Case Study: an Adventure in Abu Dhabi

Case Study: an Adventure in Abu Dhabi

One of our lovely Consultants is settling into life Abu Dhabi. Dr Kate McCombe has newly relocated and in the midst of settling in and figuring out how life works in the Emirates. She has written about her experiences for us so that other Doctors considering relocating can gain a real-life insight into the relocation process. This is why we have developed our Case Study blogs, we hope you find them valuable!

All the photos in this post were taken by Kate.

If you are interested in learning more, you can search our available jobs or download our Doctors Guides for more detailed information on living and working in the regions we recruit to.

After working as an anaesthetic consultant in the NHS for several years, I decided I wanted an adventure and made the decision to broaden my horizons and look for a job abroad. I wanted to travel and experience different cultures and so when I was emailed by Head Medical about a position in Abu Dhabi, my interest was piqued. The team at Head Medical, comprising Carol Mercer and Carol Horan, were fantastic.

Based on one week’s experience, I’m really liking it here! The people at work have been really welcoming and friendly. It’s a small clinic which employs around 70 people in total; 13 of them are Consultants, all of whom trained in the UK or the USA although quite a few of them are from elsewhere. The selling point of the clinic is that it’s an outpost of King’s College Hospital and so they are determined to apply NHS values to the work we do. Around 60% of the patients at King’s Clinic are locals and the rest are ex-pats. Here, the local Emiratis are allowed to use the government hospitals for free and don’t pay at all for healthcare (as no one pays any tax) and ex-pats pay to use private services.

Photo by Kate McCombe - Kings College Hospital Abu Dhabi
Kings College Hospital Abu Dhabi, photo by Dr Kate McCombe

Establishing my Role

On the negative side, at the moment the clinic is still building up (it only opened a year ago) and at the moment the theatre lists are not busy. However, patient numbers have been growing steadily and so hopefully there will be an increase in the demand for my services over time. I am also hoping to become involved in providing obstetric anaesthesia to our obs patients. Otherwise, I will try to see this time as an opportunity for any projects I’ve secretly been harbouring and I have signed up for Arabic classes (although this is to take advantage of the opportunity to learn the language and is by no means essential as everyone speaks good English).

My Rota

I’m working a 2 week rolling rota:

Week 1 - Working every day 9am - 5.40pm with Friday off.

Week 2 - Working every day 9am - 5.40pm with Friday, Saturday and Sunday off.

Happily, there are 2 national holidays next week and so I’m only working Sunday - Tuesday and can go exploring for the rest!

Photo by Kate McCombe - Trip to Oman
Trip to Oman, photo by Dr Kate McCombe



My accommodation, organised by the clinic for me, is in a serviced apartment with is a 10 minute walk from work, so very convenient. It’s clean and fine, although not very homely. I’ve been quizzing everyone else about where they live and will start visiting a few places over the next few weeks. To rent here you have to pay a year in advance so I don’t want to make any rash decisions. The rents start at around £1000 per month for the cheapest but it is easy to get a low interest loan to pay for the year’s rent up front.

Photo by Kate McCombe - My Walk to Work
My Walk to Work, photo by Dr Kate McCombe


Acclimatising to the Cultural Mix

Abu Dhabi has exceeded all my cautiously hopeful expectations! It’s very similar to Dubai in terms of lifestyle, but less frenetic. I really would recommend this as a winter holiday destination for all ages - the hotels are amazing, the weather is gorgeous and there is loads to fill your time with if you don’t just want to laze around! On Thursday we went to the nearby mall (of which there are loads) to sort out a phone and then spent a lovely afternoon by the pool with friends who were, by chance, here on holiday. On Friday we went for brunch - something done by ex-pats which involves paying a fixed price for a massive buffet and free flowing champagne, wine and beer. Given that I was worried about causing offence even by wearing the wrong clothes it was a total eye opener! The restaurants, of which there are thousands, don’t sell alcohol, but the minute you step into a hotel there are cocktail bars, prosecco tents, Belgium beer houses, you name it. In order to buy alcohol to drink at home you have to get an alcohol license. This is easy to do online apparently, although I haven’t explored it yet as I’m not in a rush to get one, as I want to keep my wits about me while settling in to the new place and all its customs. The food is diverse and delicious and the supermarkets bursting with spices and fruit and veg and sauces that I’ve never even heard of. Taxis are everywhere and ridiculously cheap: we paid less than £10 for a 45 min journey over the weekend, and it costs pence to travel short distances, making it easy to get around without a car.

It’s an amazing mix here, there are women everywhere in abayas (the long black robe) and hijabs (the headscarf) and men in the long white robe (kandora) walking past people in more 'western' clothes. I guess there are no midrifs on display and not too many miniskirts or hotpants (except in the hotels, where anything seems to go), but other than that it’s just like walking down any street in London in terms of the dress and massive mix of nationalities (80% of the population is not Emirati). On the Corniche (the sea front) there are women in shorts and t-shirts and people sunbathing in bikinis on the beach. It seems to be a very pragmatic place where everyone rubs along together. 

Photo by Kate McCombe - Cornish Public Beach
Corniche public beach, photo by Dr Kate McCombe

Exploring Abu Dhabi

We went to Yas Waterworld on Saturday, which was just brilliant. Slides so fast it made your eyeballs bulge and it was really empty because it’s ‘so cold’ at the moment - around 27 degrees! We then went to Yas Mall which is brand new and beautiful with fantastic shops and restaurants. We saw a lot of people kite surfing off Yas Beach and so I will check that out in due course. Yas Island is where the Grand Prix will be hosted this coming weekend. I’m debating as to whether to get a ticket as I’ve no interest in the cars but Florence and the Machine are playing the after race concert on Sunday and I’d love to see them.

Photo by Kate McCombe - The London Eye of Abu Dhabi
The "London Eye" of Abu Dhabi, photo by Dr Kate McCombe

Building a New Social Life

I’ve found a yoga studio which runs various types of yoga classes and have been going after work and I went for a run on the Corniche last night. I was sweating within seconds and yet there were people running in hoodies and trousers, and jackets on top! Hopefully I’ll get used the heat and I think we’ve come at the right time to be able to acclimatise as it’s cooling down at the moment. Between September and May the temperatures are supposedly lovely and then it gets unbearably hot in the summer, when everyone lives in the air-conditioning.

I have a few invitations for lunch and dinner with friends and colleagues and I hope that my social circle will start to open up over time. I’m trying hard to get out there and meet people. I miss everyone at home very much, but I have no regrets so far and really hope that this will be a great few years!

Photo by Kate McCombe - Beach at Saadiyat
Beach at Saadiyat, photo by Dr Kate McCombe

Read our case study written by a Doctor who spent one year living in Australia.

If you would like further information about opportunities for Consultants in the United Arab Emirates, contact Carol Mercer on +44 (0)131 240 5273 or email

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