Friday, January 18, 2008


The UAE is training women to be judges and prosecutors, in anticipation of a change in federal law, the newspapers said this week. If all goes as planned, the UAE will be the second country in the conservative, Muslim, Gulf region to have women in these roles. The first is Bahrain.

Also this week, the first female pilots graduated in Al Ain, UAE.

I know I sound like an ad for the UAE, but I do think this is an amazing country in the context of today's world. Next door in Saudi Arabia, women cannot even drive a car; even non-Muslim women must be covered and cannot hold jobs. Elsewhere in the world, people are killing innocent people in the name of religion. In the UAE, nearly 200 nationalities co-exist peacefully. Crime is extremely low here; in the city, I don't have to look over my shoulder in fear that someone might jump me.

My second oldest son, a former blogger himself, says my blog is too PollyAnna vis a vis the UAE. He loves Abu Dhabi, but he thinks my blog could use some more gritty analysis from time to time.

To be sure, the UAE has some serious issues. Anyone would say that locals seem to live by a different set of laws from foreigners. I was incensed when I read about a French teenage boy in Dubai who was kidnapped and raped last year by three Emirati males - including a schoolmate and a 38-year-old man who knew he was HIV positive - and the authorities initially considered prosecuting the victim for having a "homosexual affair." (In December, the two adult males were found guilty and sentenced each to 15 years in jail; the schoolmate is being tried in juvenile court. I'll never know if public pressure played a part in the turnaround here, but the story got a lot of international attention.)

Another issue is the wages of the "workers" here - people who sweep streets, man security booths, clean washrooms and the like for 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, for 2 years without a vacation, for maybe $200 a month. They are bussed in and out of single-sex housing outside the metropolitan areas. They see their families once every year or so. But many of these workers say they have it better here than in their own countries.

My point is, the UAE may have some things to work on, but so does my own country and every other country I can think of. So I still say the UAE is an amazing country.

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