Zoom with a sea view: How Dubai became the top-ranking beach city for digital nomads

Hayley Kadrou
May 2, 2021

As the world closed office doors to stop the spread of coronavirus, working from home became the norm. But for some digital workers, ‘home’ was far from normal as they uprooted for a more scenic Zoom backdrop in the UAE.

Around the globe, eliminating jammed-packed commutes and close contact office hours was the first line of defence against Covid-19. But as it became apparent that crowd control to ‘flatten the curve’ (which, as it turned out, was more of an ‘s’ shape) would last more than a matter of weeks – at least months, more likely years – some workers had to contemplate whether their current residences was the right setting for their home, work and social life for the foreseeable future.

As it became clear that working from home was crossing over from short-term into long-term, Dubai announced plans to enable remote workers to relocate to the emirate without having to seek local employment. The new residency programme encouraged remote workers to come and live in Dubai under a one-year residential visa – along with their families – so long as they remained employed and working with their companies at home.

Clearly, the programme was effective; in May 2021, the Netherlands-based resume building platform resume.io released data showcasing that Dubai was the most popular beach city for digital nomads. A study looking into the most common destinations for remote workers found that the hashtag #digitalnomad had been used some 27k times by people posting from Dubai.

working from home office
Working from home took on a new meaning for those temporarily residing in the Dubai. Credit | Pixabay

At the time of the initial announcement, His Excellency Helal Saeed Almarri, Director General, Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, communicated: “The global pandemic has changed how we live and work. As multinationals and leading start-ups across the world accelerate their rates of digital adoption, the need to be physically present to fulfil professional responsibilities has been redefined.

“People continue to prioritise their health, wellbeing and ability to ensure a positive work-life balance. Dubai is uniquely positioned to offer a safe, dynamic lifestyle opportunity to these digitally savvy workers and their families while they continue to work remotely, whether it is for a couple of months or an entire year.”

Just one month after the news of the remote work visa, the UAE followed up with groundbreaking news surrounding personal and family law – one of the biggest overhauls to the legal system in years. Part of this included relaxing regulations around alcohol consumption and cohabitation before marriage. This came at a time when the United Arab Emirate’s jubilee year was fast approaching, concluding the Vision 2021 set out ten years prior that outlined the aims of the nation for the fifty years ahead.

sunset over beach and see in Dubai
Beautiful Dubai sunsets are certainly a draw for those tempted for a change of scene. Credit | Pixabay

According to vision2021.ae. “The UAE National Agenda, which was developed by over 300 officials from 90 federal and local government entities, includes a set of national indicators in the sectors of education, healthcare, economy, police and security, justice, society, housing, infrastructure and government services.

“These indicators are long-term, measure performance outcomes in each of the national priorities, and generally compare the UAE against global benchmarks. The national indicators are periodically monitored by Government leadership to ensure their targets are achieved by 2021.”

This, alongside Dubai and it UAE’s effective response to the pandemic – from avid testing to quick vaccine roll-out – allowed for fewer restrictions without compromising safety compared to many countries around the world. Teamed with the emirate’s beautiful beaches, desert retreats, culinary gems and much more, uprooting for a one-year residential visa without seeking new employment was more inviting than ever before.

The remote working visa will extend across the UAE. Credit | Pixabay

In March this year, it was announced that the UAE as a country would follow suit when it comes to remote workers. Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, explained that, with the programme in place, ​”any employee anywhere in the world can reside in the UAE to practise work remotely even if the company is not present in the country”

Taking to Twitter at the time of the announcement in March, Sheikh Mohammed continued: “Development is continuous, change will not stop … our teams continue day and night to consolidate our international economic and political position and establish a quality of life that is the best in the world for our people and all those residing here.”

Whether you’re here for the long haul or working remotely, be sure to check out the best infinity pools in Dubai, staycation spots with Arabic flair and this Deira wellness retreat for a weekend of zen.