March 23, 2012 - Dubai, United Arab Emirates


Now that the conference is officially over, I met up with my second cousin, who lives in Dubai, to catch up and chat. It was so nice seeing her!


Before leaving, we talked about what I experienced here in the United Arab Emirates, and I spoke to her about some of the gender roles I found odd, which I mention in yesterday’s blog entry. Having lived in the UAE for four years and traveled to other Muslim countries, she was able to give me some perspective on what I witnessed. I viewed the gender dynamics as an oppressive one. However, she explained that the roles are not necessarily to place one gender over another, but it is a way to signal status. Here, women are pampered, especially if they are mothers—times that by two if the child is a boy. Men care for them and buy them whatever they want (similar to T.I. and Tiny’s situation- I love that show! Lol). In order to do this, the men work and the women often do not but are the receiver of queen-like treatment. If a woman drives, it can be seen as “un-lady-like” and a sign that the family is poor and cannot afford a driver. Thus, some women know how to drive but do not as a sign of status. They don’t carry heavy bags; they pay someone else to do it, as a sign of status. Now, this behavior does not seem odd. We do the same thing in the U.S.


The Emirate population only makes up about 10% of the United Arab Emirate population. The rest are foreigners. This group is relatively wel off and supported by the government. As we drove around looking for desserts to purchase, it occurred to me that I had not seen one homeless person on the streets. I have never been to a country where there was not at least a few people wondering around aimlessly on the streets. Not here. I asked my cousin about this, and she said that they do not have homeless people in Dubai. How could this be? (1) The poor are often foreigners and will be deported if they are homeless (2) the Emirate population is generally not poor. This blew my mind.


It finally made sense. All week, I wanted to understand gender roles and how the women felt about them. I found that they are generally not hostile towards these rules because they “benefit” in a material way from them. Additionally, it is a part of the religion. As a Christian, I can understand being okay with rules that may not be popular for the sake of honoring my belief in God.


Now, my conversations with my buddy made more sense. I finally understood why she had such traditional views of the role of the husband and wife in a marriage. I admired the fact that she considered sex before marriage “haram,” or forbidden. Often, we Christians like to play around the rules, but her use of “forbidden” gave the rule a more serious meaning. I finally understood why my buddy wanted to give me gifts (gift giving is a huge part of the culture here), invite me to her home, spoke about having a driver take her places. She has status and those are all signs of her status here. Now, that I understand the UAE and am adjusted to the 8 hour time difference…I have to return to college to finish my last semester of undergraduate study. *Sigh*…..What other Muslim countries should I visit? I think I’ve started something….



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