It’s been a long time since I’ve written a blog post, and I had already started drafting a post about how the grass always seems greener, having spent a glorious summer in the UK, away from the 50-degree heat of the desert. But then the reality of the devastating refugee crisis began to gain traction across the media, and now there is a humiliating layer of context to this position which cannot be denied.
So there’s not a lot of humour in this blog post, but there’s a whole lot of heart. And some suggestions about what you can do if you’re also a migrant and might not be geographically close by, but fortunate enough to have landed on truly more plentiful times.
How to be a fortunate migrant…
There are so many special things about Abu Dhabi, but one in particular is our tight-knit community. As so many of us are living here without families close by, our friends take on an extra supportive role, and become like family.
As an expat, it can sometimes be hard to integrate with the local community, as we tend to find comfort and commonalities amongst people of own culture. I originally came out to the Middle East to work for an international organisation, as did my husband. I was so fortunate to meet people from all over the world. It was more difficult to make friends with Emiratis, as our cultures are so different, but the few I can now count as friends are open-minded and as respectful to me as I am to them.
When I was invited to a Suhoor during the holy month of Ramadan at the house of a wonderful Emirati friend, I knew it would be an extra special meal. Particularly as my friend is also a master baker and the talented chef behind the home-baked brand that is taking the culinary world of Abu Dhabi by storm: Crunch and Crumble. Turns out, she can rustle up a pretty splendid Suhoor too.
It was an absolute honour to be invited into this beautiful Emirati home, and be treated to home-made bread, samosas, an incredible meatball tagine and basbousa for dessert. Even more of a treat, we were requested to dress in jalabea – traditional Arabic evening dresses, with long sleeves, full of colour and glimmering with sequins and jewels. We had a sparkling night, and my only regret was – as usual – not being able to finish everything on my plate.
Today I feel so lucky to be a migrant and not a refugee. To have actively chosen to move country, been welcomed with open arms by the locals, and able to work in a country that is not my country of birth. To have a British passport and a valid work visa permitting me to stay in a safe, peaceful country, which has welcomed a melting pot of cultures to create a truly international community.
There have always been refugees in the world, but watching the steady stream of people walk across Europe to seek refuge in a safer country, has hit home. It’s not just the horrific pictures of children, but the reality that the majority of these people are peace-loving families who have been forced out of their homes.
When it’s safer to put your children in a dinghy and cross the ocean than to stay in your home country, it tells you something of the atrocities that are happening today. Our long flights to and from our home countries this summer suddenly don’t seem so bad.
How to help
I’m no expert on how to help, but I opted to donate money to the British Red Cross. They are a charity I trust to actively contribute towards improving the lives of the Syrian refugees. There is an URGENT APPEAL as the refugee crisis in Europe continues to grow. Click here to donate:
The Independent also published a list of other ways in which we can help here:
Anyone else missing their motherland?