DUBAI: Dubai and Abu Dhabi have, over the years, transformed from backwater, sleepy towns into international megalopolises that never sleep, pulsating with its state-of-the-art infrastructure, tolerance, as well as relatively uncomplicated labor and immigration policies.
Because of this, the expat community – now composed of over 200 nationalities from across the world – has grown from a few hundreds some 20 years ago to what the International Labor Organization (ILO) has recently estimated to be some eight million, or about 80 percent of the UAE’s population.
Filipinos have been among the pioneering expats to arrive in the UAE, with hundreds having been around since some 40 years ago, when salary offers were high compared to the cost of living.
We asked them about how it was back then, and here’s what they said:
“Trade center building, Dubai Metropolitan Hotel which is where St. Regis Hotel is situated now, Toyota building, Wilson apartments and Trade Center apartments were the only buildings on Sheikh Zayed Road. Burjuman and Al Ghurair Center were the only malls for luxury brands and regular brands, respectively. Downtown Dubai was a military camp and desert area. There was a big roundabout at the intersection of the Trade Center that looked like a hill.” – Engr. Mary Jane Alvero, arrived in Dubai in 1992
Konting Pinoy pa lang
“I was welcomed by the simplicity of the city. From where we were accommodated, we could see barren tracts of land around us. Our building seemed to be an oasis in the middle of the desert. We could feel that there were less people then as Filipinos seemed to be very excited to see a fellow Filipino when going to the malls and parks, everybody seemed to know everyone back then. The main roads of Dubai were surrounded by empty spaces if not with desert village-looking buildings. This is contrary to what we can see at present.” – Andrea Lorenzo, arrived in Dubai in 2000
4pm ang bukas ng supermarkets ‘pag Friday
“Although the construction boom had started, generally the whole area is a desert, specially the road going to Jebel Ali wherein there were only two lanes at both sides. Beaches were underdeveloped and supermarkets were closed on Fridays and would only open at 4 PM.” – Engr. Jessie L. Cruz, arrived in Dubai also in 2000.
“Dubai at the time was on the verge of fast development. The Business Bay Area and Dubai Marina were full of construction activities.” Roy Tamano, arrived in Dubai in 2005.