A good friend of mine took the big step and uprooted himself from London to Abu Dhabi last week. To celebrate, I joined a few friends in taking him to what should be every new arrival's first meal in the capital: a piping hot shawarma at Lebanese Flower in Khalidiya.
Now, I originally wanted to keep it street-style, literally, by having these treats (I had two) on the steps just outside so we could survey the passing traffic and people-watch. However, fearing that my newly arrived friend might pass out from the heat, we took him inside instead. The snack was as authentic as the advice we gave my friend on how to settle in smoothly.
He began by asking the simple, common question: "So, tell me, who do I need to know here?" I could tell he was expecting some names of promoters and influencers to help him with his job (he works in events). Instead, we gave him three kinds of people he needs to know and be "in with" for his Abu Dhabi experience to be successful.
Since we are in that time of the year when a lot of new people arrive to start fresh jobs and lives, this solid advice could help you, too (and it'll be useful even if you're a UAE veteran by now). While these three people are easy to find in Abu Dhabi, they are often underappreciated. They are part of an ever-growing list of the many unsung heroes in the capital and, if you treat them right, life will do right by you.
The first person is often the first and the last you will see in any given day, aside from your family. And that's the "natoor", also known as the doorman. Each building, no matter how big or small, has a natoor or team of natoors to take care of domestic hassles.
More than doing their tasks well, they are often also a great repository of local knowledge, with many of them having spent decades living in the capital. Be kind to your natoor and treat them with the dignity they deserve. In turn, they will fix any household jams (at a good price) and give you valuable knowledge on hidden places to see and dine at in the city.
The second person has no definable task, or even a name. He is just The Guy. Any person or family who lives here long enough has their Guy. The Guy is a jack-of-all-trades. He is a handyman, a mover, a courier and even a pet-carer. If there is any job he can't do, he will know someone who can. The key to this relationship is loyalty. As long as The Guy does a good job, he is always the first person you call. And, if you nefariously go behind his back, The Guy will know, because he knows everyone. Remember that.
The third and final person does have a clear and defined job: it's the laundry person. If he or she is consistent, then you should tip them well, as they can make your life unbelievably easy.
For instance, whenever I send my own laundryman my clothes before I travel, he kindly folds my shirts and trousers tightly, wrapping them all squarely in plastic. As a result, I can usually pack for holidays in less than three minutes.
Forget the big names and titles, I told my friend. These people come and go. A natoor, your Guy and the laundry person will be your friends for life.