We have female ministers in the government, we have the right to vote and we’re getting an all-female police force. It pretty much rocks to be a woman in the UAE, explains writer Rachel Hamilton…
So, March 8th is International Women’s Day. I think of myself as an International Woman – born in the US, raised in the UK, had a child in Hungary and now live in the UAE – and I support the day’s focus on gender equality and women’s rights.
Big fan of those. So I was surprised that when I moved to the UAE some friends assumed I’d abandoned those principles. People ask how it feels not to be able to leave the house without covering up from head to toe. Um? Wrong country. Others question what it’s like not being allowed to drive. Er? That’d be Saudi.
There are so many daft ideas floating around about life in the Middle East. While it would be wrong to say everything’s perfect, many things make the UAE a great place for this international woman to live.
Here are a few:
• Diversity. As a wise film character once said, “life is like a box of chocolates”. In the UAE it’s one of those boxes that need a mahoosive booklet to describe the flavours because there’s so much choice. The blend of nationalities here means I’ve eaten the tastiest food, worn the craziest clothes, and ended up with the most amazing friends from all over the world – Syria, UAE, Lebanon, South Africa, India, Australia, US, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Argentina, Yemen, Germany, The Philippines, Saudi, to name just a few.
• Opportunity. Something about the UAE makes you feel anything is possible. It’s a land of optimism, ambition and big thinking. I’ve always wanted to be an author, and arriving here I suddenly believed I could. Several years on, I have three books out, a few awards sitting on my shelf, and a strong belief that dreams really can come true.
• Choice. I know this isn’t the case for everyone, so don’t hate me if you’re reading this with your nose to the grindstone trying to remember what your children look like, but many people become better off financially and have shorter commutes when they move here. This creates a happier work-life balance and helps parents spend as much time as they like (sometimes more than they like!) with their families.
• Kindness. Perhaps because many of us are far from home, there are strong support networks in the UAE. Friends go out of their way to help. Strangers too. I often see pregnant, disabled, and older women given special treatment and ushered to the front of shop queues here. Back in the UK, at eight months’ pregnant, I had to pretend I was about to vomit on a man on the London Underground before he’d give up his seat for me.
• Safety. I never know where I’m going, but I feel safe wandering around here, even late at night. And, as a fool who frequently loses her purse, I love that every time I drop it here, it’s handed in with nothing removed.
And if that’s not enough, the sun is always shining.
Three More Awesome Reasons Why It Rocks To Be A Woman In The UAE
We can go out for free any day of the week! Check out our guide for the best ladies’ night offers
Thanks to the Women-Only areas on the metro we get to more space to ourselves when travelling. We also have ladies only areas in many health care venues, meaning less waiting around.
Better Gym Classes
Many gyms offer ladies only classes allowing us to sweat it out without caring what we look like. It also means the training is more attentiave. Bonus!
Image: Soliel Ignacio