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26 March, 2004

Playboys of the eastern world

How many times does one meet Arab men working and bachelor-flatting in Dubai, only to discover they have a wife and family locked away in Sharjah? The reason for this is always that "Sharjah is a more family place." One could buy the excuse that Sharjah is cheaper. But no: Sharjah's startling family-friendliness is always key to this split life.

What is really meant is that in Sharjah there are few western distractions - no alcohol, no indecency, women must cover, it is technically illegal for a woman to be seen with any man she is not related to. The place is an increasing hotbed of wahabism, due to the Saudi money funding it. Meanwhile the man lives it up in Dubai, blaming the traffic or the distance (2km!) for his need to stay overnight, doubtless catching up with friends and booze and girls in Dubai's many nightspots.

So a huge round of congratulations to the newlywed Emirati woman who took a stand against this practice. The husband claimed that Sharjah was "more socially suitable" for a family. The wife refused to leave Dubai. Marriage counsellors suggested moving to a third emirate. Result: divorce.

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