Sunday, April 02, 2006

Dating in Dubai

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Two colleagues said they'd come to Dubai because they'd heard it was a good place to be single. They found that about 90% of the full time employees where they work are men, though more than half the employees are part time, and most of the part-time employees are women. However, the company does not provide visas for part-time employees, so all these women are on their husband's visa. Which doesn't leave any available for dating.

Before I came to Dubai, I checked the CIA World Factbook, which reliably reports that, of the legal residents in Dubai, more than 75% are male. I wasn't disappointed. I'd tried to get a date in New York City, putting a recent photo on a dating site along with the fact that I'm short. I got one or two women a week who agreed to go out once, but all immediately made an excuse when they saw how short I was. As a New York Times reporter wrote for Valentine's Day 2005, men taller than 6' on my dating site get more than 100 offers every week, while she couldn't imagine any woman ever answering an ad from anyone shorter than 5'8". But not all women know what turns them on. The ones who met me said that sometimes they stand next to a man and get romantically attracted, and sometimes they don't, and they don't know why, but, in my case, there was absolutely no attraction, so goodnight.

The reporter knew why, as do most women. So I figured I couldn't be any worse off in Dubai than I was in New York City, and I was right.

In the UAE, everything in the newspapers is an official press release from the government, including a report that it is strictly illegal to date.

Everywhere except Dubai, it is illegal for an unrelated man and woman to be together in the same room. This makes it illegal for a man to hire a female secretary to answer the telephone in his office (unless he never goes into his own office, or can afford two, separate rooms, one for himself and one for his secretary, with no connecting door).

Dubai, being a place for business, does allow a businessman to have a female secretary and for them to work together in an office, but it is illegal for an unrelated man and woman to be together inside a residential building.

And outside, Public Display of Affection is strictly prohibited. Sort of.

In the West, if the authorities put up a No Parking sign, all cars parked there will find tickets. Every time. Sometimes, a new ticket every hour.

In Dubai, there isn't enough parking, so many residents park in No Parking Zones at night, and get a ticket once a month, which is cheaper than hiring a legal parking spot.

So many couples make out, and a few get arrested and the fact is placed in the newspapers. Many couples go to either the man's or woman's apartment, and a few get arrested and the fact is placed in the newspapers.

The two new arrivals are in company housing, closely monitored for unauthorized guests. One, from Columbia, invited a secretary out shortly after arriving. He was seen, and the secretary was dismissed. The one from Jordan was shocked to find how much Dubai is like Jordan.

The local culture has absolutely no dating. Your family selects a mate, and you go to the appropriate tent for your wedding (one for the men, one for the women). What happens in the tent is a mystery to me, as I've never been invited. Eventually, the woman's male guardian (father, brother, or uncle) conveys her to her new husband's harem. The Holy Koran says that a man's wife is his tilth, and he may tilth her any way he likes. The Sunnah and Hadith (roughly, Canon Law for Muslims) say there's only one way he'd better like to tilth her (hint: think Missionary) or else. And that's it.

Actually, this fits well with Columbia and Jordan: both colleagues have had wives selected for them by their families, and both will return to their countries for weddings. After which, they'll have a chance to meet their brides. And bring them back to Dubai. Where, being legally married, they can bring them into their company apartments.

Meanwhile, my own apartment building has had most of the rooms leased by people who sub-lease to illegal residents, most of whom are females engaging in unIslamic professions (or males put in, 8 to a room, as a make-shift labour camp, which is also illegal). While legal residents are definitely 75% male, the actual demographics, if known, are not publicized. There is no way of knowing what the government really knows about the actual residents of Dubai.

But whatever the demographics really are, they are colourful. At least in my apartment building.

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