[Editor’s note – Ann has been sending dispatches on her experiences in Dubai, and I am compiling these into blog posts and putting them on Facebook and Twitter. We’d love to hear your thoughts on her trip. – Melanie Blake]
The Emirates Literary Festival is wrapping up, and as I enjoy the end of my visit to Dubai, I wanted to share some of my impressions of religion in the emirate. One sees evidence of religious observance everywhere. There was even a little pile of Qur’ans at each book checkout counter. Yet accommodation for those of other faiths, or no faith, appears high. All meat entering the country must be halal with the exception of pork, which is sold in a private section of the grocery store, behind a barrier labeled “for non-Muslims.” Bars are commonly located on high-rise rooftops. Great views, but out of sight and mind of non-drinking Muslims. All the street-level cafés that spill outside appear to be dry. Sheesha smoking is common, among women too. I am not an expert on the practice of various degrees of veiling, but I can say that, for many, it does not appear to interfere with educational or professional aspirations or sense of humour and fun. That is obvious from what I see at the festival. I chatted at length with a young female volunteer at the festival who was completely covered, even her eyes. She spoke perfect English and had an infectious laugh. She was curious about me and went out of her way to help me.
I would love to see a panel of Emirati women and men talk about current and evolving domestic life. Also curious about pressure to practice Islam and sanctions for non-believers/non-practitioners.