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Girl power in the UAE

I was reminded this morning while visiting the car registration centre how lucky women are to enjoy such a VIP status in Dubai.

As DH and I skipped to the front of the queue – thanks to the fact I’m female – we shaved a good 15 minutes off this otherwise tiresome chore. Don’t mind if we do! Result.

Ladies Only

When we first arrived in the UAE, it seemed odd to me that there were certain days when men weren’t allowed in the park. I lost count of the number of times we turned up at one of Dubai’s lush green public parks to find it was Ladies’ Day, giving DH a water-tight excuse to sneak off for a shawarma sandwich and a coffee while I schlepped inside to chase two hyperactive kiddos around. “Have fun,” he’d say with a cheery wave. “Keep an eye on your phone,” I’d tell him, through gritted teeth.

Our first villa was located in a compound where the facilities were segregated. There was a women-only indoor pool and gym, and next door an identical set-up for the men.

Now I take it for granted that women in the UAE are given numerous advantages. There are frustrations that’ll make you spit, but there are also women-only queues (which are much shorter) at government offices, ‘pink’ taxis with lady drivers, and Metro carriages exclusively for women and children (a God-send during rush hour).

In Abu Dhabi, the Al Wahda Mall has introduced a women’s only parking section, which is usually fairly empty and close to the door. And I can’t blog about the UAE being a great place for women without mentioning Ladies’ Nights at the city’s bars and clubs – an expat institution allowing women to enjoy a night out without spending a dime.

It all means I can say, with all honesty, to those overseas who don’t know the UAE: Yes we can drive. No, we don’t have to cover. And yes, we love our ladies’ only perks.

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“Las Vegas on the Persian Gulf”

So The Telegraph put the cat among the pigeons yesterday with this controversial column entitled: Who in their right mind would want to visit Dubai?

For those who haven’t seen it, here’s a small taster:

“For starters, it has an awful climate. It’s horrendously hot and humid for nine months of the year. It has close to zero real culture unless you count its unique take on Sharia Shopping ‘n’ Starbucks. It is an environmental Chernobyl filled with SUVs and air-conditioning up to and including an indoor ski slope. And it has some of the worst upscale architecture in the world. Bigger, better, higher, glitzier, nastier: it’s like an entire city designed by Donald Trump.”

It gets even spikier … (Visitors, apparently, are a certain brassy subset of the middle-classes, who love expensive mock-Georgian new-builds … and probably don’t have many books on their shelves.)

What's not to love?
What’s not to love?

But, actually, after I got over my initial outrage at the fact the journalist had only ever spent three hours at the airport (I never left the airport, he admitted), I made my peace with him. The column was designed to shock, to provoke debate – and judging by the massive response, it succeeded in ruffling some two million feathers.

What’s more, many of the 844 comments are hilarious – strangers literally going hammer and tong at each other, and revealing just how little some particularly vocal people know about Dubai. With buttons for voting on comments, and new slanging matches erupting all evening, it was the best entertainment I could hope for without even leaving the sofa. Here’s my favourite exchange:

Inthesun: Well the beach was mighty fine today, water was very warn and just a slight breeze.
 A few beers and some salad and now going back to the pool. How is the UK today? 🙂

Damian: Yes, so laying on the beach where you can do in hundreds of places in the world is fine as long as the oppression isn’t in front of you?

Inthesun: How is your mobile? Computer and all the other rubbish goods that you buy. Made by kids in china when the suicide shift starts.
 Kettle, pot, Black.


Aussieinswitzerland: Where did you hide while having the beer?

Inthesun: In the bar on the beach. It is called Barasti. Look it up on google.
 Great food as well.

Aussieinswitzerland: But it’s not actually on the beach is it?
 That would be illegal.
You have to hide in the international hotel with your beer.
 Not quite the same thing.

Nynx: Listen jackass…stop commenting on things you know nothing about. YES, you can order beer and YES, you can consume it on select beaches in Dubai.

Ah: Clearly, you have never been to Dubai.

Inthesun: Er, yeah. It is on the beach and you can order to your sun bed.

14 more reasons NOT to live in Dubai