When I travel back to the United States, living in Dubai is definitely considered an “exotic” city. I get filed under “cultured white American” and “New Yorker but also a foreign Arab”. I’m kidding – no one thinks I’m an Arab. However, people are definitely surprised about my background, and with the surprise comes the countless, clueless, absolutely ridiculous questions about Dubai. And I’m sure I’m not alone – we’ve all heard some pretty atrocious things.
Do you ride camels around when you need to go somewhere?
I wish. Cars are crusty, but Dubai didn’t really think about sidewalks.
What’s the capital of Dubai? Are people from there called Dubaians?
Dubai is not a country. Dubai is a city in the United Arab Emirates, and the capital is actually Abu Dhabi. People from the UAE are called Emiratis. A lot of people also seem to think Dubai is the capital of Saudi Arabia…THEY ARE TWO DIFFERENT COUNTRIES.
Is it safe?
In fact, it’s pretty darn safe here. This is the only place where you can leave a shopping bag in the middle of the mall floor and someone will likely return it. Dubai’s stricter security and laws prevent robberies and crimes, and it is very well monitored. Regarding terrorism (if that’s what you mean), I’ve lived here for 9 years and nothing’s happened.
To be honest, the most dangerous thing I’ve seen here is a tail-riding taxi driver.
Are you allowed to mix with the opposite gender?
Yes, the general mixing of men and woman in the Quran (the holy book of Islam) is to be avoided, but standing next to a man is not forbidden, and in Dubai, they don’t enforce any laws preventing the mixing of men and women except for in places of worship like mosques or prayer rooms.
Why does everybody wear dresses?
I asked this question a lot when I first moved to Dubai. Those “dresses” are the traditional dress, and they’re considered more of a robe than a dress. The men wear an easy white robe called the dishdasha, and the women wear a black robe called an abaya.
These traditional styles are derived from Bedouin culture.
Can you drive?
Saudi Arabia is where women can’t drive, and Dubai is not in Saudi. In my everyday life, I am not affected any more by sexism than I would be in the US.
Is Dubai controlled by ISIS?
When people ask you if you like Dubai, do you say it’s your Du-bae?
Of course I need to say this now. Yes, I love Dubai. It’s my Dubae.