The National

Special Report: How the UAE is a home from home for Saudi citizens

 The UAE is a land of opportunity and diversity for Laila Almaeena, the founder of a media production company in Dubai. Leslie Pableo for The National

The UAE is a land of opportunity and diversity for Laila Almaeena, the founder of a media production company in Dubai. Leslie Pableo for The National

The leadership coach

When Leila Almaeena is asked where she is from, her response is always the same: “I’m from Saudi Arabia but I’m also from the UAE”.

The founder of LA Coaching and Consulting, a Dubai-based life coaching firm, was born to a Saudi father and an American mother. She considers the UAE her home.

“My friends are here, my growth and experiences have been here,” she says. “There are so many beautiful parts of me that blend in the UAE.

“Dubai has been such a beautiful blend of ethnicity, of culture and experiences that really fit with who I am as a person.”

Ms Almaeena moved to Dubai from the US in 2014. “I chose Dubai because it seemed to me to be the land of opportunity.

“They always say that the US is the land of opportunity but actually no, it is the UAE.

“It is open to every type of idea, every kind of experience you can imagine and that was very attractive to me because that is what I wanted and who I was.

“I wanted to be able to talk and meet different cultures and ethnicity – to be friends with them and understand how beautiful we were; not our differences but our similarities.

“This is why the UAE was so attractive to me – it was a land of opportunity and the diversity. The different experiences were very attractive to me.”

Like others who moved to the UAE, she does not feel homesick. “The beautiful thing is that I’m only two hours away from Jeddah so whenever that happens, if that happens, I just jump a flight and I’m there in two hours,” she says.

The similarities between the two nations, she says, were 99 per cent. “They are almost identical” she said. “The identity, the culture, the integrity …we are very similar.

“I see Saudi Arabia going in a beautiful direction and if we continue this way there’ll be no limits to what we can achieve in all sectors.”

She said she would celebrate National Day in the UAE. “I love to see how Emiratis have embraced Saudi so much.

“When I’m here it feels like we are brothers and sisters. Thank you [to the UAE] for valuing me. Thank you for seeing me as your sister. You’ve made me feel home," she said.

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