Local News » Fond Farewell to prominent residents departing Fujairah

Fond Farewell to prominent residents departing Fujairah

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After sixteen years in Fujairah, local community members John and Kathleen Mittelstein are returning to their home in the United Kingdom.


Lots of things motivate people to live and work abroad; better pay or opportunities, experiencing a new culture, weather, or lifestyle.  Perhaps it’s a combination of those, or other reasons. While expatriates in Dubai or Abu Dhabi seem think they’re staying in the UAE less and less, Fujairah remains something of an outlier in more senses than one.


‘”Lots of things separate Fujairah from other parts of the country, but we’ve always felt that the main thing is the openness of the community here”, says John Mittelstein. “Fujairah is still one of those places where everybody knows your name”.


John has served as Marketing Manager for Port of Fujairah since he arrived in the year 2000, with his wife Kathleen. After sixteen years, he is retiring and they are both returning back to the UK.


Over the years, it hasn’t been uncommon for us to talk to people that have come back to Fujairah multiple times. 

John and Kathleen have agreed to have an informal interview with me, that quickly deteriorates into reflections on sixteen years of friendships and experiences. I am by far the guiltiest of letting us get sidetracked. 


After many fond personal anecdotes about residents that have come and gone over the years, I ask Kathleen if she believes she would have stayed as long if they had moved to Dubai rather than Fujairah.


“I think we’ve been fortunate in that we’ve gotten to experience a bit of all the Emirates, both as residents and through John’s work” she replies, “though I do think that’s something people in Fujairah should try to do more. Fujairah needs more exploring than some other parts of the country”.


They seem to have a common view on what makes Fujairah’s expatriate experience unique. They’re right; Fujairah does need to be explored but it makes you a better person for it- after some time you believe you live abroad rather than just work there. They recall stories of visiting many of the historical sites and the pools at Hatta with many other local residents. 


Another point they both agreed was that Fujairah feels more integrated than places like Dubai seem to be, with John adding, “It’s not uncommon to speak to residents of other Emirates who’ve barely spoken to, let alone built up good personal and professional relationships with the Emirati community”.


Fujairah is something of an open door community that still prefers not to deal in appointment times. You can barely go to an office, movie theatre or supermarket without seeing at least 4 people you know.


“When we arrived, we felt very welcome. The community was much smaller and there were more social and informal meet ups. Within the first few years of us arriving, there were bridge clubs, pottery- there used to be a ladies lunch. There would always be gatherings of people going on”, said Kathleen.

I asked them both for advice to new expats: “Put yourself out there, and don’t wait for things. Being an expatriate worker, the majority of people have been in your position. Get out there”.


I asked them what they’d say to themselves, arriving in the year 2000- “We wouldn’t have changed anything, if that’s what you’re asking. I think arriving here at the time we did was part of what made the experience special. We got to see the country develop”.


They’re not wrong. Changes that had happened to the whole country during the time they’ve spent here, let alone Fujairah, were monumental. Improved infrastructure and services, the addition of new leisure and dining facilities were all part of the changes that happened during John and Kathleen’s time here.


John and Kathleen have both been involved in the Mission to Seafarer’s Flying Angel Appeal, since the inception of the boat, to the launch, to the general maintenance and support of it over the years. 

John’s close ties to the maritime community led him to be put on the board of directors for the Flying Angel Appeal. John’s position as Warden for the British Consulate also meant he had good standing in the local community to raise support for the organization.


Over the years he has participated in many events that contributed to the building and running of the Flying Angel- whether it’s acting as Master of Ceremonies at events or acting as a liaison between the charity, and the business community.


During his career he’s seen the Port of Fujairah diversify and grow in line with the city itself, concluding he’s felt it’s “a sustainable sort of growth. Not just for the Port, but for the whole city. It’s retained an unique identity in a way that other places have struggled to”.


We wish them all the best in their next chapter of their lives


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