Dubai: As the eyes of the continent turn to the UAE in January, we explore the country through the eyes of expats from across Asia with less than three weeks to go for the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019.
Indians make up the largest expat group in the UAE, with over 25 percent of the country's 10 million population hailing from India. Docked on the bank of the Dubai Creek, we caught up with Abubakar, who operates an 'Abra' boat, to see the UAE through his eyes.
When Abubakar arrived to the UAE from Malappuram in the football-mad Southern Indian state of Kerala two decades ago, Burj Khalifa - the world's tallest tower - the famous Palm Islands, and the iconic Hazza bin Zayed Stadium all didn't exist.
A lot has changed in one of the world's fastest growing countries, but Abubakar remains dedicated to his beloved little 'Abra'. These wooden boats carry 20 passengers at a time and have been transporting people across the Dubai Creek since 1860.
"Things have changed a lot in the 20 years since I started working in the Abra," says Abubakar, his eyes twinkling as he gazes across the water towards Deira, on the northern bank of the Dubai Creek.
"Back then, a lot of people used to use the Abra to commute to and from work on a daily basis. People of all nationalities would use it to cross from Deira to Bur Dubai or vice-versa. Now that public transport in Dubai has become really good, it is mostly tourists who come for the experience."
"The Abras run from 6:00 in the morning until midnight every day, and there are two of us to share shifts on each boat. Every one of us has a dedicated boat that the other captains also know. Mine is 83.
"When we are on duty, we eat at any of those restaurants over there," Abubakar points to the row of small shops lining up the southern bank of the creek.
"We usually have rice and dosa, but my favourite dish is fish masala. It's popular in Kerala and with so many Keralite living in Dubai, you can easily find good Southern Indian food."
"I have been here for 20 years, apart from a couple of years when I went back to India, but found that there are more work opportunities here so I decided to come again.
"It will be great to see the Indian national team playing here. We usually do well in cricket when we play in UAE, so I hope it's the same with football. I will be keeping an eye on the games if I can't go, and I can't wait to see football fans from all over Asia in the city. I invite them to come experience an Abra ride while they are here!"