Moving on to Waqar – the Gardeners of Dubai

It seems like the blogosphere is bursting with posts about the sights and smells of fall:  stunning leaves with vibrant hues of orange, red and yellow, delicious recipes featuring pumpkin and apple, funky Halloween crafts.  Meanwhile, many Dubai bloggers are celebrating our version of fall.  “Woo hoo!  We’re below 100F! (38C)”  “Yay!  The treacherous, accident-inducing fog is here!  That means cooler temperatures are right around the corner!”

Of course it still feels nothing like fall.   Yes, October finally ushered in temperatures below 100 for the first time since April, but it’s still around 95F (35C).  Spending the entire summer here really has put a different spin on living in Dubai, and through it all, I complained left right and center.  But honestly, the thing that bothered me most was seeing the guys who work in the sun, day-in and day-out, even when the heat index was a mind-boggling 125F (52C). There are a seemingly endless number of men planting new flowers in medians and along highways, washing cars in countless parking lots across the city, and building Dubai’s villas, skyscrapers and mosques.

The ones I get to know personally, though, are the gardeners who come to our house every single day except Friday.  Everyone who has any green space to speak of employs one, and they only charge 200dhs – 400dhs ($55-$110) for the entire month.  Who knows how much they actually take home if they work for someone else like ours do.  They ride their tool-carrying bikes around the city to get from house to house which affords no break from the relentless heat.

Do we really need a gardener?  Not really.  We have a small yard and a few pots.  But these guys really want and need a job.  They often ring the doorbell, hoping to steal another gardener’s job and astutely point out how terrible your yard currently looks.  But let’s be honest, it isn’t all charity because it is really nice to not have to worry about watering anything, ever.  We’ve had four gardeners in the two years we’ve lived here.  Habib, Ali, Assad and now Waqar.

Many of them seem to know very little about gardening.  Assad kept bringing me half dead, weed-like plants, presumably ones that other people had thrown out.  I think he was doing this to get “tips.”  I didn’t have the heart to tell him to stop or get rid of them, so every time I did dishes I looked out on the pitiful, misplaced plants that he had haphazardly planted outside my kitchen window.  Just last week, Assad announced he was going back home to Pakistan, but he was bringing in his brother to take his place.  Mysteriously, all of these guys seem to be related.  My husband and I joke about this, so he asked Assad, “Hey, is Waqar really your brother?”  His response:  “Oh, cousin… maybe.”

Sometimes they can be exasperatingly creative in the ways they indirectly solicit extra cash, or annoying persistent when they ask for a job over and over.  But at the end of the day, I respect that they persevere in a job that is so mundane and seriously uncomfortable, and where there is zero chance for upward mobility.

I often wonder about what their life is like here and about the life they left behind in their home country…

gardener bike dubai

This was Habib’s bike. He had the coolest bike of all our gardeners.

This is Waqar (L) with his “brother” Assad (R). Assad insisted on getting in front of our SUV for the photo.



Gardener Dubai









About Lynda

Longhorns and Camels is a blog about exploring Dubai from the perspective of an expat from Texas. It features stories about living in Dubai including descriptions of local culture and popular activities in the region. It also includes photography of the UAE and other countries abroad. It has been recommended by several well-known guides for expatriates: InterNations, ExpatWoman and Expat Focus.
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11 Responses to Moving on to Waqar – the Gardeners of Dubai

  1. ThatOtherGuy says:

    Those are really nice photos. What kind of camera?

  2. Hi Lynda,
    I love the black & white photos too! I used to marvel as well at the fortitude of our gardeners. We started with Ahmed, then had Mohammed for ages (I’ll never forget his ear to ear smile every day when he arrived, hand over heart, which was his way to say a very special hello… ). Shortly before we left he had to go home to Pakistan for hernia surgery and his ‘cousin’ Ali took over. I chuckled to myself in the beginning every time I tried to remember his name and just thought of the famous boxer. My neighbor told me that Mohammed cried when he came back and found out I had left. It saddens me to realize how a little kindness touched him so deeply as he probably rarely experienced it. In hind-sight I believe it was things as simple as re-filling his water bottle as often as he needed and letting him sit in the shade of a tree in my back yard to eat his lunch or recommending him to a friend. He was good at his job so that wasn’t really difficult!

    Enjoy the cooler temperatures!

    • Oh that just breaks my heart! They do seem super appreciative for the smallest of gestures. I think Assad also used our house as “home base” – he’d eat his lunch here and I think keep some of his things in the back because I’d see him pop back in at the end of the day.

  3. Absolutely great pics!

  4. Jean says:

    Seems one hardly sees images of bicycling in Dubai. The other extreme is small groups of lycra guys racing there.

  5. Pingback: A Retrospective | Longhorns and Camels

  6. Life should not be this hard…

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