American Black Women Are Moving in Droves to This One Country

This is why Abu Dhabi is the "new black"

Who would have thought that Abu Dhabi would be an “it” place for black women professionals, with all the thriving cities here, at home. It goes far beyond location, as Abu Dhabi introduces the unique ability to enhance your resume, lifestyle, and the opportunity to feel financially secure.

First, toss out any of your preconceptions about Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. This is one of the hottest locations in the world (literally and figuratively), employing a vast variety of professional talent, mostly in education, finance, and healthcare.  Though it used to be “hotter,” in terms of salary and prospects, it is still not to be dismissed.  It may be the one place where starting over is possible, without reminders of what once held you back.

In a nutshell, Abu Dhabi is a starting point for anyone looking for something new, especially me.

Connection Begins Before You Even Leave




Thanks to the internet, I was introduced to a network of black expats from the Caribbean, U.S., and U.K. These groups welcomed me with open arms, and through LinkedIn, I had “coffee dates” before I stepped off the plane. I found other black women from all walks of life—teachers, pilots, investment bankers, Buddhists, and artists.  Many of the black women I met were starting over after a death or divorce, millennials looking for new experiences, or reinventing themselves in their mid-life.

Money, Security, and Self


Abu Dhabi is still the “best kept” secret, with its sister, Dubai nextdoor—the more liberal Emirate. With fully paid health programs, flights, and positions with higher salaries than many parts of the world, it makes it easier to thrive instead of survive. Earning more while getting fantastic benefits is a great place to be in. This financial freedom, combined with the exotic surroundings, led to a complete epiphany about my own life: I was in complete control, and it felt glorious.

Find Your Favorite Reggae Spot in Abu Dhabi


If you think having a good job and a paid-for home is everything, that’s just the start. There’s cultural fun, including reggae parties, African markets, concerts, dining at the Shangri-La, Hakkasan, Cipriani, and a must-do brunch at The Rosewood, or the familiar early morning breakfast at IHOP.  There was nothing I needed that I didn’t get, even through Amazon.  I had five shipping addresses all over the world, which would hand-deliver via Aramex. There are no traditional street addresses or area codes in Abu Dhabi. The delivery guy would call me, ask me where I was, and it was my job to do the best to explain, but it always worked out.

A Network of Astounding People


The women that I met every Friday at Starbucks, resulted in my writing again and publishing a new book. These new friendships offered a sense of groundedness, as we were all expats and needed the same things. I also met with a group of executive women in Abu Dhabi occasionally, to support and swap business ideas.

Broaden Your Perspective


Travel reigns supreme. Several people I knew traveled to Seychelles, Maldives, Kenya, and India.  I stayed inside the U.A.E. instead of traveling nearby, because there was plenty to enjoy locally. And yes, I was always tired from work.  If there were any challenges, it was my long work hours, but I made sure I had fantastic weekends: Thursdays, drinks after work; Friday, brunches; and Saturdays, a desert excursion or the beach.

What Abu Dhabi gave me was renewed courage, new skills in a global economy, and cultural awareness that helped me navigate some awkward situations. In Abu Dhabi, I learned to take pleasure in self-care, too.  It’s a lifestyle that any black woman can benefit from, if she dares.




maryann reid

Maryann Reid is the digital managing editor of and the author of several books published by St. Martin’s Press. For more, please follow her @RealAlphanista.

  • Natalie

    If ever I needed more prompting to get my passport, this is it! I’ve heard similar encounters from friends of friends, so I count this is as confirmation.

    • MR, Digital Managing Editor

      Enjoy Natalie! MR, Digital Managing Editor

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  • A.A.A.

    Welcome to Abu Dhabi, my hometown. :))
    I hope you enjoy the lifestyle here.
    We love having people from all over the world to our city.


    • MR, Digital Managing Editor


  • Laquita

    So how do you go about this network of ppl before leaving!!! I want to do this and the description of what life is out was is good but give us a how to got those who don’t know where to start

    • MR, Digital Managing Editor

      @Laquita – Linkedin is your friend. Grab a cup of coffee and get to know it. In a few hours, you’ll have a brand new network. To get more info, message me via Linkedin.

  • KimmyC

    I’ve lived here for 6 years. No plans on returning to the U.S. Coming here is a lifetime game changer, if you can handle it and if you want the change. No matter where you go, your attitude follows and this is a great place to renew it.

    • MR, Digital Managing Editor

      Definitely renewal.

  • Southern Hospitality

    Not me!

    I did consider it, especially with the attractive salaries and my teaching experience, however, I am under no delusion that the UAE is a ISLAMIC RULED NATION that still has laws that discriminate against women, and is a culture dominated by male figures with these religious mindsets. Do not be fooled by the money and glamour, especially in this political climate. I would read up on various perspectives before considering moving there, even for a short time.

    • Denise Avery

      I’ve been. UAE does not discriminate against women. Women in UAE are treated with the utmost respect. Muslim women in UAE are LIVING large and have no deaire to flee or be westernized. No unemployment, no taxes, virtually no crime, all schools are fully self sustained. You dont wear head wraps if u arent Muslim. The entire premise of the UAE is that ALL are welcome no matter the race gender or nationality. They simply expect the same thing from us that we would expect from them when they come to our country. respect their religions and their country. In typical arrogant American fashion we think we know when we dont… get out of your bubble…travel the world and find out what it is before making assertions based on unsubstantiated notions…because you don’t know until you go. 73 of the world’s leaders have homes in Abu Dhabi that wouldn’t be possible if they discriminated against people in anyway. oh and the best part about it is the place is 97% people of color so black Americans are not ignored and admonished for our size or hair style. Get informed before making assumptions.

      • MR, Digital Managing Editor


    • Shay Shay

      I was there not even 2 weeks and I didn’t see anything you are talking about. Most woman are shopping wearing the most expensive clothes and driving the most expensive car. You’re not allowed to talk about anybodys religion or race. You can be charged and jailed. Everyone treated me and my girlfriend which we were on a girls trip respectively. I worn armhole shirts outside but i worn a shawl over my shoulders when I was in the malls to be respectful of other ppl but there was still woman in armhole shirts and no one was looking at them in any ways. Everyone was helpful and very nice to us. We even got stuck in the desert with out small car and in no time the men came and help tow us out. I was even saying to myself if I fall on hard times I’m heading right back there for work. You really need to go and even visit before you start talking.

      • MR, Digital Managing Editor

        Exactly. The more we inform each other, the more we learn.

  • Marilyn Davis

    Lived there for for years. The quality of life is second to none. It is imperative that you join a network of like minded folk for support and socializing within the guidelines and laws of the country.

    • MR, Digital Managing Editor

      I agree @disqus_iJ7uQrpuqC:disqus

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  • Veronica Joyner

    I lived in Doha, Qatar for a year and LOVED it, I especially enjoyed being able to hop on a flight and 45 mins later be in the UAE!!! I hope to have to opportunity to work as an expat again.

  • Veronica Joyner

    I would offer one piece of advice for anyone planning to move to the M.E., watch your money. It is very easy to caught up in the lifestyle in the UAE ( traveling to surrounding countries, Brunch on Fridays $100.00- $300.00 and shopping. And although most companies provide housing or a housing allowance, you will still have to pay for items such as, televisions, linen, cookware, etc.

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