Jun 23, 2010

Reality Check: UAE vs. Lebanon

Disclaimer: This post is based on a personal experience and does not necessarily reflect the views of others.

Before we get to the comparison, here’s a brief background…

Eight years ago, I took the decision to leave Lebanon to work in Dubai. During those 8 years in the UAE, I visit Lebanon ONCE for 10 days. Except for the call to my family twice a week, my relationship with Lebanon was completely cut off.  I didn’t even watch Lebanese channels and never followed its news. Furthermore, 90% of my close friends have left the country for jobs abroad.
Few months ago, I decided to quit my job and come to Lebanon for an extended vacation. At that point in time, A sabbatical was needed. 

Some might dispute that few months is an insignificant period of time to draw a comparison between the two countries, especially after being disconnected from Lebanon for 8 years.  Bullocks.  It is significant. 

This post is nothing but a reality check to remind myself that 8 years in the UAE was not enough and that I should be grateful for what the country has given me and my family. This explains why I still refer to my stay in Lebanon as 'vacation'. Evey person I met, every client I handled and every new culture I learned about has contributed to my success and growth. 

Dear Lebanon, this does not mean I don't love you. It only means that, until you get your act together, I can tolerate you 10 days every 8 years.

Pleasant / reasonable weather 9 months of the year. July and August are the worst. Air conditioning is a must and with the constant power cuts, expect to shower 3 times a day.

Pleasant / reasonable weather 4 months of the year. Insufferable 8 months of the year. Do not plan any outdoor activities.
Historical sites, natural reserves, NATURAL ski resorts, beautiful beaches.

Malls, world’s tallest-largest-widest-smartest buildings, fancy resorts across the Emirates.
Road Infrastructure
Are you kidding? We don’t even have traffic signals on one of the most dangerous intersections in Beirut.  A 5KM distance in the summer will take you 30-45 minutes.
Pretty decent. Yes, traffic jams used to be a nightmare but the with the new bridges and the metro, things have changed. A plus: from my old apartment in Dubai to Abu Dhabi (170km), there’s not one traffic signal.

You can take a shared taxi (service) anywhere in Beirut for $1.30 dollars.  A non-shared taxi costs $6.70.

A taxi from my apartment in Abu Hail (Deira) to Sheikh Zayed Road (Buj Khalifa, for example) would cost an average of $7.00 - $8.00.  A taxi to media city would cost around $15. No shared taxis in Dubai..
Customer Service
What is customer service?
We tend to bitch a lot and we act  spoiled but compared to Lebanon, customer service in Dubai is fairly acceptable.

Food and Restaurants
Several cuisines and choices.

As for produce, it’s mainly local. You are limited with what’s available. Nevertheless, it’s cheap.
Several cuisine and choices.

Produce comes from all over the world. Variety of choices.  I declare UAE a winner here because of more variety and better service.

Crime on the rise. Law is hopeless. Wasta rules.
You can keep your door unlocked for months and nothing will happen. Police officers are courteous, supportive and friendly.

Telecom and Broadband
Broadband? Err…um…what?

As for telecom, if you buy a prepaid card and plan to make a call, DON’T LEAVE THE STORE. You will need a new card in seconds. Credit vanishes  faster than the invisible man.  
Again we tend to complain a lot about the pricing and the 2-day slow Internet when a sea cable is damaged but come one Lebanesos, deep inside, you know it’s heaven compared to cedar land.

Nightlife is second to none in the region. Plus, lots of cultural events take place all year long. A clear winner.

Choices are limited. Night clubs are mediocre. Cultural events are almost nonexistent.
Utilities and Petrol
Power cuts, power lines are damaged every winter, water is supplied every other day. In the summer, expect your utility bill to quadruple.  Petrol is ridiculously expensive.
I have no complaints here.

Sad and pathetic. Epic fail. They make you fill and sign 200 pages to open an account. If you deposit money, they take commission. If you add money to your Internet card, they take commission. If you ask for Internet banking, they give you a CD-ROM to activate your ONLINE account (serious!) and you can install it on one computer only. Banking service in Lebanon is garbage. And I am talking about the number one bank in Lebanon.
One signature to open an account. I’ve never spent more than 10 minutes at a bank in the UAE. Service is superb. Online banking truly makes life easier (paying bills and whatnot). However, choose your bank wisely. Go with local banks. If you prefer an international bank,  for the love of god don’t go with HSBC.

Yes, the financial crisis caused some people to lose their jobs but patience is a virtue and lots of those people managed to find alternative jobs.

Starting a Business
A friend of mine wanted to establish a restaurant in Beirut. The Government asked for $200,000 for permission and license. That ridiculous amount did not include the property and the cost of setting up. (Could someone verify this information? My only source is my friend)
You have several options. Even though cost of setting up a business in Dubai Free Zone is high (but definitely won’t cost you $200K), you have cheaper alternatives in other Emirates.

Differentiating Factors
I don't know about you but both are equally important to me. Both win.
Family, Social life
Money, career growth


Dani said...

You're going to make a lot of enemies with this one! haha Dubai? Over Lebanon..not in a million years dude..

10 days every eight years? Did you travel anywhere else in those 8 years? I went to Dubai a year and a half ago, for two weeks too long..Couldn't wait to get back to Miami..

Moved to Lebanon from Miami six months ago, and haven't looked back since..!!

Arabianism said...

Dubai spoiled us. We come back to Lebanon and it's a big punch in the face. I love Lebanon. Great memories and had a blast during college years. However, I do believe the comparison is accurate to a certain extent.

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