Gisele Mendoza, or ‘Alia’a, came to Dubai with her family in 2010, and fell in love at first sight with the city. She decided to settle down here with her family, and her husband started a new business.

Mendoza is from Nicaragua, a country in Central America, in which Spanish is the official language, and she says about that: ‘My nationality is one of the rarest nationalities in the UAE; I think there are only five of us living here!’

She says that her friends call her Alia’a, an Arabic name which she chose to herself after settling down here Dubai, the city that she describes as ‘my best friend’.

In an interview with Dubai Post, Alia’a talks about her life before and after coming to Dubai, and explains how much she embraces the local culture.

‘After my marriage, I lived in Canada for a long time and got the Canadian citizenship from my husband, who is originally from Pakistan. I converted to Islam before my marriage, and then we moved to London. Years later, we arrived in Dubai where my husband started his business,’ she says.

‘Here in Dubai, my family has found generous Emirati friends, and it’s amazing the way they treat us. It’s interesting that many people here assume that I’m an Arab, so they start talking with me in Arabic, a language that I’m planning to study at the University of Sharjah.

‘Because of that, I actually started wearing abayas!’