6. WOMEN are not the same as MEN
The rules were created by men in a society dominated my men. That says it all.
For example, as a woman, if you are raped, you are fucked – literally! I have read about so many cases of women that, after being sexually abused tried to seek help from the authorities, to only end up in jail for having “extramarital relations”. It’s like the fact of those relations being unwillingly held doesn’t even count. If you are a victim of sexual abuse, being a woman, there is a very good chance things turn against you, even more. Where were you ? Who were you with ? What were you doing ?
Polygamy is also something that places women on a different level than men. Men are allowed to marry up to 4 women, as long as he ensures to treat them equally, providing for them and their children. Up until this point, it sounds fine – having a guy that pays the bills, provides you housing… what’s there not to like? Well, not only the romantic notion of marriage is mutilated by the fact that you would have to share your significant other but, as a wife, you are objectified by the fact that you are put in the same shelf as the other wives. Somehow society tends to think that, as long as treated equally as the other women, wives would be happy. As if economic stability was all there is to marriage.
7. CENSORSHIP – brought to you in all shapes and colors!
Worst than having someone censoring you, is being part of a society that has its media and arts auto-censoring themselves, for the sake of avoiding punishment.
If you live in Dubai and really want to know what happens there, either you read the international papers or, much better, look for personal blogs on the internet – these will probably be anonymous and have a limited life span before they get blocked, as many other websites are. But only those could give you the full scoop, as local media would never publish anything that might be considered immoral, against the Rulers or Islam, or has anything to do with sex, nudity or pornography.
Defamation is taken so seriously in the UAE that, I even know about the case of a guy who, just for publicly mentioning cases of poor service in restaurants and other local services at his handle “Name & Shame”, not only got his Twitter account shut down but was caught by the Police. I-n-s-a-n-e! You are not allowed to say or write anything that might be perceived as negative, no matter if true, even if you are stating facts rather than personal opinions.
Censorship will not only influence the sources of information but, as well, the arts. In one of the first concerts I organized in Dubai a band that was playing sang the word “fuck” and I will not forget those 15mins of telling off that the owner of the venue gave me, for being afraid of the authorities that, often, attend these events undercover.
A person can live without saying the word “fuck”, no big deal. But what about all the movies that I have watched in Dubai with censored scenes? Even The Simpsons Movie had a scene censored when Homer and Marge kissed! If they can’t look at cartoons kiss (even though they have been married for the past 23 seasons…) they wouldn’t obviously allow shoots taking place in the country, when those include nudity, immoral behavior or any not-so-good reference to the country or religion.
8. Those who stay in the Emirates tend to become “SO DUBAI!”
If you stay in Dubai for too long, there is a very good chance you start becoming “Dubai“. What does that mean? Things that might have not felt normal to you when you arrived, start becoming acceptable. Being part of the microcosmos that Dubai can be, it’s easy to loose touch with other realities.
Making friends in Dubai is a task! People tend to have a “come and go” mentality. Why get attached to someone when you know that sooner rather than later this person or yourself would end up leaving this place? Might as well keep things superficial and have fun, right? No wonder I have met so many people while in Dubai and stay in touch with so few of them. People would rather “network”, not hang out.
It’s easy to be surrounded by people in this city and yet, feel all alone. You party, you go out to drink, you go on weekends to Oman… but where are all of these acquaintances when you have a problem or need someone to talk to?
Already getting to know people can be frustrating. How to meet people in Dubai 101 goes as follows:
“Where are you from?”
“What do you do for a living?”
“Where do you stay?”
And BAM! You have been labeled! Specially the “where do you stay” part, says a lot about your status in Dubai. If you stay in Marina, JBR, The Palm and any other area that includes the word Jumeirah in the name, you are cool. For other places, we would need to talk further and see if you are decent material.
There are pros and cons to having a family in Dubai. The major advantage, I would say, is the multicultural society. It’s definitely key towards a tolerant behavior that a child is exposed since a young age to kids of other races, nationalities, religions and cultures. In theory, this sounds brilliant, but in practice, most young people I have met who were born or at least raised in the UAE tend to carry way too many prejudices for their ages.
Not only will they be “so Dubai” labeling others based on their differences but they will probably not understand what the words “struggle” and “hard work” mean. Most kids in the UAE have been raised in well-off families. Many would have had nannies and maids. End result: there is a very big probability they are spoiled. If you see luxury all around you, of course you don’t know what the world is really about.
Don’t get me wrong – not all kids are little devils in Dubai. There are, of course, great children as well. But even if you manage to raise your kid in Dubai with great morals – which is a very subjective concept to begin with – he/she will end up being a victim of a rather superficial and unequal society.
The UAE is considered the most liberal country of the Middle East. Following this, Dubai is certainly the most forward between the 7 Emirates. Comparatively this might sound good, but on it’s own, I don’t think this is good enough. In Dubai, everything lies under the surface. If you are socially and economically affluent, it’s easy to keep yourself distracted and just focus on whatever matters the most to you on an immediate level. Never go deeper than that, because it’s like moving sands…
9. If you can PAY for it, then it’s OK!
What a hypocritical society! According to Sharia law liquor is not allowed - apparently, the Quran is very clear on this. Still, all hotels and restaurants/bars attached to hotels can serve alcohol, as long as they pay high license fees – which obviously reflects in the price of the drinks. I guess they know that, without alcohol, expats wouldn’t stick around for long. But, what kind of principles are these? If something is wrong, then it should be wrong all the way. You can actually purchase drinks at specific liquor shops (provided you have a license that your employer – yes, your employer – must approve) but may luck be on your side if you are ever caught possessing alcohol outside a licensed place.
Prostitution is another field of entertainment that will give advantage to those who can pay well. Although totally prohibited in the country, everybody knows how easy it is to hire the services of a prostitute in Dubai. I hear Russian and Ethiopian ladies are amongst the most desired. In Dubai, not only is there prostitution but there is luxury prostitution – the higher end they are, the less probabilities they have of being caught, as everything happens much more subtly. Then again, if you can pay, it becomes (almost) OK.
And talking about money: how can there be charity fund-raisers when this country is LOADED?
I am pro fundraisers, in many cases, but every time I have come across a fund-raiser in Dubai I couldn’t help but wonder: why wouldn’t the government support these causes, when they have so much money?
On my first job in Dubai, I helped organizing a charity concert to raise funds for an institution that worked with special needs kids. Apparently, this organization was short on means to give assistance to all the families that had a kid with mental handicaps . All cents count towards the cause, but when the government could easily fund this kind of institution, it feels wrong to run campaigns appealing to the common people. Money shouldn’t be an issue here.
10. You can LIVE in Dubai all your life, but you’re gonna have to LEAVE
As an immigrant in the UAE, when you have a job, you are granted a resident visa that allows you to stay in the country. But what happens when you retire? Well, when your services are no longer needed, you are going to have to go.
I have met people that were born and raised in the UAE and have NEVER even visited their countries. They feel almost local, except for this “little” detail: one day, when they retire, they will have to leave. Where to, if this place has been “home” all your life? Might as well leave when you are young and can start a life somewhere else.
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Dubai offers enough distractions to keep you away from thinking about the points above. Those who think, will not talk much. You can criticize things lightly between your expat friends but, for what really matters, YOU DON’T HAVE A SAY! And I doubt that’s about to change any time soon.
While many Arab countries are flowering during the Arab Spring, the UAE will remain the same. Why? Because the rulers make sure Emiratis are content with their existence. At the beginning of 2012, for example, all UAE citizens (not residents) have been awarded a 100% raise on their already inflated salaries. Where else in the world would this be possible? Of course you wouldn’t want to speak up against your country or those who rule it.
Obviously, not everything about Dubai or the United Arab Emirates is awful. If it was, I wouldn’t have lived there for 4 years. But it is outraging for me to think that most people across the world still think of Dubai as some sort of “promised land” where richness and glam are awaiting you. Depending on who you are and, particularly your background, that might be the case. But: would you want to live in a place that, no matter how rich it is, still treats people like cattle? No thanks, not for me…
And you know what pisses me off the most? That some people who know well what kind of sick shit is going around them do not care, because ultimately it doesn’t affect them directly. For many, it’s “every man on their own”, no compassion, no sense of society or brotherhood. Let’s not look at ourselves too much and forget about the big picture, because at the end of the day we’re all human and we should all have the same basic rights.
Have you ever thought of moving to Dubai?
Have you been there before?
What do you think of this place?