British expat recreates iconic Burj Al Arab photo after 30 years in Dubai

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This composite photo shows Dubai-based expat Hannah Wells with the Burj Al Arab in the background. HANNAH WELLS/LINKEDIN

British expat recreates iconic Burj Al Arab photo after 30 years in Dubai

A British expat’s post has gone viral on social media after she recreated her photo of Dubai’s iconic Burj Al Arab after 30 years of living in the emirate.

The Burj Al Arab was still under construction when Hannah Wells posed in front of it as a young girl, head bowed and on bended knee at the Jumeirah beach. The second image in her composite photo posted on LinkedIn shows herself as an adult, in the same pose and in the exact spot, but with the hotel in its complete glory.

Construction of the Burj Al Arab started in 1994 and it took five years to complete. Its construction was considered a technological marvel at the time because it was the first time that a hotel was built on a man-made island 280 metres off the Dubai shore. Today, the Burj Al Arab is dubbed the world’s only 7-star hotel. Its interiors are gilded in 24-carat gold.

A lot has changed in the last decades around the Burj Al Arab, which is now surrounded by many more luxury hotels and bustling neighbourhoods. This is in stark contrast to Wells’ photo of the young Dubai skyline taken decades ago.

“It’s just sand behind and could be anywhere. I still feel that this picture tells the story best and it’s my own personal story,” said Wells, who shared that just last week she and her family celebrated their 30th year in Dubai. She said she had so much fun recreating her childhood photo to mark the milestone.

“It’s one of my favourite fun facts to tell people that I have been in this country for nearly my entire lifetime and it heavily shapes who I am as a person today,” she said.

Wells shared that when she and her parents relocated to Dubai, they lived in an area next to the Burj Al Arab, which used to be called Chicago Beach Villas (CBV) until 2001. She has “very fond memories” of the place where she grew up. “I call it the sandpit – brings out the inner child nostalgia,” she said.

The area next to the Burj Al Arab, which used to be called Chicago Beach Villas (CBV) until 2001.

“I am so grateful for all the people I’ve come across, the stories and journeys they’ve shared; the cultures I’ve learnt about; the ridiculous choice in food, and the opportunity that this particular city has offered partnered with the experiences collected. Obviously I am grateful for my wonderful parents who decided to take the risk back in the day knowing they wouldn’t have family to lean on, what was ahead and what uncertainty, fears or worries they might have to face to settle abroad,” she added.

Wells, who is a Community and Engagement Senior Manager at PR firm Publicis Groupe, hopes her Dubai experience will help people make the right choice if they are not sure about moving abroad.

“If you are debating a career abroad, go for it. You have nothing to lose. It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey of this little thing called life we all live,” she said.

Wells said that dealing with constant change is one of the challenges of being a global citizen, particularly for children of expat parents. “But ultimately kids adapt and they figure it out in their own in time – I think I did,” she said.

“As someone once told me… you are not a tree. You do not have to stay where you are now. And if you move, you do not have to stay there either. Some things you might want to know: good friends become family. Give a place a year to settle before you find those friends, your routine and passions – it will come. Travel, explore, try. You’ll definitely learn something,” she said. PIA/Expat Media


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