Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Different Customs at the Clinic

Early this morning I arrived at the hospital for a check-up on my broken arm. That the waiting room was full of (Emirati) men and no women should have made me pause, but this always seemed to be the case when I went there: numerous men in the national (Arab) dress and me.

I tried to be nonchalant and took a seat.

Soon I noticed a man was staring at me. Then I realized he was actually glaring at me. Really glaring. I was dressed modestly and certainly not acting peculiar, so I decided he must have some kind of issue I knew nothing about. I picked up the newspaper, began to read it, and tried to forget he was there.

Then, at the receptionist's window, a light bulb went off in my head. Beyond the reception desk was another waiting room, and it was full of Emirati ladies.

"Am I in the men's waiting room?" I asked.

The administrative staff began giggling. The receptionist nodded and rather timidly answered, "yes."

Why noone bothered to tell me that I was repeatedly invading the men's waiting room, I'll never know. But I'm glad to think I added a little amusement to the staff's day.
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Feeling a lot more comfortable upon entering the ladies' waiting room, I still did not blend in: every lady patient at this particular hospital is covered - really covered - in black.

But a nicety occurred that I haven't seen back home in waiting rooms. When a new patient came in the door, she nodded to the rest of us females already present and greeted us by saying, "A salam alaykum," and then all the other ladies would answer "alaykum salam." (Please excuse incorrect spelling.)

In a clinical setting, that small greeting/acknowledgement warmed the atmosphere.

5 comments:

Ilka said...

I can just picture you minding your business while ppl are thinking, "Why is she in this waiting room?" I giggled myself while reading this because you had no idea....I wouldn't either as in Egypt there is no separation, only in the mosque of course.

When I go to see my doc it is nice when other patients say salam. Whenever Muslims enter a room we are supposed to say salams to all in the room.

When I went to Dubai I really didn't see many Emiratis, rather a lot of foreigners so you must live in an area highly populated by the natives. I didn't go to Abu Dhabi so that's maybe why I didn't see many in comparison to foreigners. I would fit in though since I get my abayas from Dubai so they are all black.

Michele said...

Hello Frances,
I am a Canadian, living in Montreal, and will be moving to Abu Dhabi in late May, a rather last-minute decision! I was looking for an interesting expat blog that offered first-hand insight as to how life might be there. I read yours from beginning to end this morning and really enjoyed your story. Thank you for sharing.
Michele Murphy

American Muslima Writer said...

Ahh the segregated clinics they are fun! Here in Al-Ain they have the same but someties the mens' room doubles as family room. The last time iw as there things got turned around. SO many women in the men';s area that a man went with his wif to the womens, my husband was like WHAT IS GOING ON HERE!!! I was like it's a revolution! hhehehe.
I took like the fact that everyone says salam and smiles and such. It does feel better tahn in USA where they just all stare at yu then secretly glance between you and their magazine.
Michele welcome I hope you'll like it here~!

Frances Gunnison said...

Ilka,
It does seem there are more locals in abu Dhabi compared to Dubai. Re styles of dress, a western friend of mine was surprised by how some women were dressed in Dubai - much less conservative, generally speaking.
And I have to laugh when I think of how I felt when that man was glaring at me for being in the men's waiting room. I just thought, "I wonder what his problem is."
Michele,
Welcome (almost) to Abu Dhabi! Glad you liked my blog. Maybe you'll have your own.
Amer Muslima,
That mix-up of waiting rooms was funny. But you know, when you're not feeling well, it really is nice to be with ladies only.
Thanks for writing,
F.

Frances Gunnison said...

Ilka,
It does seem there are more locals in abu Dhabi compared to Dubai. Re styles of dress, a western friend of mine was surprised by how some women were dressed in Dubai - much less conservative, generally speaking.
And I have to laugh when I think of how I felt when that man was glaring at me for being in the men's waiting room. I just thought, "I wonder what his problem is."
Michele,
Welcome (almost) to Abu Dhabi! Glad you liked my blog. Maybe you'll have your own.
Amer Muslima,
That mix-up of waiting rooms was funny. But you know, when you're not feeling well, it really is nice to be with ladies only.
Thanks for writing,
F.