Dubai Feature


Women in Emirati Society

First, let's clear up one of the most common misconceptions about women in Dubai—they can and do drive. Women have more freedom here than in other Arab states, but the government still is working on initiatives that aim to widen the role of women in society and break down generations of entrenched gender roles.

Dubai women are free to take advantage of education and enter the workplace. You'll see many Emirati women working in administrative positions for the government and banks, and a growing number are now seeking higher education. However, few women have risen to positions of authority in Dubai, as homemaking and child-rearing are the main responsibilities of women at all social levels. Still, change may be on the horizon. Teenagers are often seen in shopping malls, socializing with their friends like girls in the West. Also a large number of Emirati women moving toward adulthood now choose to forego the face veil and instead opt for the long loose abaya dress when out in public.

Non-Arab women in Dubai have nearly the same freedoms they do in their native countries, with the understanding that they don't go out drunk or scantily clad in public. The large number of expat women living and/or working in Dubai attests to the relative ease with which they can settle here. Nonworking wives of expat executives often spend their time driving to the mall in powerful SUVs to meet the girls for coffee, just as they might do in the States. Western fashions are well accepted here so long as they don't reveal too much flesh, including the tops of the thighs, lower curve of the buttocks, or even a small expanse of midriff. Harassment isn't an issue for single women or women-only groups, and some say they felt safer in Dubai than in other places they've traveled.

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