A friend asked me to write more about life for women in the UAE. So far I have not had any problems which I could identify as being specific to me being a woman.
One of the more amusing experiences was when I went for a meal in a more conservative town called Al Ain. On arrival I was offered a family table. It is not great having to ask for a table for one. Feeling rather embarrassed I quickly explained I was travelling for work. It soon became apparent there were two rooms for dining. The male side had numerous tables as you would normally expect. There was also a family room where each table was surrounded by a shoulder high brick wall. I began to realise that the ‘family table’ offer was not about numbers, but rather privacy while dining. I even got a bell to summon the waiting staff if I wanted anything.
There is an argument that Arabs treat women with a great deal of respect and that part of this is allowing them privacy. I think I have a lot more to learn about how Arabs view women. It is also interesting to note that the UAE government is keen to promote gender equality in the workplace. However this includes restrictions on working hours and physically challenging jobs. This could lead to debates on what equality for women actually is which are to much for this post.
Life for women in the UAE is also very dependent on your background and religion. It seems most Western women continue to dress and behave as they would in their home countries. Certainly the laws are sufficiently open to allow access to pork and alcohol. Nonetheless Western woman are encouraged to be respectful and not wear skimpy clothing. Similarly Arab and Muslim women are expected to dress in Arab and Islamic clothing. Still I have heard some interesting stories about how various Arab communities view and treat women which I will try to cover in a later post.
Overall it seems like life for women in the UAE is gong to have a lot of similarities to their home countries. Which I am sure for many is what they want.