January 30, 2012

Reading 7days, the local English-newspaper in the UAE

As I ponder my guilty pleasures in my life as a expat woman/"house wife" I think my passport visa calls it, while living in Dubai, I would say they include the occasional massage, pedicure, reflexology treatment, watching Downton Abbey online or an American tv show online and playdates with mommies while my son plays with his friends but there is one more....

If you know me in Dubai, I will quote a story from the newspaper,7days, jokingly almost every other conversation. Reading 7 days, the "most talked-about English language daily newspaper in the UAE" that  "occupies a unique position within the country's media landscape" is probably what anyone in the UAE does daily who has about 5 minutes or more to waste on sheer entertainment. It is like a soap opera handed to your door everyone morning, it is hard to put it down.

The newspaper is free and delivered to your door every morning around 5 or 6am. Usually the nanny and I take turns reading it and then we use it for cleaning windows or for a fire or recycle it.

The stories you read sum up a lot of the cultural aspects of living in a country full of expats and a small percentage of actual locals. Also, it teaches about the laws, a lawyer myself, and how they are enforced and applied. For example, today's headline 'Teen in Trouble for Kissing Girls." The story goes a 15-year old Emirati boy broke into an Emirati home and forced two teenage sisters to kiss him. The boy says the girls invited him. The father asked the court to give him a harsh punishment becuse he claimed the boy wanted to "destroy" his daughters at a young age. So it looks like the boy is going to be in detention for a month. I think in the US we would ground the boy for a few weeks and have talk with the parents. Interesting how the laws are drastically different.

Then just a few days ago I realized what I had wondered for a while. Another law that is drastically different over here, when a person has extramarital sexual relations or sex out of wedlock, they go to jail. So if a woman has sex out of marriage and gets pregnant, she can go to jail and her baby can stay with her. I always wondered what happened to the babies. After they serve the sentence, they get deported.

Then on what I think is a related topic, yesterday's story was about the abandoned babies they have in the UAE. About 1 abandoned baby a month last year in the UAE or just Sharjah, I can't remember. They have limited fostering laws so only Emirati citizens can foster children but they are considering opening that up to other residents.  Also, what I thought was interesting is that when an abandoned child is fostered and eventually taken by an Emirati family, the family can't give them their last name because it is forbidden by Islam but they can give them a similar last name.

The other story that I remembered was the local man who had 4 wives and an extra room in his house. He came home and all the wives were arguing over who would get the room. He didn't like their arguing so he decided to divorce 3 of them.

Today I learned something and I need to verify if this is true. It says that the GCC, Gulf Cooperation Council, wants to put more women in the workforce. Basically, there is a push to use less expats and get more locals in  the GCC into the workforce and at the same time increase the percentage of women working. That didn't surprise me but this quote did, Yet, in terms of education, a separate study in Abu Dhabi discovered 43 per cent of Emirati women had been to university compared to about seven per cent of men.    So some how women go to college but then don't go to work and yet the men don't go to college and do go to work.  Maybe they the men are working in family run businesses that don't require college degrees?

To finish my joy/hate of reading 7days, I will end with what I realize is a fun part of the paper. In the Letters section everyday are rants and raves about the articles and goings on in the country but at the same time it is a way for people to vent about the culture clashes, poor customer service, and room for improvement. In a country without democracy, I think this is the closet you get to the people speaking out and asking for change or improvement. A lot of the recent topics I have noticed since I started reading this section is the need for laws regarding child safety and seat belts in cars, laws against using mobile phones while driving, concern for treatment of laborers and maids, and just other things that people are thinking but are more willing to post it anonymously to the Emirate than say it out loud in public.

After reading Dubai, the story of the World's Fastest City by Jim Krane, I understand a lot more about the history, vision, and workings of the city and country. I have a lot of respect of its leaders and think they have done a lot with what they have in the short period of time. I think with having all these expats here from other countries, they should take advantage of us and help bring up to speed areas that our countries have already experienced and make laws to keep people safe, for example seatbelt laws, banning mobile phone use while driving, construction safety, building safety codes, etc. 

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