'I go into full-on ­tourist mode': finding the fun in hosting overseas visitors to the UAE

The best bit of hosting friends and family is that I start to see the country in the same way I did when I first moved here: wide-eyed and curious

I’ve never understood why people dread having visitors over in the UAE. I love it. That’s why we splashed out and got a two-bedroom flat right from the off – because we wanted our guests to be comfortable.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am no hostess with the mostess. There are no evening pillow treats and our spare room is pretty bare, aside from a few piles of dusty suitcases and the rest of our ­junk with no home. But I still ­genuinely enjoy having people to stay. And that’s the case no matter how long they bed down for (the average length of stay at Casa ­Gillett has spanned from a week to eight months – yes, you read that correctly).

I’ll be honest, my favourite guests are my parents. I don’t get to see them much, as they live in the UK, so as a single child who only really left home at age 22, that took some getting used to. I miss them and, as they head towards their late seventies, I naturally worry about them. So, while they’re here under my roof (a minimum of five weeks every year or two), life is grand. Also, my lovely mother takes it upon herself to cook all my meals and do my laundry while I’m at work. What’s not to love?

I don’t really struggle with the schedule, either. With my parents, it’s easy, because they’re laidback and happy to do whatever, whenever. Even when I have friends here on holiday, it’s a pleasure coming up with things to see and do. The best bit is that I start to see the country in the same way I did when I first moved here: wide-eyed and curious. I go into full-on ­tourist mode, putting together a bucket list of places I’ve always wanted to visit, but haven’t had the “time” to go to (or, more ­realistically, been too lazy on weekends to go to).

From the Dubai Miracle Garden to Global Village and Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, I make it my mission to explore “new” destinations every time someone comes. Sometimes, I save them just for that. The same goes for restaurants – from the old, familiar haunts to new and trendy spots. Maybe – just maybe – this incredible itinerary of awesome attractions and excellent eateries will make my guests want to up-sticks and move here, too (that’s always the goal).


Global Village opened it's gates today to the public for its 23rd season.

(Photo by Reem Mohammed/The National)

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Sure, it can be expensive if you don’t plan it correctly – but with free or minimal entry to many attractions and voucher options galore, it’s definitely getting more affordable. And if I do spend too much, my solution is simple: become a hermit in the weeks preceding and proceeding the visit.

The thing is, if everyone simply stopped worrying about having to constantly entertain their guests and opened their minds to the idea of sharing their own space, we’d actually enjoy the whole experience, and fall back in love with the world-renowned, hot-ticket tourist destination that we call home.

Or, you can think of it this way: at least once they’re gone, you’ll appreciate the pleasure of your own company that much more.