I have just returned from the most amazing and unforgettable holiday in Dubai where I enjoyed lots of sun, relaxation, luxury dining, amazing fashion and to top it all off I also got engaged in the 7 Star Burj Al Arab hotel, an evening I will never forget.
However despite the amazing experiences I had I was soon to discover that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side.
Throughout the entire holiday I felt like a celebrity. The shopping malls were huge with everything from high end designers like Dolce and Gabbana and Chanel to high street stores like River Island, H&M and also privately owned boutiques. The main thing I noticed about Dubai was that the locals use the Mall as an escape from the harsh temperatures outside. For this reason the malls in Dubai are more than just a shopping trip they are a whole different experience. In the ‘Mall of the Emirates’ for example as well as picking up your groceries and a wedding outfit you can also go skiing in the huge indoor ski centre with real snow.
Dubai really is a fashion paradise however for such a forward thinking, multicultural and ambitious state it can be very reserved and backward. I knew before I went that Dubai had strict Muslim values however I wasn’t prepared for just how strict they actually were. I was there during Ramadan, which is the Islamic month of fasting but unlike some other countries the UAE also expect tourists to observe and respect their holy month. For us this meant no leisurely ice creams or milkshakes in the mall while shopping in fact the only place we could get anything to eat during daylight hours was in our hotel.
I can respect them for being so serious about their religion to fast all day however they rely on tourists and many of their religious values can actually make tourists feel uneasy. For example I was shocked to find that many of the malls have rules of conduct such as no public displays of affection, no short trousers or skirts and no exposed shoulders (I found this out as I was walking through the mall in a strapless dress).
On one shopping excursion to one of the Souks (traditional shopping stalls) I felt so uncomfortable as though I was being stared at and there were no women to be seen, I had to buy a shawl to cover my head and shoulders. I felt a bit sorry for the local women especially when I saw one trying to make her way down an escalator in sky high heels covered completely from head to toe in black robes and a veil completely covering her face, not even cut out for her eyes (the traditional burqa).
It made me appreciate where I come from and being able to have the right to choose what I wear and being treated as an equal in society. At one stage I was having a look at the Arabian section in River Island and two girls came along dressed in niqabs (black robes with only their eyes showing). I couldn’t understand what they were saying but I knew they were excited about a short skirt they were both looking at. I felt a bit sad for them because although they could probably wear it in the privacy of their own home in public it would be covered up in their robes so no one could ever see how good it might look on them.
Although Dubai is a fashionista’s dream and I will always treasure the memories there really is no place like home. In Fermanagh I have the freedom to walk down the street in whatever I choose, I can let my hair down, wear makeup, say hello to a stranger on the street and most importantly I am not treated as a subordinate to any man.