The UAE is a sex segregated society due to its religion. The Koran speaks against unrelated men and women socializing together, and therefore the culture of this society is very much so built upon that notion. I didn’t realize that I never shared this information until speaking with a friend recently about the feminization process that the Abu Dhabi’s government is attempting to undergo in our schools. I explained to her that Terrence and I may not commute to our current schools next year as they are combining the boys and girls school (although, the boys and girls will be in different wings) next year and it may cause a problem if men and women are in the same school together. This will be the first Arabic combined school in this emirate, maybe even country.
Below is a list of the different ways in which genders are separated within this culture:
1. As stated above, boys are girls attend separate schools after kindergarten. Boys and girls together after that point, even at some universities, are unheard of.
2. Some banks have separate branches for women.
3. Most business have separate lines and waiting areas for women. For example, today at the hospital Terrence sat on side of a wall with all men and I sat on the opposite side with women.
4. Most parks, beaches, and other family orientated places/businesses have woman and children only days. When speaking with a couple the other day the husband informed us that he, his mother, wife, and children went to a fun park only to find out upon arrival that it was “Ladies and Children Night.” He had to go home.
5. We have ladies only taxis. These taxis are driven by woman and have a pink flowery design on the outside of it.
6. Yesterday I attempted to book a study room at our local library in order host meetings for my colleagues and myself. The librarian was very helpful and informed me that meeting there wasn’t a problem as long as we came during the female times. Check out the time schedule below.
7. My final example is one based on an experience that I had related to my students and Arabic colleagues. My school scheduled a field trip for all of the 2nd graders to go to the neighborhood park. Upon our arrival we noticed young boys, maybe 1st or 2nd graders, walking in to the park. My Arabic co-workers were dismayed. They argued back and forth and pulled out cell phones one after another to call our principal to ask for guidance. We sat there for about 10 minutes while a bus full of girls screamed and steadily pushed towards the front. One of my co-workers looked at me and said, “Boys and girls together is just not right.” We did, eventually, go inside of the park but the girls were required to stay on the opposite side of where the boys were.