Fast forward five years – I’m married to an Offaly Rose, we have a beautiful one year old daughter, and I am working for Mercury Engineering (Middle East Branch) on the Four Seasons Hotel, one of the most prestigious hotel developments on the new Bahrain Bay.
Things have definitely changed for the better over the last five years but none of it came easy … the receding hairline and ever-multiplying gray hairs are testimony to the everyday challenges one experiences out in the Middle East as a mechanical engineer.
The working days and week tend to be that little bit longer out here, starting at 7am and finishing around 6pm. Depending on what project you’re on, be prepared for a lengthy commute, an additional 80mins, with alternate five day/six-day weeks. The Middle East is probably one of the only areas in the world were you could work as part of a design team where each member is from a different continent or country. As great as this is, it does pose some very difficult communication barriers that add to the everyday stresses.
As Dubai and the UAE overall is a melting pot for different nationalities with different work ethics, religions and customs, it takes a while to adjust and understand individual roles and the dynamics of the team. Anyone who has been under pressure to meet specific targets or deadlines during the holy month of Ramadan will understand this.
It’s 45ºC, 21% relative humidity, my shirt is stuck to my back as I stroll through the street looking for a place to eat, I’ve no accommodation or job, my money is running out and my closest friends and family are 3,680kms away back home in Ireland. This is how things were during my first few days after landing in Dubai, UAE.
With all the different nationalities and different standards being used, one thing remains at the forefront of every project, sustainability. One of the biggest examples of this would be Masdar City, one of the world’s first zero-carbon cities, which is set to house 50,000 people and is located in the Emirate of
Abu Dhabi. The desert city is designed to be powered entirely by renewable energy, including solar and wind power. However, despite the challenge of long hours, demanding schedules and the high pressure, working in the Middle East brings many opportunities. These include possible involvement in everything from seven-star hotel projects through to record-breaking shipping ports and massive oil and gas projects. When working for a company such as Mercury this also means career progression is never far away … oh, and the fact that we pay zero tax is a small incentive!
Nor is it all work and no play. Dubai boasts some of the longest, cleanest beaches in the world. There is an abundance of five star hotels, restaurants and water parks, not to mention the sun 365 days a year. It really is a diamond in the rough, where my family and I have made our home for the foreseeable future.
We’re most definitely not alone. The number of Irish expats currently living or based here in Dubai, or in the surrounding Emirates, is so vast it’s incredible. More and more Irish businesses are getting involved throughout the Middle East and it is apparent that the gem of Dubai, and the perks of working and living here, is no longer a secret. The thriving Irish community is also present in the ever-expanding Dubai Celts, who uphold all the traditions associated with the GAA.
My one piece of advice for anyone thinking of making the transition from home to the Middle East is make it your business to get in touch with the local GAA club. It was one of the first things I did when I got here, and I’ve never looked back. I’m no longer an active member, but the friends I‘ve made and the support network it provides is invaluable.
The Middle East still presents plenty of opportunities for young engineers, so once you are prepared to work hard, you will not regret your decision to come here.