Tuesday, September 7, 2010

WHY I LOVE OMAN: from living in another GCC country

Before I moved to Oman, I lived in the UAE. I was going to take a teaching job there but I took the first few months off to take time to aclimatize, to discover and enjoy my 'new' country.

I never adjusted. I had a very hard time. As a Muslim woman living by herself, despite the advertised image of UAE being a very "modern" country toted in the West, the ordeal of just doing daily chores like grocery shopping in YEMEN of ALL places was easier than doing so in UAE without local male harassment.

And I WORE A FACE VEIL AND A VERY LOOSE OVERHEAD ABAYA when I lived there, a plain abaya, with no decoration. I wore plain black flat sandals and no make-up. An extremist would approve of my "hijab".

I looked even more modest then most locals.

Honestly, I couldn't shop by myself or even with female friends without a male companion to discourage Emirati men to leave me alone. I know people talk bad about Saudi Arabia, but I know ALOT of Saudis, and what happened to me in UAE wouldn't even be allowed to happen in Saudi Arabia, and I know that FOR SURE.

Here goes:

I had four witnesses to the event. The local wife of an Abu Dhabi politician, an American non-muslim woman, a Canadian Muslim woman, and an Emirati infant. These people saw what happened.

I was going for a peaceful walk with my female friends. We were modestly attired. Our American friend is Arab-country saavy and fluent in Arabic. Peacefully walking, pushing a stroller.

A car passed by us, window rolled down, creeping slowly, blasting Arabic music. Saying something in arabic to us, we did not make eye contact, we ignored him. We kept walking, trying to enjoy our night. This car continued to follow us and would not leave us alone. This continued for up to a half an hour and we had cancelled our walk and were trying to exit. The car blocked our exit by circling around for another pass.

Now you know, I would have phoned the Emirati police, wallah, but my faith in them had only been destroyed the other night, when I saw them stop two prostitutes (one Iranian, one Sudanese) on the Corniche. Knowing that they were prostitutes, I assumed they were to be arrested by the Emirati police officers. But the fear in the two girls eyes was worse than that for their locale Emirati pimp who drove a white hummer parked just down the rode from them. [Understand, I have a special respect for prostitutes and a hatred for what drove them to this way of life].

The police took the girls phone numbers and resident card #s and drove off. The girls looked like death. I made the mistake of inquiring what had gone down, thus destroying my faith in UAE justice early on.

Iranian Lady-of-the-Night: "They are making us go to their party." Translation, the girls have to sleep with the cops or face deportation or worse.

Anyways, thus that explains why I did not really want to call the police, and why I did what I DO when I am scared. I started a fight.

I confronted the Emirati stalker. I hit his car. Note: I did not damage it. I also told him to lower his gaze. I yelled "shame!" at him in Arabic.

The adhan rang out in the background, calling Muslim men to prayer.

Thus did that Emirati, the fact that I rejected him and hurt his pride by NOT puting up with his sad social behaviour, called the UAE authorities ON ME.

To teach me, the foreigner, to BOW DOWN to my UAE superior.

The police knew full well we women did nothing wrong and that he was the one commiting a crime. We were superior in witnesses.

So why was I facing arrest?

But he was a local.

One of us was also, and on top of that, she had considerable wasta, but tribe and country and race don't matter in Islam, and I wanted to make an Islamic point to the creep. We didn't play the local card.

When the police told me to apologize or be arrested I told them I'd rather go to jail. OPNO is just like that.

I told the Emirati man if he would swear to Allah he wasn't harassing women I'd apologize. He refused, of course.

Anyways, I never did get arrested. The cops made OUT like they were arresting us to save face in front of the proud local but then let us go at the mall but that made me hate UAE for good. I was done with it.

Justice is not justice unless it stands for all mankind. Not one race or country over another.

In Saudi, I'd have been allowed to smack the dude right in the face btw, foreigner that I am. I would not have been detained and questioned by the police.

In my opinion, the justice system in UAE is even WORSE than the one in Saudi because women ARE allowed to defend themselves in Saudi, even if they are not encouraged to walk without male escorts. At least UAE should admit that women really can't walk free without harrassment.

In Oman, I have been harassed on one occasion. But you know what? The ROP more than dealt with it. The man went to JAIL for trying to kiss my friend. JAIL for a long, long time.

More than what we would have felt was justice but... at least Oman will prosecute its own misbehaving citizens when PUSHED to. Yes, you have to PUSH, but it at least exists as a possability. And you won't get arrested for some idiot STALKING YOU!

***If you are accompanied by your husband or a male relative in UAE this does not happen.****


Andy said...

Well written! I am SO happy that I DON'T live in the UAE!!!

ynotoman said...

lets hope all goes well for you here (and the police in Oman also dealt with another policeman for a similar offence) - and if I had known you were a Yemeni fan we would had invited you on our picnic earlier this year http://ynotoman.wordpress.com/2009/10/27/picnic-in-yemen/

camilia said...

Nice post sister and I am glad you are showing this to the world :) I haven't been to UAE but from what I've heard, I'd be disgusted

UmmKhaled said...

I think maybe you cam eacross such a situation but I do not find this about UAE. My experience is different. I do find the men stare and try to get your eye contact but they I have not been stalked. I don't really go alone either but at times I have...Ohhh but other thing...I usually am in Al Ain and you knwo they are not the same. Bigger cities have men like that...Al Ain is more conservative but they do drive around and around the mall parking lots looking for women u can see that. So it is not ALL of UAE. Oh and Athaan called women to prayer to not just men. I am appauled though to hear about the police...YIKES...that is sickening! Men will always think this way it is SICKENING...I hate men like that. STALKERS are NOT Sexy! It is a TURN-OFF...a shy man with a lowered gaze is more appealing really! Right girls?

Umm Ibrahim said...

Just an fyi...I knew women on my compound who had faced harrassment by Saudi men-one even tried to drive her down while she was in a taxi!!!!
They all did call the cops but...usually the cops arent all that quick and they tend to make such things
"less" than what it really is...usually the guy...if hes Saudi does indeed get off scott free!!! Granted...if your a Westerner...the cops have mlore respect...but if your Asian or African you might very well be arressted!!

Really it depends...but frankly...the situation in Saudi isnt too much better. Maybe a litte...you have the "haia" who walk around making sure noone causes problems...and they do help to keep people in line...but they arent out everywhere all the time and sometimes when Saudi's KNOW they wont be out and about (esp weekday mornings!) they choose those times to stalk and bother women-local and expat. I was stalked through the LADIES suq with my child by a Saudi creeper....i even tried to loose the fool...he ended up following me into a shop and getting stoopid. Alhamdullah I can take care of myself cuz I let the creepo have it...but...you know...still...it was kind of scary and affected me...you better believe that creepo never would have tried that on a weekend night when the haia are out in full-force!

Also, they stalk and bother Saudi women too and the Saudi women 99% of the time dont even say anything to them...they take the harrassment and go on...which doesnt help...there are no consequences.

Now, I can chalk that up to the serious sex segregation in Saudi society...but...what about UAE...UAE is a playground in comparison yet it occurs...hmm...it boils down to parents not raising their sons right...they dont respect women...and they dont really care that Islam tells them too, their hormones are tellin' em something else!

btw, about the Irani hooker thing... a lot of them arent 365day a year hookers...its a known fact in Iran that women from certain families esp in Tehran will go to UAE on a shopping pretext and stay a few weeks and do the hooker thing. There has been a lot written about it in Iranian media as its a huge blemish on the countries rep... Maybe only a few-in comparison, really are poor and are doing it as they have no other options. Due to the economic situation gettin' even worse (stuff is now even more than in the US and Europe in some cases)....many people forsee the problem getting worse. God help them!

gross huh...

Omani Princess (not Omani LOL) said...

ynotoman: Oooooooh I love Yemen! I really do:)

InshaAllah the best here. Corruption and weirdos are everywhere. But Oman at least has a policy of dealing with them.

Omani Princess (not Omani LOL) said...

Camilia: I do want to add for clarification, not ALL parts of the UAE are the same. Sharjah and Al Ain tend to have better behaved law and more men with adab.

But Abu Dhabi didn't in my experience.

Omani Princess (not Omani LOL) said...

Umm Ibrahim: Oh yes, lol, I know women get stalked by saudi men in KSA alot, lol, Saudi men used to stalk me in the malls in Canada (weirdos) but at least in the eyes of the law there (and you're right, if you are Gulf Arab or white) I could deal with it as a non Saudi. If you are African or Asian, sadly that sucks as bad as it does in Dubai.

Hands down racist countries.

Oman too, I do know for a fact, poorer Indian, Pakistani, Philipino, and Indonesion girls still have troubles, and YES the law here does not always take them serriously as they would a complaint reported by me.


Omani Princess (not Omani LOL) said...

Umm Khaled: I have since met a bunch of sweetheart Emirati guys that made me feel bad for disliking their country.

*they were from Al Ain. I find the mindset of many from Al Ain is similiar to Omanis from Al Bahrimi and not as nationalistically sick as that in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

And you have a maharam:D mashaAllah tabarakallah.

Agreed. Modest men get my vote. Stalkers are SCAAAAAAAAAAAARy!

Omani Princess (not Omani LOL) said...

Um Ibrahim: I don't think I'd have pity for the weekend shopping prostitute but this girl had an Emirati pimp and a Sudanese wing so I am figuring she was lured over by an add to be shop girl or what not and ended up stuck in the underworld of Abu Dhabi. Sad sad sad.

The police issue is what made it worse to me than KSA, as I know ALSO for a fact prostitution is EVERYWHERE in the world, Oman included.

The ROP here though don't pretend like it is one of their big perogatives to stomp it out. Their own words: "There are more important crimes to eliminate." UAE and KSA do though.

Omani Princess (not Omani LOL) said...

Andy: You know, I would love to hear your wife's opinions about living in Oman as a non-white expat. Does she ever feel she gets treated different?

If she does not wish to I'd understand, but it would make a fascinating blog post.