Abu Dhabi - Post Report Question and Answers

Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Not that I can see. - Feb 2020

Of course, like in many countries, women fulfill still more the role of a homemaker and gender equality might be lacking in some areas just like even in other developed countries, but I have never felt treated unequally as a woman here. - Jun 2019

Not a lot. Gender issues are definitely there but they aren't too horrible. Men and women often don't socialize together. Some women will be covered but this is not required or expected for expats. - Sep 2017

Yes! If you are Asian or African, you will face discrimination. After that, the next rung up seems to be other Arab, then European, the the tippy top is Gulf Arab with Emirati at the apex. - Jun 2015

Yes, racism is a huge issue, with the system reinforcing prejudices that pit locals against all foreigners, and wealthier people against poorer people. You will find lots and lots of bias against the often-put-upon workers who do all the heavy lifting that keeps the place running. Colleagues regularly report instances of color-based discrimination and gender prejudice. - May 2013

Racial prejudice? As one charming Emirati student put it 'the UAE is not a melting pot but rather a salad bowl where the different ingredient live alongside each other but do not blend together'. Other posts identify the pecking order of Emirati, then other GCC Arabs, followed by other Arabs from the Levant and North Africa, then westerners with professional/technical expertise all supported by large numbers of workers from Asia and the Indian subcontinent doing the manual work.

Religious prejedice? It is an Islamic county. The festivals and public holidays follow the Islamic calendar. Expect to work on Christmas Day for example. Followers of other religions are tolerated, but it is against the law to proselytize or try to convert Muslims. Churches are in one limited area, many in a compound with no overt external display of crosses allowed. I can't recall seeing any temples but there are associations for the Keral, Nepali, etc., workers so I think that they celebrate their festivals and rituals within their clubhouses.

Gender prejudice? More Emirati women than men are going to university nowadays and there are women heading government departments and in leading roles in commerce. Many women that I have met seem matter of fact about polygamy. Although men and women can seem socially segregated to western eyes, for example with women and children on one side of the audience at a traditional concert, and men on the other, women wield significant influence in the family. They are proud that they have always had the right to their own property. Some female colleagues did not drive outside the town because their husbands did not want them to, but this always seemed more out of concern for safety on accident-plagued roads than outright chauvinism. It was generally understood that westerners are different and expect the sexes to work and socialize together. It was women from Asia who suffered from prejudice in that they were often assumed to be maids or prostitutes. - Jul 2012

Many. While I don't feel as strongly as a previous poster about some of the UAE's social issues, it's still an authoritarian state run primarily for the benefit of its comparatively few citizens (possibly as little as 10% of the total population).Racism is rife in so many directions it can get funny - Emiratis vs everyone else, Arabs vs Westerners (and vs Indians, Asians, other Arabs, you name it), Muslims vs Christians, etc., etc. Women's rights are much talked about by UAE authorities even as a discriminatory traditional culture is highly promoted. Classism is overwhelming - the rich own things, the (smallish) middle makes it all run, and the (very large) underclass of laborers, maids, and the like do virtually all the heavy lifting. In any situation, any foreigner - whether a Pakistani day-worker or an Oxford-grad executive with years in the country - ranks below any Emirati; both are equally vulnerable to arbitrary arrest, deportation, and countless lesser hassles. - Aug 2011

A lot. There is extensive ethnic and gender discrimination. Number one, the Sunni rulers hate Shia and actively try and deny visas to Shia and those countries that are in political disagreement with the UAE. Secondly, women are routinely treated as second-class citizens and have a code of conduct and significantly fewer rights in the legal system. Single women can have trouble getting visas unless escorted by a male relative. There is significant ethnic profiling; even among expats, Brits and Americans will be paid more in the private sector than Australians. Emiratis are at the top, then other Gulf Arabs and then there's everybody else. The UAE does not grant citizenship to any non-Emiratis ever, except in very limited circumstances - like a decree from a Sheikh. - Jul 2011

Yes. Your nationality determines how you will be treated here. South Asians are treated horribly. Many Westerners of Indian or Pakistani descent have had an unpleasant time here. Emiratis have no issues with African-Americans but African-Americans sometimes face discrimination from Filipino workers and/or other Western expats. Black Africans are not treated badly by the Emiratis, but are ranked lower than Westerners. Female friends of Asian origin (Korean, Chinese and Filipino) have often received unwanted sexual advances from men who assume they are prostitutes. - Nov 2010

Islam dominates and men outnumber women by a great margin. As a woman, get used to being stared at-though they probably don't know any better. A single woman may have trouble "sponsoring" a maid or a spouse, because the Emiratis expect a man to be doing it. It is difficult but doable. - Aug 2009

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