In her last comment, Helen asked, ‘What kind of jobs are available in AD (apart from construction/engineering)? Is it easy for an expatriate who isn’t an engineer/builder/developer to get work? Is there a special dress code for women?’
I shall begin with the dress code. Simply put, expat women seem to wear pretty much what they like, though women from my background generally dress more conservatively than they might at home. I have a couple of sun dresses, for example, which are strappy numbers that I wear around the house, but wouldn’t wear outside. At the swimming pool, there are plenty of bikinis, though I myself continue to wear my sensible all-covering bathers, because I have been raised on ‘slip slop slap’ and also I burn easily and also have always found sunbathing excrutiangly boring (when I say always, I mean the two times I’ve done it). Local girls and women and Muslim expats often wear the full-length bathers, but others wear bathers similar to mine.
Coming home from the gym, I sometimes stop at a shop to pick up a newspaper or milk, and I keep a shirt in the car that I put on over the top of my gym gear, because I wear singlets to the gym and, for many different reasons, would feel uncomfortable dressed like that in the shop.
I often carry a scarf which I can wrap around myself which is also a useful defence against the ubiquitous air-condiitoning.
The malls all have signs asking that you dress appropriately, which means covered shoulders and skirts/dresses/pants that go below the knees and tops that are not low-cut. It wouldn’t be unusual to see uncovered shoulders at the malls, but it isn’t common.
Local women (Emiratis) wear an abaya (the black robe), and sheyla (head covering) which is considered to be the national dress. Many do veil their faces, but many don’t. Some women wear a ‘burkha’ which here is the leather mask covering the mouth, eyes and cheekbones (I think, don’t quote me on that). The burkha isn’t all that common, but you would always see at least one woman wearing one. Local men wear the dishdash (white robe) and headdress.
There’s lots of shops catering to Indian expats. One of the easiest ways to buy fabric is to buy a set for the sari suit, which is two larger pieces of fabric (one to make the top and one to make the pants) and a smaller piece for the scarf. I’ve bought more fabric than I really need, simply because it is so easy to buy it that way. Mind you, one of my friends from India told me that all of the fashions here are ‘out of date’. I have never been in date, so it doesn’t really matter.