Welsh girl Abbie Ryan is making waves in Dubai and is launching a new venture which will allow her to spend more time in her beloved Wales. We arranged a Zoom interview to find out more…
First of all Abbie, it looks very hot on your balcony, what’s the temperature?
It’s mid 30’s! Sorry, I don’t want to rub it in, but this is just typical daily weather out here. We take it for granted though, whereas back home my family make the most of your sunny days back home in Wales.
So Wales is still home, where were you born and raised?
I’m a Llantrisant girl, from south Wales. My Dad was one of the founding members of Edward’s Coaches and Mam worked at the Welsh blood service. My family and my sister still live in the area, she’s a teacher in a Welsh primary school.
Do you speak Welsh?
Yes. I went to Ysgol Rhydfelen, I still speak Welsh with my sister and try my best with the rest of the family, but I’m a bit rusty as I don’t use much Welsh here in Dubai.
How and why did you end up in Dubai?
I came here on holiday when I was about 16, and I had this bizarre feeling that I’d been here before. I can’t explain it, the whole holiday was like Déjà vu. The culture felt familiar and I felt I was destined to come here. I moved here in 2017, just as I was turning 30 as I felt I needed to push my career.
What were you doing at the time?
I studied Event Management in Cardiff and I’d been working with a PR agency and then with the Celtic Manor, where I’d been working closely with exclusive clients and people who liked a certain standard of life, and that inspired me. I then worked with the Welsh Blood Service, I loved it, it was one of my favourite jobs as I got to travel the whole of Wales meeting all types of people and encouraging them to give blood, but I felt I wanted to progress.
How did you find work in Dubai?
I submitted a few applications for various jobs and I was fortunate enough to get the role of Business Development Manager for Bishop Design, a well-known design and architecture company out here who work with lots of top hotels like the Ritz Carlton and many others.
It sounds very glamorous! What did your work involve?
The company leads everything from start to finish, from designing new restaurants to the full experience until the first customers walk in. I manage the whole process, it was a lot of responsibility managing all the different teams involved and dealing with the clients to ensuring we were delivering everything they expected and more, but I loved it and it was really exciting and I have team members from across the globe which I love.
What are you up to now?
I now work for Creneau and one element of my work involves working on the Belgium Beer Café Franchise. We’ve now got 18 franchises all over the world from New York to Europe and beyond.
You have also launched your own venture during lockdown!
Yes, the Peninsula Club. Unlike Wales and the UK, when Covid-19 arrived here, there was no support packages to fund people when work was forced to close. I had to think on my feet and had always been keen to develop a way that I could bring Welsh people together in Dubai and promote Welsh produce and Wales itself. The Peninsula Club Lunch was born and it’s a lifestyle brand that allows the Welsh and other like -minded people to network here in Dubai, we arrange evenings, club lunches and pop up events. The main hub here is at the Mina Brasserie at the Four Seasons Hotel here in Dubai, a really classy venue and I’m excited to be partnered with them to host the Peninsula Club here in the Middle East.
Is it just for the wealthy Welsh business people?
You don’t have to be Welsh, but it’s certainly aimed at the clientele who enjoy the finer things in life. It’s a place to enjoy good food, good music and more with like minded people. I’m keen to showcase and promote the best produce from Wales and Welsh culture too. I’ll be donating 2.5% of the income to Welsh charities, this is something many Islamic people do and I love that idea and I like giving back.
You plan to host some in Wales too
Yes! I’ve partnered up with the Celtic Manor, we’ll be running two weekend ‘Peninsula Club Lunches’ each month there from August, they will take place on the first and third weekends of every month. I’ll be flying home for those.
I’m really pleased that I’ll be able to spend more time at home with my family. I usually come home once a month but haven’t been able to due to Covid-19. My Welsh base will be at home in Llantrisant. My sister has had a baby girl called Elodie recently and I’m so excited to be an Aunty. It was another reason why I wanted to spend more time in Wales.
Why are you driven to put Wales on the map?
When I bring my friends from Dubai home to Wales, they are gobsmacked by it’s beauty and what it offers them, they are equally gobsmacked that no one knows about it. Walking up Pen y Fan with them and taking them to Tenby, they are mesmarised and it’s made me even more passionate about shouting about it and promoting what we have to offer. It’s inspired me to buy a property in Tenby one day too!
Wales International would like to thank Abbie for sharing her story with us. We are also really excited to share the news that Abbie will be one of or new Wales International Ambassador in Dubai, helping to keep us up to date with what the Welsh are up to in that part of the world!
If you would like to share your story and become a member of Wales International email email@example.com. We can’t wait to hear from you!
Heulwen Davies, Cymru a’r Byd