Abu Dhabi: diamond in the rough, or just rough

The first destination of my time abroad was Abu Dhabi, or as I like to refer to it, ‘not without a hubby’. For a single white female, this would not be number one on my list of places to visit. The second Sex and the City movie portrayed Abu Dhabi as a diamond in the rough when in fact the reality was the film was banned from shooting there and I now understood why; they have a serious problem with women. I’m not sure that I fully grasped the whole burqa thing properly before I left. To clarify this a little further before I am accused of being a racist Westerner, I have studied all religions at university and the idea was to visit the middle east to experience a little of what I had studied which was an exciting prospect until reality slapped me in the face. My first experience was when I decided to sit in the front seat of the taxi. My father’s hearing was not ideal at the best of times, however predominantly worse when it came to understanding a foreign accent. I was querying the taxi driver about Abu Dhabi and he would respond by turning his head and ignoring me. This I thought to be a mistake or maybe just one of the men in Abu Dhabi so I was not willing to write off the city just yet. The next negative experience was when I was shunned by a Sheikh from a mosque because I was showing a shin. They would not even let me out of the cab. I had asked three locals about appropriate clothing for visiting the mosque, all stated; “your shoulders are covered so you should be fine, if not they will supply you with a Burqa”. I did not have a problem with this; I even thought it would be a great cultural experience. The Sheikh’s attitude and disgust at my clothing when I was open to the idea of learning more about their religion was nearly my final peace offering. Following this, we timidly lurked around the gold souk’s where the gold did sparkle but not in a good way. The gold looked cheap and fake and the sales men were representative of this. Myself and my father became uncomfortable at the sales men inappropriately staring at me that we decided to leave. We found mum looking vulnerable and ready to be ripped off. We lasted one hour in the 49 degree heat until the only water bottle we had leaked all through the backpack and on to our passports, which we attempted to dry on the concrete. After further demeaning and disturbing looks from people passing by we gave up on UAE’s capital city. The reminder of Abu Dhabi’s bite remained with me for the rest of my trip; blistered feet from the record high temperatures. No diamonds found for the females, just rough!

B O'Brien

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