AFTER spending just over two years working as a Quantity Surveyor based in the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah, Enniskillen man Nick Finlay believes there is no place quite like home.
Just a month since his return to the Emerald Isles, the 30-year-old has taken up a role with local estate agents, Montgomery Finlay & Co, alongside his father, the firm’s Senior Partner, Terry Finlay.
“I think when you travel a lot with work you begin to really appreciate the qualities Fermanagh has to offer, the people, culture and friendliness,” says Nick.
His work opportunity in the Middle East came after a conversation with a friend who was also working out in Saudi Arabia.
“He was still working out there at the time when I was chatting to him. We had a quick talk about what he was doing out there and convinced me to have a go.
“Originally I was only going out for one year but I kept my head down for another year because I was building a house at home.”
Nick has been heavily involved in the construction industry for the past seven years - he graduated with a BSc in Commercial Management and Quantity Surveying and MSc in Project and Construction Management from Queen’s University. Following university he became a Member of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (MRICS) and worked across the UK and Ireland before seizing the opportunity most recently in the Middle East with Ridder Levett Bucknall.
Although he describes himself as a ‘homebird’, Nick saw the work in the Middle East as a chance to “get the experience to move on to the next level”.
“I went online and looked up a couple of jobs in the Middle East. Originally I had agreed to go to Qatar but then Saudi came up. I didn’t know much about it but when it was explained to me, I agreed and four weeks later I was on the plane to go.”
Nick says one of the key selling points was the opportunity to work on the Kingdom Tower - a sky scrapper over 1,000 metres high which, when completed, will become the largest building in the world.
“It was a unique experience working on such a iconic development,” he says, “And generating a city in the desert.”
As part of his work, Nick was also involved in the development of a housing development of 1,400 homes, a shopping centre and the Prince’s Palace.
“It was an enlightening experience living in a completely different culture - travelling to places I would never have thought to explore.
“It has given me a different perspective on life and I now want to make the most of every opportunity and live life to the full really,” says Nick, “Going away and experiencing how people live and how they approach life has given me the chance to pick the positives from the way other people do things.
“I remember for my first trip over there I got in a plane from Turkey to Jeddah and when I got there everyone was wearing only towels. I had no idea what was going on and I was thinking - ‘where am I going’. But I know now that they were on their pilgrimage.
“It is an incredible culture over there. They have very strong religious beliefs which govern everyday life.
“They have prayer time five times a day where shops close. They get their call for prayer through speakers across the city.”
During the two years Nick visited Petra, Jordan, the Egyptian pyramids, Dubai and even had a chance to attend the Formula One in Abu Dhabi as part of a work do.
But despite all this, he says living away from family and friends for so long was “tough”.
“There were not may people my age,” he says, “There were a lot of families over there but not too many 25 to 35-year-olds.
“I struggled with the socialising side. It was very hard trying to stay in contact with people at home. Over there I could go to work and come home again without speaking to a single person.
“My mates were probably sick and tired of me phoning and whatsapping them. But being on your own for that length of time - your mind plays tricks on you. Too much alone time is not a good thing!
“I was so glad to have the local rugby club - it was a lifeline. That is the amazing thing about sport. You can be anywhere in the world and make friends through sport.”
Nick played for the Saudi Arabia International Rugby Team against Jordan. The team is an ex-pat, close-knit community whom Nick became very close with while he was there.
“We would have a training session through the week and would catch up at the weekend for golf or scuba diving. Scuba diving in the Red Sea is an incredible experience - it is beautiful,” says Nick.
With a busy work schedule and trips home around four times each year, Nick’s time in the Middle East flew in.
Although he fully relished the experience, he says he wouldn’t consider it again: “I think I have put in my time. But I would fully recommend it to anyone else.
“Getting back home it is a great feeling - I really appreciate being part of a community again, seeing friends and family and interacting with people on street. I now realise that you don’t get that kind of community feeling anywhere else. You can walk down the street here and say hello to people. Over in Saudi you might not have spoken to anyone in a day.
“I like to see myself as a sociable person, I like getting out and about, so not having that social interaction that you get so easily here, was hard.”
And now he is settling into his new job with Montgomery Finlay & Co, a business that has been a part of his life for many years.
“I was brought up within the business,” says Nick, 
“I have always talked about how the market is going with dad, I had my work experience with Montgomery Finlay when I was younger. So the transition [into the new role] has been relatively easy.
“It is very fast paced - things seem to be picking up quite a bit, it is busy in the office, which is great.
“It is a massive relief being home, particularly because I can be with my son.
“I am not constantly thinking: ‘What is my next step?’. 
“This is me settling now and that is an amazing feeling.”