Life in the Middle East

The questions that I get asked most often is ‘How do I become cabin crew?’ The second most popular question is ‘How is life in the Middle East?’

Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha are a modern cities, safe, clean, easy to get around, with great architecture and infrastructure. I feel safer here than in any other place in the world.

I lost my phone and wallet and they were returned to me with not even 1 Dirham missing. I remember volunteering to clean the local beaches, but we all had trouble finding the garbage we were supposed to clean up. There is always somebody to assist you: packing up the groceries, pushing your shopping cart, load the car, put the gas and bring laundry to your door.

Not to mention the best thing: every single business makes home deliveries! Even McDonalds!

There is a ton of things to do and places to see.

Here are some landmarks:


Burj Khalifa

Burj al Arab

Ski Dubai


Emirates Palace Hotel

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque Abu Dhabi

Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Circuit

Ferrari World Theme Park


Rectangle Al-Ghuwair Castle

Souq Waqif Bedouin Market

Museum of Islamic Art

and so many others…

Here are some answers for you.

‘Can I wear the same clothes I wear in my home country?’

Use decency as a rule.

Do not wear revealing clothes, and stay away from midriff showing or very mini skirts. There will be a lot of starring, regardless what you wear, so you might want to avoid that by not attracting any more attention.

I found that the best way is to carry a shawl (wrap) to put round your shoulders in taxis, malls or coffee shops where the AC is set to 15oC.

‘Would I have to cover my hair with a scarf?’

No. Covering up your hair is only compulsory in Saudi Arabia. All the other countries in the Gulf, such as UAE, Qatar and Bahrain do not expect western women to cover up their hair.

‘Do people speak English?’

The official language spoken in the Gulf countries is Arabic, with English being widely spoken in offices, banks and shops.

‘Can I drive?’

Your driving license needs to be converted to a local one. This can be arranged as soon as your residence visa is done. If you don’t have a driving license already, you can enroll for classes and obtain a driving license. It will take up to 1 month, depending of how much time you have available for your driving lessons.

You will not be able to drive with the driving license from your country once you have a residence permit.

‘Can I hold hands with my boyfriend or girlfriend?โ€™

Public display of affection such as hugging and kissing is not acceptable, however holding hands is fine. You can often see men holding hands on the street. It only means they are best friends ๐Ÿ™‚

‘Can I live with my boyfriend or girlfried?โ€™

No. You can only live in the same house with members of the opposite sex that you are related to or with your spouse.

‘Can I drink alcohol?’

Most bars and restaurants serve alcohol and you can enjoy a drink. Bear in mind though that being drunk in public is also illegal, so if you know you are an overly enthusiastic drinker, you might want to keep your habits in check.

Zero tolerance for drinking and driving.

If you want to buy your own alcohol from the liquor stores or duty free, you will need to obtain a Liquor License from the Police Department. It is fairly easy to get, and the only thing you need is your residence permit and a standard letter from your employer.

‘What kind of food can I find?’

Any and every imaginable kind. From the tasty affordable Lebanese Grills to Japanese Sushi Bars, Michelin Star restaurants or Pizza Hut. People in the Gulf love gathering together and socialize over food.

‘Is there any night life?’

There is a vibrant night life, with numerous clubs, discos, bars, terraces, concerts and events. There is always something to do, especially in the tourist-friendly cities like Dubai.

‘Can I go to the church?’

Yes, there are Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and many other churches in all Gulf cities.

‘What can I do for fun?’

A must try is the desert safari. A full day of fun, dune driving, bedouin camp, camel riding, ATRs, music and belly-dancers and of course, amazing food.

Water sports are widely popular in the Gulf, with jet-skiing, wind-surfing and diving to name a few.

Boat rides through the numerous islands can show you the real beauty of the Arabian Sea. On clear days, you can even spot dolphins.

‘How can I deal with the desert heat?’

In the summer months when the temperature can reach up to 50oC, most people prefer to stay indoors during the day and only go outside during the evening. It is still very hot at night and extremely humid.

Cotton is your best friend, especially the white cotton clothes that will act as shield against the sun. Wear loose clothing and sandals.

Stay away from nylons, lycra and other synthetic materials.

Wear SPF of at least 30 during the day and re-apply often.

Stay hydrated.

‘Can I make friends with the local people?’

The people from the Gulf countries are extremely hospitable, but also extremely private. It is very unlikely that you will have much contact with the local people. They are mostly working government jobs or high corporate positions.

‘How can I meet other people?’

There are numerous expat communities, groups and gatherings.

Here are a few blogs:

Expat Blog

Expatriate Life in Dubai

An Expat Perspective

Expat Woman

And a few forums:

British Expats

Expat Forum

Allo Expat

You can also volunteer for charity events:

Volunteer in Dubai

Volunteer in Abu Dhabi

Volunteer in Qatar

‘What is the cost of living?’

In Dubai and Abu Dhabi you can expect to spend at least 1000 Dirhams (approximately 200 Euro or 300 USD) on food, mobile phone, taxis and the occasional meal or drink out.

Given that your accommodation and transportation to and from work is provided by your airline, your should be able to have a very good lifestyle and increase your savings.

If you have a question that you think is relevant for everybody else, please feel free to leave it in the comments section.


  • phionah

    Reply Reply August 13, 2016

    Thanks kara ,this is really my dream job..what can I do about these tiny scars. Any strong scar removal u know. .many thanks

    • Kara

      Reply Reply August 16, 2016

      I’m not a skin specialist Phionah. You should go see a dermatologist.

  • alaap sharma

    Reply Reply August 10, 2016

    hi kara, I have a birthmark on my neck. its a black color circle and is visible when I wear a suit so is it possible for me to join the airline?

    • Kara

      Reply Reply August 10, 2016

      Is it very very visible and big Alaap?

  • phionah

    Reply Reply August 9, 2016

    Hi karla thanx for the good advice. .I reached to the final interview with Qatar and then the recruiter checked my hands & said I have so many tiny scars. .then the next day I got a regret letter. Could it be bcoz of the scars.

    • Kara

      Reply Reply August 10, 2016

      Very likely Phionah. She told you so.

  • aubry

    Reply Reply July 18, 2016

    is it possible to get hire if I have a tattoo?

    • Kara

      Reply Reply July 20, 2016

      Where is the tattoo located Aubry?

  • beeb84

    Reply Reply July 6, 2016

    Just wondering if you know the amount of the housing allowance for EY if you choose not to live in their provided accommodation.

    • Kara

      Reply Reply July 7, 2016

      It’s part of a confidential contract Beeb84, I’m sorry I can’t help you with the exact amount. But I know it is enough for a studio apartment close to the airport.

  • Mariyam Asfa

    Reply Reply November 10, 2015

    Hi Kara,
    I was wondering if it is possible for me to become a cabin crew at any of the airlines as I wear hijab (veil) and my height is only 152 cm.
    I am very passionate about becoming a cabin crew and I am very disappointed with the height requirement. Also, I have never seen a hijabi girl as a cabin crew for Etihad, Emirates or Qatar.
    Seems like I can never achieve my dream ๐Ÿ™

    • Kara

      Reply Reply November 10, 2015

      I’m sorry Mariyam, but the cabin crew are not permitted to wear hijab. The only airline that accepts it is Saudi Arabian Airlines. As for your height, you just need a vertical arm reach of 212cm. If you can do it, you can be considered.
      Good luck!

  • Meryl

    Reply Reply October 14, 2015

    Hi Kara
    I’m from South Africa I’ve applied to Qatar airways and I’m just wondering how life is in that city and also in the company? I’ve read a lot of hate mail from people who have worked in the airline. Is going out at night forbidden? Also will I be able to save money or are the living costs high? Basically I’d like to know if it’s worth it for a 21 year old.

    • Kara

      Reply Reply October 14, 2015


      I really can’t tell you what is true and what is not. I don’t know. I never worked for Qatar and even if I did, my opinion would be mine alone, based on my experiences and my perception.
      Going out at night is not forbidden, however you have a curfew you must follow.
      Also, you will be able to save a lot of money if that is your priority.
      You don’t always have to believe what you read on the internet. Go for an interview, see for yourself, ask all the questions that come into mind and then make a decision if this is an airline for you.

  • Quin

    Reply Reply August 3, 2015

    Hello there Kara, I just finished reading your mini bio on your blog. I must say I’m even more inspired after reading that. I’d like to thank you for all advice you give us as well. I’m in a nerve wrecking situation, ok so I reached my 6th week since I applied for EK last week Thursday. Today is Monday and I haven’t received an email yet, I went to check my application status and it still says “Application Received”. Anyhow if I do hear anything I’ll surely let you know.

    • Kara

      Reply Reply August 4, 2015

      Quin, positive thinking…. Fingers crossed for your success!

  • Tina

    Reply Reply July 16, 2015

    Ola Kara Grand

    I have a very important question: Apart from the mandatory Yellow Fever shot, is it possible to take all the other medical shots, x-rays, dental work & tests at the HQ in Dubai which can be deducted from our salary, due to lack of finances to do so in our home countries.

    • Kara

      Reply Reply July 16, 2015

      Unfortunately not Tina. All the medical tests are required to establish your suitability to apply for a work permit, cabin crew medical license and to provide insurance cover.

  • Angelika Lopez

    Reply Reply July 10, 2015

    Hello Kara … I understand that homosexuality is such a touchy subject for most, however im here in america and ive just got married, Will Emirates look at that as a real marriage ? Can that disqualify me from a position with them if they find out? Do I keep it a secret ? Of couse I will be mindful to other people as I already am.. I do really want this position ive worked really hard to study .. I just feel my sexual orientation might be a problem .. which I do pray that its not.

    • Kara

      Reply Reply July 11, 2015

      Angelika, this is a very delicate matter. Islamic Law consider homosexual acts a punishable crime and a sin. While sexual orientation is not a topic discussed in the interview, you must understand that your personal life must stay very personal.

  • Debbie

    Reply Reply June 4, 2015


    Is it possible to work parttime and home bases in Cape town?!

    • Kara

      Reply Reply June 6, 2015

      It is not Debbie. All cabin crew positions are full time based in Dubai, Abu Dhabi or Doha.

  • Bianca

    Reply Reply March 29, 2015

    Hi Kara,

    Is it possible for me to live with my son (14) if selected? What is the maximum age for Cabin Crew With Etihad?

    Kind regards,

    • Kara

      Reply Reply March 30, 2015

      It is not Bianca. The accommodation is offered for single base, which means only you are entitled to live there. There is no maximum age. I had a reader who was 42 when hired.

  • sasha

    Reply Reply January 27, 2015

    hi kara,
    is it possible for me to live with my husband if selected? is emirates provides accommodation for married men/women to live with the spouse?

    • Kara

      Reply Reply February 1, 2015

      Unfortunately, that is not possible Sasha. You have the option of applying for a housing allowance after the first 6 months of probation. Meanwhile, you are expected to live in the shared company provided accommodation where you can not bring your husband to live with you and your flat mate. He can visit though for a limited period of time.

  • elidan

    Reply Reply November 1, 2014

    Is 10000 aed a good salary for a decent life in dubai?

    • Kara

      Reply Reply November 1, 2014

      It is, but it depends what other benefits you get. Having housing and transport provided is also a great help.

  • Ian Edelman

    Reply Reply June 17, 2014

    Please can you correct the link to the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha on this page… the address should be

    • Kara

      Reply Reply June 17, 2014

      Thank you Ian.

  • Lisa

    Reply Reply May 6, 2014

    what are the age restrictions for the different airlines as I hear they Only hire young people. I am 44 wondering if I would be wasting my time applying.
    thank you.

    • Kara

      Reply Reply May 7, 2014

      Lisa, the oldest person I personally know who got the job was 42. I say it is always worth a try.


    Reply Reply April 9, 2014

    Dear Kara
    God bless u for the knowledge that you are imparting on as, i have learn a lot through this training.
    Good work done Kara, every body who is part of this training and i say God bless you.
    my question is can a crew member ask his or her parents to visit him or her in the apartment
    giving him or her by the airline? That is the parent staying more than a week.

    • Kara

      Reply Reply April 13, 2014

      It depends on the airline Jennifer. For Emirates and Etihad it’s no problem, for Qatar Airways only the same sex parent can stay with you in your accommodation (as it is a shared accommodation). Sometimes you may be granted a special permission though. You should ask this during your interview.

  • littleS

    Reply Reply March 27, 2014

    Dear Kara,
    thank you soo much for all of these intformation!!! ๐Ÿ™‚ Where can i find your article about cabin crew trainin???I cant find it anywhere…. ๐Ÿ™ Tahnk you agin ….

    • Kara

      Reply Reply March 27, 2014

      Here are all the articles
      What kind of information about training are you looking for? If you need the training description, that was sent to you via email from Flight Attendant Mail Bag.

  • mj

    Reply Reply January 14, 2014

    Hi, Kara! ๐Ÿ™‚
    i was wondering.. how about getting a cellphone or a bank account? are those particularly difficult to get or something? i’m applying for Qatar Airways just fyi ๐Ÿ˜€

    • Kara

      Reply Reply January 15, 2014

      Not at all MJ. The company will be assisting you in getting these ๐Ÿ™‚

  • cabincrew wannabe

    Reply Reply September 23, 2013

    Dear Kara,

    I love your site, I’ve found a lot of helpful information.
    I wanted to ask you – how safe is Abu Dhabi or Dubai for a women? Is it ok to go to a beach wearing a bikini? Or we will get in trouble like that? And what about wearing a tight dress or jeans in a club or restaurant? Is that ok?

    • Kara

      Reply Reply September 26, 2013

      Hi cabincrew wannabe. Abu Dhabi and Dubai (U.A.E in general) are extremely safe cities for women. Being an islamic country, you need to be mindful of the culture. You can wear a bikini to the beach, but you need to cover up if you are walking from your car to the beach. You can wear a tight dress or jeans to a restaurant or in a club, but don’t wear it when you are in the mall or during Ramadan.

  • Ginger Lin

    Reply Reply August 30, 2013

    Emirates just launched an nonestop destination to Taipei.
    Is it possible for them to recruit in Taipei?
    It has been such a long time since they came in 2008!

    • Joshua Wong

      Reply Reply June 2, 2015

      Hi Ginger, are you currently working with Qatar Airways as cabin crew?

  • felix

    Reply Reply August 7, 2013

    is it possible to attend a university in any of these cities while working as a cabin crew?

    • Kara

      Reply Reply August 7, 2013

      Yes Felix, it would be possible, however you must consider your ever changing work roster as a cabin crew which will make you unable to commit to a very strict course schedule.

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