Having worked abroad for almost 24 years, Sherryl Hassan can't imagine going back to the UK. In her job as housekeeper for the Emirates Towers hotel, a large, luxury, corporate hotel in Dubai, she insists there's never a dull moment. "I love it here - the sun, cyclones, hurricanes and earthquakes! And there's always something going on in housekeeping. You can never get bored."
Born in Droitwich, Worcestershire, 45-year-old Hassan began her career at the Araak hotel in Khartoum, Sudan, in 1976. She was later given the opportunity to work for Ramada Hotels in Qatar as housekeeper, and she enjoyed it so much she has never looked back. Since then she has worked in Egypt, Fiji, Kuwait and Hong Kong before arriving at the United Arab Emirates six months ago.
"Of course, one of the advantages of living abroad is the tax-free salary, but I like working with a multinational staff, too. Actually, living in another country rather than just visiting it for a vacation means you learn so much about the people, their customs and lifestyles," she explains.
These days, Hassan's base is in Egypt - her husband's home country, and the place where she feels her family will eventually settle. She doubts whether she would ever return to the UK to work, enjoying the stimulation and challenges that come from working to the high standards demanded of her in international hotels.
"Each hotel I have worked in has been a great achievement for me, whether it has been a pre-opening or a refurbishment. I really enjoy putting things right and training the staff to the standard required by whatever company I am working for."
The Emirates Towers hotel is one of four in the Jumeirah International hotel group and has 400 bedrooms and 11 restaurants. Hassan is in charge of looking after housekeeping in the guest rooms, the hotel's public areas and all food and beverage outlets, and has responsibility for uniforms, flowers and on-site laundry.
As well as her salary, the hotel gives her free family accommodation, school fees, family medical insurance, food and drinks, and annual home-leave tickets. As her family live with her in Dubai, she can take full advantage of all these perks.
"We go back to the UK each year to visit my family so they can spend time with my daughter. I do miss it, and in a way it is still home. I love the countryside and my Mum's cooking. I especially like to go back in autumn when the weather is cooler and I can see and feel rain again."
But it is in Egypt that Hassan plans to retire one day. "In five years' time I will be ready, probably. I think all housekeepers will probably tell you that, although I do wonder whether I will ever be able to let go." n
interview by Helen Adkins