: HAYS Construction & Property, Guide to Salaries in Dubai 2007/8

Medical insurance, one annual flight per annum and 25 days holiday are the standard benefits, according to Kelly Wallace of recruitment agency ARM Group. Suman adds that only 20 days holiday per year are a requirement of law.

In addition to their salaries, contract workers are awarded an ‘indemnity’ at the end of the contract period. The indemnity is usually based on the basic salary, excluding any bonuses. It is an end-of-contract bonus required by law to be paid to expatriate workers as a sort of ‘thank you’ for being of service to the state. Indemnity scales usually amount to 15 days basic pay per year of employment for the first three years, and then a month’s salary per year of employment.

State holidays 2009
New Year 1 January
Al Hijra (Islamic New Year) 20 January
Mouloud* (Birth of the Prophet) 9 March
Leilat Al Meiraj* (Ascension of the Prophet) 20 July
Eid Al Fitr (end of Ramadan) 21 September
Eid Al Adha* (Feast of the Sacrifice) 28 November
National Day 02 Dec
*Holiday follows Islamic calendar

Working life
Sunday-Thursday, 8.30am-5.30pm. Some government companies work 10am-2pm,
but otherwise the standard is 9am-5pm.

Practices working in Dubai
Atkins; Dexter Moren; Foster + Partners; Gensler; Glenn Howells Architects; HOK; Hopkins; KPF Architects; PRP; RMJM; SOM; Woods Bagot; Zaha Hadid Architects

Lifestyle for women
Dubai is the most tolerant society in the Middle East. Women can work, drive, and don’t have to cover up. It is still quite sexist, and some laws will affect your lifestyle (see Legal Issues).

Lifestyle for men
While you are free to practice any religion in Dubai, it is important to be sensitive to the local religion and customs. Many freedoms we take for granted in the UK are illegal in Dubai (see Legal Issues).

Male : female ratio
3 : 1 in 2007

Legal issues
• Public displays of affection, such as holding hands, are frowned upon. You may only live with members of the opposite sex if you are married or they are immediate family.

• If you are unmarried and becomes pregnant, you will be deported. Homosexuality is illegal.

• Zero tolerance for drink driving. Public drunkenness and drinking are illegal, as is serving alcohol to Muslims.

• Zero tolerance for possession of illegal drugs, including some prescription medication.

• No public eating, drinking or smoking during Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting.

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