The United Arab Emirates is home to several large communities of expatriates. With Dubai and Abu Dhabi, in particular, serving as global business capitals, people from around the world come to the Emirates for work — and many stay and raise families.
When moving to the UAE, it can take some expats a while to get used to the culture, the weather and the language. One of the best ways to get acclimated is to find others with whom you share interests, a background or a native language.
For anyone moving to or already in the UAE, kickstart your social life with any of these 26 expat community groups.
General Expat Groups
The Expats Club — UAE
The Expats Clubs – UAE offers expats from anywhere a great opportunity to meet people from all over the world in a friendly, open environment. The group, with more than 2,000 members and expats in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, is open to both networking and making social connections.
InterNations’ UAE, Abu Dhabi and Dubai Groups
InterNations is a nine-year-old network of some 2 million global expats. You have to sign up for access, but doing so opens you up to expat communities in 390 different places around the world. InterNations has three local expat communities —in Abu Dhabi, in Dubai, and across the whole UAE.
Expat Groups Just for Women
American Women’s Network of Abu Dhabi
In 2016, AWN Abu Dhabi celebrates 22 years of helping women from all countries connect, exchange information, and find support when needed. The group organizes regular events throughout the year, but perhaps the best way to meet its members is through its Coffee Mornings, held at 10:00 every first and third Thursday of the month at the Khalidiya Palace Rayhaan by Rotana.
Arabian Ranches Ladies
Ranches Ladies is a large organization that welcomes all women living in Dubai. The club meets every Tuesday morning at Arabian Ranches Golf Club. Organizers plan numerous events throughout the year, and if you join they will send a weekly email newsletter with a schedule of upcoming events.
International Business Women’s Group Dubai
The IBWG has served Dubai and the Northern Emirates region for more than 25 years, connecting businesswomen and helping foster new business opportunities. “We, as women in business, are here to support other women in business — across all nationalities — in a focused, targeted environment where we can effectively connect and discuss issues relevant to our careers and lives with our same sex peers,” group organizers write.
If you are interested in joining IBWG’s professional network, you can find application information on the website. The group also hosts monthly luncheons and breakfast events, workshops, and mentorship opportunities.
Swiss Ladies Dubai
Swiss Ladies Dubai is a group exclusively for Swiss women living in Dubai who come together to celebrate their own culture through events, nights out and coffee mornings. “Swiss Ladies Dubai welcomes all newcomers,” group leaders write. “We provide a strong network of friendships that help to help with settling into your new life.”
Groups for Hobbies and Interests
Abu Dhabi Striders
Abu Dhabi Striders was founded in 1984 and is open to any committed local runners. The group holds various runs four times per week, and in November it hosts a half marathon and 10K in the city.
Dubai City Sound
For any expats with great singing voices, Dubai City Sound is an all-female a cappella group that performs four-part, barbershop-style songs around the city. The group’s director, Gayle Powell, has a decade of barbershop singing experience, and she will occasionally hold auditions for new members.
A cycling group of about 5,000 members, Dubai Roadsters organizes weekly rides in and around the city. From time to time, organizers put together international rides you can join, too. Just be mindful of the main rule: No helmet, no riding.
The Dubai Rowing Club
The Dubai Rowing Club was founded in 2005 and has a core membership of a few dozen active rowers. At the time of writing, however, the club is looking for a new home so it can organize regular events.
Riding for the Disabled Association of Dubai
The Riding for the Disabled Association of Dubai organization helps children with special needs “develop their physical, cognitive and emotional abilities” through therapeutic horseback riding. There are about 60 children currently enrolled in its program.
While not necessarily an expat group, RDAD is always looking for committed, enthusiastic volunteers. You can learn more about volunteering here.
Nation-Specific Expat Groups
Abu Dhabi Irish Society
The years 2015 and 2016 are big ones for the Abu Dhabi Irish Society. In 2015, the group celebrated its 40th anniversary. And 2016 will see several important centennial celebrations for The Republic of Ireland. Members of the Abu Dhabi Irish Society can join in these ongoing celebrations; another perk of membership is discounts at several businesses around the city.
Aussie Abroad Abu Dhabi
Founded to promote both Australian culture and unity among Aussies in Abu Dhabi, Aussie Abroad Abu Dhabi hosts a handful of events for members each month. Members also receive special perks, including discounts from local businesses and the group’s regular email newsletter to keep up with scheduled events.
Australian Business Council Dubai
The Australian Business Council Dubai helps promote relationships between Australian and Dubai businesses. The council maintains a busy calendar each year that includes social gatherings, networking events, trade forums and a golf tournament.
Australian New Zealand Association UAE
ANZE UAE is a volunteer-run organization founded more than 20 years ago to support both Aussies and Kiwis in the UAE. Regular events include coffee mornings and happy hours, playgroups for children, and charity fundraisers.
Belgian Club Dubai
Belgian Club Dubai is a subgroup of the larger Belgian Business Council for Belgians in Dubai, itself founded in 2008 “to provide a platform where members can network with each other, businessmen and authorities in the United Arab Emirates in a proactive manner.” At present, the group counts more than 800 members.
BilgiDubai Turkish Community
BilgiDubai is a group for Turkish expats that counts its members by the thousands. “BilgiDubai’s aim is for Turkish speaking citizens of the United Arab Emirates to get to know each other, offer help and advice to each other and ensures that everybody in the community is informed about interesting activities, festivities and important announcements,” organizers write.
Canadian Business Council Dubai
The Canadian Business Council in Dubai is an important branch of the largest Canadian professional networking organization in the world. Members get priority access to more than 20 events each year, receive invitations to embassy and consulate events, and get the chance to hear notable guest speaker presentations.
Christian Voices Chorale
ChoirFest Middle East’s 2015 choir of the year, Christian Voices Chorale is a nonprofit, professional chorus composed of Filipino expatriates. “The ensemble explores the parallels between music and their own personal lives by bringing out the emotions and creativity of the music, the fruits of consistent practice, and the joy of working together on something they love and truly enjoy,” organizers write.
Even if the choir isn’t accepting new members, its performances are worth checking out if you get the opportunity.
Dubai Irish Society
Founded a year before its sister group in Abu Dhabi, DIS counts its members by the thousands, too, and “welcomes everyone Irish, of Irish descent as well as those who have a strong interest or close connection with Ireland.”
Dubai Welsh Society
The Duabi Welsh Society was founded in 1997 to give Welsh expats a social community while living in or visiting Dubai. The group meets at 19:30 on the second Monday of each month at Dubai Offshore Sailing Club, and new members are welcome to attend. The group also hosts several events throughout the year, including a St. David’s Day Ball, musical performances, and quiz nights.
Dutch Association in Dubai
NVDubai has welcomed all Dutch expats in Dubai and the Northern Emirates since 1984. The groups hosts a variety of Dutch holiday events throughout the year, organizes social activities, and publishes a magazine called “De Hollandse Nieuwe.”
India Club Dubai
India Club Dubai’s home was actually gifted to the Indian community in 1964 by H.H. Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum to commemorate India’s Independence Day. “A beehive of activities all year round, this is one club that has come to be synonymous with a certain standard in the area of sports and leisure,” club management writes. There are several sports facilities in the club, which also puts on some of the most fun events on Dubai’s annual calendar.
Scots in Dubai
The Scottish Association in Dubai was founded in 1975 to promote Scottish culture in the Emirates and to offer Scots a community in which to celebrate traditional events such as the St Andrew’s Ball and Burn’s Supper. Members also receive discounts at certain businesses and exclusive invites to special events such as Meetings of the Clans.
images by: Nicolai Berntsen, Dylan Gialanella, jpeter2, Harshal Hirve