Cultural Differences: Some thoughts that came out of your questions and comments

Cultural Differences

Cultural Differences: Some thoughts that came out of your questions and comments

We just woke up to the call to worship. It is a perfect and fitting end to our stay in Dubai. My brain has been churning away because of your comments asking about cultural differences. I plan on blogging about yesterday on the plane, but before I start packing…

I have felt the sexism, but I want to clarify. I wanted to stay off the beaten path. And I succeeded. One person working at the hotel asked Jim how we even found this place. He said, “My wife found it on the Internet.” A couple of times before we spoke people called us Australian or English, mainly because Americans do not stay in the less touristy areas. Even Brits and Aussies are not plentiful here. In the area we are staying most of the people seem to be Indian or Middle Eastern. It is obvious that cultural differences play a role in where people stay.

When a man enters into conversation with one of us it is mostly Jim but occasionally Sean they speak to. When I do enter into the conversation the people have been taken aback, generally (unless they have been from India. The Indian men have behaved as if it is normal. Even the Muslims from India. Thank goodness for that). The speaker looks at who is talking, sees it is an American female, and readjusts that they are directing the entire conversation to Jim or Sean. There are very few woman on the streets in the area where we are staying and very very few that are Caucasian. All of those who are have obviously been tourists.

The Arabic men in Al Ain were great to all men and women.  There was no difference in treatment. But the women with them, the few there were, were hidden inside and behind burka like outfits. They wore a strange mask instead of the one piece outfit.  The men were laughing, dancing with each other, hanging out, and having a good time. The women were not. It was a view into a practice we found disturbing without having to experience it. It is especially disturbing because it is the status quo. There were some serving women who were dressed in brightly colored outfits. We were told they were servants from Africa.

I wonder if this is similar to how it must have felt for abolitionists and free people of color who visited the South of the United States before slavery was abolished.  It is hard to see 1/2 the population have all rights and freedoms, and 1/2 the population be subjugated, with the vast majority of the population accepting it as the way of things.

We do not know how the women here feel. We have not spoken to one woman from the UAE during our stay. But to our Western way of thinking, free is better than not. We have had a great time, but what an eye opener.

You can read about our last day in Dubai here.

Day 2, Dubai, the Rest of the Day

Sean had an interesting observation, there does not seem to be a gender bias about what colors of clothing men and women wear here. He also noticed that we have not seen anyone wearing pink. The head scarfs and long clothing looks very flattering on the women.

When this waiter first heard us talk, he told us we spoke good English. Jim looked at him surprised and told him, “We should; we are American.”

When I planned this trip, I wanted off the beaten path Dubai. I succeeded in that, but until I experienced it I didn’t know what that meant. I booked a room that was supposed to be decorated in a period style in a heritage area. Not one of the glitzy oil sheikdom built hotels. I say supposedly because we have yet to stay in the room I booked, more on that tomorrow.

We started today getting up to check out a nearby mosque, and we ended the events of the day by happening onto a traditional dance set in a park. One of the first things Sean noticed about Dubai was that the people on the street are mostly men. The difference in the numbers of men versus woman working and walking down the streets is big. When there are women they have been from India, the Philippines, or another country in Asia. There have been a couple of instances, in particular because we have had issues with the hotel, where I was dealing with the staff, not Jim, and they were okay with it but not natural with it. It felt slightly uncomfortable and weird. The driver who took us to Al Ain explained it well when he said it has been hard for Muslim men to get used to the Western tourists in Dubai because they have to deal with the western women behaving equal. Anyone who knows me knows I behave very equal, LOL, and my husband and son treat me as their equal. You cannot help but feel the extreme sexism here. The men must have a hard time with the lack of it.

After touring this museum we had a driver take us to Al Ain.

Al Ain is close to the Omani Border. It is more traditional than Dubai. We wanted to visit the fort there, which has been named a Unesco World Heritage site.

Our driver was Pakistani. There are a lot of Pakistanis in Dubai. Many of the workers are Pakistani (the rest I think have been Indian or Chinese). The workers from Pakistan come because of the jobs and future. They leave their families back in Pakistan because they can only stay as long as they are working here and their families are not welcome to come. Even if they work in the UAE for 50 years when they finish their working career they have to leave the country. This is unlike European countries where the workers can get citizenship and bring their families over. It must be hard to feel comfortable in European societies though. Our driver is married to a woman who lives in Pakistan. They have a 2 year old son, who he sees one month a year.

Those layers are hot and so is the color. It is hot and humid in Dubai. Dubai is in the arid subtropical region. So even though it is desert it is humid.

There are captions with all these.

The Al Jalili Fort was built starting in 1891 by Sheik Zayed the First. The fort was used as a residence for almost 20 years.

The fort is being remodeled. In the US you would not be able to get into structures in this much need of repair. We were the only tourists at the fort, too. Which is rather sad. I guess people do not visit this area for the old buildings. Al Ain is not in Dubai though. It is about 1 1/2 hours from Dubai by car.

Next we had the good fortune to wander over to visit a heritage Park where local men come to dance on the Thursday before festival days. Friday is the main Muslim day of worship. They actually worship everyday, but Friday is their main holy day. And this week is a national holiday in the UAE.

We experienced real Arabic hospitality here. This is not a tourist attraction. We actually wandered into and were welcomed into a gathering of Arabic Muslim men. You will see a few other people who also did the same.

I really enjoyed this. Sean did not. He felt it was strange to only see men enjoying themselves. There were a few women at this, very few, but they were working so probably not Muslims, or were wearing traditional dress with a weird black piece on their face that looked like a mustache. These women were weaving baskets. Our driver told us he did not think they were Muslims either because Muslim men, himself included, do not like their women to be seen. They are meant to stay inside with only the men going outside.

You read about it and see it on TV, but until you experience it, it is hard to imagine how sexist it is. That said the Arabic hospitality was lovely as was the Fort. It is just a very unfamiliar culture.

Check out yesterdays post here and tomorrows here.