Last month, I was given a very unique opportunity to deliver a 3-day-long training in Dubai. I have never been to this part of the world (apart from a very quick airport visit when changing the flights on my way to China) and, naturally, felt a bit nervous about the new experience.
Before the travel, I spent a bit of time asking some of my contacts from the training industry about their experience when teaching in the United Arab Emirates. I have also read a few articles online about the tips for solo travellers.
I have to say, the majority of the things I was told or read online turned out to be pretty negative especially towards women and this made me a bit anxious about the whole trip, especially that I was travelling on my own.
I cannot describe how surprised I was when, after my arrival, I very quickly realised that most of the things I heard or read about Dubai turned out to be completely different!
Here are some things that I was told versus what I learned:
- ‘women find it difficult teaching or living in the United Arab Emirates’ – this could not be further away from the truth! The country, in fact, encourages and empowers women to take more challenges on board and public speaking, leadership and personal branding classes are widely popular and fairly cheap or completely free! To prove that, just check what this woman #ThinkNatalia and many others do in Dubai! In fact, UAE has a Gender Balance Council in Dubai which claims that: “As a part of our strategy, we aim to place the UAE as one of the countries at the forefront of women’s empowerment.”. Emirati women are employed in a vast range of sectors, although they do make up a tiny percentage of an expat-dominated workforce which includes many women.
- ‘wear a scarf over your head’ – throughout my whole stay there I haven’t seen a single non-Emirati woman wearing anything resembling a hijab. Yes, it is advisable to be modest and cover your arms and knees to show the respect for the local traditions but no one expects or requires from non-local women to cover their heads! In fact, in the Dubai’s nightclubs that I had a chance to visit on the last night of my stay, I have seen girls wearing hardly anything- in some extreme cases even less than what I was used to seeing in the UK clubs.
- ‘be aware that, when travelling on your own you might be looked down upon as going there for a different kind of business’ – now this was just shocking and couldn’t be further from the truth! Everyone treated me with respect, friendliness and kindness. Millions of women travel to Dubai for business every year and never experience any uncomfortable situations!
- ‘you will be training mostly male Arabs’ – now my answer to this statement would be the following – yes this is possible but it depends on which industry you deliver the training for. I was teaching a subject related to international digital marketing and had only 3 attendees of Arabic nationality whereas the rest of the students were the expats from all over the world from India to Spain.
- drinking alcohol is only allowed in the hotels’ – majority of bars, restaurants, hotels and clubs offer the alcohol. In fact, I haven’t seen a single one that didn’t.
This trip was very important for me for many reasons but mostly because it made me realise that sometimes, in order to broaden your horizons you have to experience something yourself rather than rely on what other people are saying/writing. Regardless how convincing it is. The beauty of travelling is in the fact that you can see the things by yourself and shape your own view- your own story that helps to change the perception of others!
Thanks to the people that I met in Dubai, I felt more welcomed than anywhere else in the world and I look forward to visiting this amazing and thriving city once again in the nearest future!
Thank you for having me Dubai! I will never forget your hospitality! 🙂