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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 November 2018

Emirati students feel safe in London but urge caution

'London is tough but it makes you stronger and more independent. But I couldn’t imagine living here forever. Dubai is a much better place to live.'

LONDON // Recent attacks against Emiratis in London should not deter UAE nationals from seeking higher education in the British capital, say Emirati students in the city.

Talib Alhinai, an Emirati who is pursuing a doctorate in aerial robotics at Imperial College London, said London was interesting and diverse.

“I am happy to be studying in London,” he said. “I like it, it is a big cosmopolitan city. There are loads of things to do. There are plenty of opportunities to meet new people.”

The 21-year-old from Abu Dhabi said he felt safe there despite the recent violent robberies.

“I generally stick around zone one – the central area – but I don’t walk around talking on my phone in public or flashing my valuables and wear really expensive clothes because those are the type of things that attract trouble,” said Mr Alhinai. “I would always take the tube [the train] or a cab. If you are walking, stick to a well-lit street.

“Generally, a lot of Emiratis don’t use the tube but the tube is the second safest option after a taxi.

“Don’t use a cash machine, especially late at night or somewhere quiet.”

Mr Alhinai said people should be aware of their surroundings and to ensure that they were not being followed. Of the recent attacks against Emirati families this month, he said: “I don’t know the details of the attacks, but the nature of it seems that the people [attackers] knew there were valuables there, so somebody must have scouted it.”

For Jameela Ahli, an Emirati from Dubai, London is the “perfect” place to study.

“You not only learn from the best universities in the UK with international rankings but you also get the opportunity to have the ‘London experience’,” said the 24-year-old, who is studying for a master’s degree in international relations at Queen Mary University of London.

“You get to meet and interact with people from different cultures and backgrounds. Living in London is tough but it makes you stronger and more independent.”

Ms Ahli said she had researched the places to avoid in London before she came to the city.

“London is not as safe as Dubai,” she said. “I am always cautious of my surroundings … the places I go to and I’m careful not to stay out late at night.

“I’ve been feeling safe as long as I am cautious. I am also aware of the places with high crime rates and living far away from those areas made me feel safer.”

The two recent incidents involving Emiratis have made her even more cautious. “I always make sure the doors are locked and keep my phone, where I have my emergency numbers on speed dial, close to me,” she said.

“My advice to travellers is not to carry too much cash. Dressing modestly is also important in not attracting attention.

“Visitors should also make sure where they choose to stay is secure and away from unsafe areas.”

jbell@thenational.ae