People leave their homes and move to a foreign country for myriad reasons. During their stint abroad, they learn to build a new identity in their chosen country. While the reward for moving countries can be huge, a longing for your native land keeps you rooted to traditions and cultures.
With four-fifths of the UAE population being foreign-born, the country offers expats, avenues to connect and reminisce about home. If you are a Kenyan moving to the UAE or have recently moved to the UAE, you can have the best of both worlds by experiencing your local culture whilst living in this fascinating country.
A melting pot of cultures, the UAE is a paradise of culinary delights. If you miss food from your homeland, head over to Kiza at Dubai International Finance Center for authentic pan-African food. Happy Grill Restaurant is another popular joint, famous for ‘Nyama Choma’ (Kenyan roast meat) which is bound to evoke nostalgia, warm your heart and keep you full.
In Abu Dhabi, The Meat Co. offers an eclectic food experience that is sure to satiate a meat-loving foodie soul. Succulent lamb skewers, gourmet meat burgers, and a variety of steaks marinated with traditional African spices will take you back to the streets of Kenya. Other eateries popular among the African diaspora in the UAE are The Butcher Shop, Gursha and Tribes.
Food is indeed fuel for the soul and more so when one is in a foreign country; partaking of familiar dishes with fellow nationals.
A land of endless possibilities, the UAE is home to two cities that are much sought after by expats – Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Dubai, the nerve centre for entertainment in the UAE is replete with fun-filled activities for Kenyans who wish to build a social circle with other Kenyan expats.
Kenyan musicians and celebrities like Samidoh and Otile often visit Dubai to perform gigs for their expat country folk. Further, Kenyan expats usually gather for concerts and comedy shows by Dubai based musicians like Mnoxxa and comedians like Eric Omondi. To stay connected to your roots, keep an eye open for renowned local celebrities visiting the UAE and you can enjoy a musical weekend while make new friends along the way.
Other emirates like Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah also host music shows and concerts where Kenyan expats organise events to enjoy music that reminds them of home.
The UAE has plenty of localities that are both affordable and friendly to live in, for expats. Whether you choose to rent a property or buy a home eventually, if you are new to the UAE, you can choose to live in residential areas where majority of the population consists of Kenyan expats or members of the African diaspora. Many areas of Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi have residents from the Kenyan diaspora and with schools, restaurants, and shops in close vicinity of these neighbourhoods, you may hear a cordial “Jambo” from a fellow Kenyan while you are running an errand.
As a Kenyan in the UAE, it would be beneficial to be a part of the expat community and stay in touch with other like-minded expats. KEWA UAE and KID (Kenyans in Dubai) are among the many groups formed by members of the Kenyan diaspora to provide Kenyan expats a strong sense of community. It offers expats a platform to share messages, ask for recommendations, enquire about day care facilities and reach out to fellow expats on many other occasions.
The African Food Festival at Dubai Creek Park is yet another social gathering that showcases the diverse landscape of African food, culture, music, and history for the benefit of both Kenyan expats, members of the African diaspora and locals.
Nothing binds a community more than religion. In a foreign land, away from your family, it helps to stay connected to those who share your beliefs. With a strong community of Kenyan parishioners (comprising people with diverse belief systems) living in the UAE, churches in Dubai and Abu Dhabi organise weekly mass for Kenyan expats. In fact few years back the St Joseph Jumuiya community organised the first Swahili mass in the UAE to celebrate faith, joy, and unity by creating a sense of belonging among Kenyan expats in a foreign land.