The thought of moving to a small office in a part of the world with growing status was very exciting for me.
I found that living somewhere for a short period of time gave me a new lease of life and inspired me to do as much as I could in the time that I had.
I arrived in Abu Dhabi in September 2009 for a six month secondment in Allen & Overy’s corporate department. I had always wanted to live and work abroad - one of the reasons I chose a training contract at A&O. There is a great deal of project related work in the UAE, mostly setting up new institutions and infrastructure. In addition to M&A work there is an abundance of commercial transactions, and many deals have a multi-jurisdictional element involving lawyers in both Europe and India. The UAE is also perfectly placed for travel around the Middle East and Arabian Peninsula.
With a good mix of expat and local culture Abu Dhabi is a great part of the world to be in, though you don’t quite appreciate how young the country is until you get there. While day-to-day life can be frustrating with a lack of transport infrastructure (there are very few buses, taxis are poorly regulated and car parking is haphazard), the work we carry out is moving things forward. Some of our more interesting work legislates the development of the city and emirate of Abu Dhabi, as well as that of surrounding emirates and countries. For example, we build railways, universities and hospitals, and help with initiatives that push science and technology forward. These are not just “regular” deals; quite often they are the first of their kind and really offer something new.
Abu Dhabi is a small city and full of contrasts. It’s not as glitzy as Dubai, and without the enormous malls and water parks of its neighbour you need to look a bit harder for things to do. However, once you start you’ll find some fantastic things on offer: small and (as yet) undeveloped islands off the coast, mangrove forests, local Lebanese cafes, the attractive Corniche with its gardens and beaches, the infamous Friday brunch, the Grand Mosque and now, of course, the F1 track. Sadly, though, many of the old souks have been turned into modern shopping malls and there is practically a big hotel on every street corner. With the increase in building sites, most people agree that the national bird of Abu Dhabi is the crane!
In my spare time I was able to do a lot of travelling. The Emirates are diverse enough to see a variety of landscapes all within close range - beaches, rugged coastlines, mountains and deserts. I took 4WDs into the Rub Al Khali desert to go camping and boats into the Strait of Hormuz to see dolphins, all within the UAE. Outside of this, the ancient Syrian cities of Damascus, Aleppo and Palmyra, Lebanon’s party scene in Beirut, Jordan’s rich archaeological heritage and Oman’s middle-of-nowhere scenery are all easily accessible.
In a small city it is easier to meet with friends and establish your favourite spots for the evenings without making plans weeks in advance. Now I’ve returned home I miss the excitement of exploring a new part of the world and the friends that I made. If I could have brought the weather back to London with me, that would also have been nice