It’s broadly accepted by UAE residents, both past and present, that the most popular shopping mall of your childhood is also a good indicator of which generation you belong to.

Mumbai-based actress, presenter and content creator Roshni Chopra spent her teens in Dubai at a time when BurJuman Mall was the fanciest mall around. “And our first home was in Al Rumaithy building in Bur Dubai,” she recalls. Chopra was 12 when her family shifted to Dubai from Delhi in 1992 and the tween was, initially, less than thrilled about the move. She enrolled in Our Own English High School and would, during those early days, ask her mother how many days of school were left for her to attend. But it helped that she was surrounded by welcoming, supportive classmates and teachers - for instance, when she failed her first Arabic test, her Arab friends and Sudanese teacher helped her to study and ace the next one. "So whenever there is anything challenging in life now, I still think, ‘Listen, I learnt Arabic in three months, so I can do this!” she laughs.

Chopra, who went on to become a school prefect and then the head girl, points out that children in the UAE grow up with ‘global exposure’. She speaks from experience, having met King Charles III in England back when he was still the prince. “There was a charity polo match and the Varkey group was one of the sponsors of the match,” she says. “They choose a contingent of, I think, 10 students from across the Middle East from their schools (to represent them). We lived in Oxford and we were taken to the polo match. We were taught to do the royal courtesy, there was a whole protocol before we met Prince Charles, who is now the King. It was an eye-opening, thrilling and life-changing experience.”

She loved visiting Dubai’s beaches, hanging out at the Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club where her father played golf, setting off on desert safaris and having BBQ dinners with family friends in the middle of a desert, or a park. She remembers how when the Dubai Shopping Festival was first announced Al Rigga Street, where her family lived later, transformed into a ‘carnival’. “Dubai was so safe that our parents used to allow us to go out by ourselves. I think I miss the freedom to roam about wherever and whenever you want to go. Also, there was this gorgeous shawarma place called Automatic which served the best chilly shawarmas. My friends used to live down the street. The Dubai that I grew up in was not as fancy as it is today, but I remember it as being very warm, homely and extremely safe.”

She left the country several years ago but continues to retain a few habits that she’d picked up during her time here. For instance, she shudders at the thought of littering in public and private spaces. “We were taught to respect our surroundings. The fact that we should respect the infrastructure that a country provides us with, and help build it further, was something that was ingrained in me.”

“I think of myself as a global citizen and I attribute that to my upbringing in Dubai where there is a confluence of culture, food, music, art and history,” she continues. “There is a lot of respect for tradition and culture in the UAE while also having every global facility that you can dream of. And I love that."

Copyright © 2022 Khaleej Times. All Rights Reserved. Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (