The Real Housewives of Dubai team hopes to shed new light on the City of Gold.
The faces of Bravo, the leading chain in the glamorous Middle East, explain in an exclusive interview with Page Six how Dubai is making “rapid” progress after years of imposing strict socially conservative laws in the United Arab Emirates.
It has changed now, but about a year ago, you couldn’t even live with an unmarried person. So, if you two were dating, you couldn’t live with them, stuff like, ‘says Caroline Stanberry, an expat from the UK, who fans might know from her first reality TV stint on ‘London Ladies’.
In late 2020, the UAE government relaxed a series of laws in a major legal reform. In addition to lifting the ban on cohabitation of unmarried couples, alcohol consumption and suicide were decriminalized.
Moreover, the protection of women’s rights has increased. Notably, individuals who commit “honour killings” – for which a male relative could have been punished for assaulting or killing a female relative under the pretext of “protecting honour” – now face life imprisonment or the death penalty.
“But all of those things have just changed,” Stanberry ponders. “A lot has changed over the past [few years]. Dubai is moving very fast.”
However, the aspiring hotelier had to flee Dubai to Mauritius to marry her current husband, 27-year-old Spanish football star Sergio Carallo, last year – before exchanging “I Dos” for a second time during a celebratory affair in December 2021 set up At the Palm Resort in Dubai.
At the time, their marriage was not legally binding in the UAE because the state had not yet recognized interfaith civil marriages. (Stanoburi is Jewish, while Karalu is Catholic).
This law has since been amended, allowing UAE residents, tourists, and visitors of different faiths to marry, provided the spouses are non-Muslims or citizens of a non-Muslim country.
“Just like you get used to something, you just can’t,” Stanberry says. “The rules are less and less and less now.”
However, showing too much skin in public or engaging in a PDA can still cause problems, notes Carolyn Brooks — not that of Newton, Massachusetts, Native Minds.
“Respect the culture, respect the religion,” she says, explaining how she works in the Muslim nation many years after her emigration from the United States.
“Personally, as a Christian woman, I don’t actually want to see anyone stick their friend tongue-tied in the street. It just makes me shut up.” So, that’s a rule. I respect her. Keep what you want behind closed doors, behind closed doors.”
Other than that, the founder of the spa, Glass House, says Dubai is the place to “live a better life”.
“No one will stop you. You can be who you are. You can feel free to be who you are with your sex life, your mindset, and your behavior,” says Brooks, an LGBTQIA+ ally.
It should be noted that there are current UAE laws that put the queer community residing in them at risk. Same-sex marriage is still not allowed, consensual same-sex intimacy is illegal and gay people are not allowed to serve openly in the military, among more anti-queer jurisprudence.
The government is also known to encourage conversion therapy to “reverse” sexual activity or sexual expression. Harmful practice — which can sometimes involve forms of emotional and physical abuse — has been shown to increase depression, anxiety, substance abuse and even suicide, according to the American Medical Association. (In the United States, conversion therapy has been banned in 20 states and more than 100 municipalities.)
LGBTQIA+ equality may be the next step in reforming the UAE.
The stars of “RHODubai” are certainly optimistic that their city will continue to rapidly embrace new values that go along with its eclectic residents.
“There are a lot of misconceptions about everyone here in Dubai. But if you come here, you will see that it is a melting pot of people,” says Nina Ali, who stresses that women in Dubai are far from enduring “submissive” stereotypes: “We have people here from Different backgrounds, religions and cultures.
“These women who live in Dubai have a voice,” admits the CEO of Texas-origin Fruit Cake. “They are successful, they have jobs, they own businesses and a lot of us are running the show here.”
Dr. Sarah Al Madani, a proud and self-proclaimed Emirati “rebel”, agrees and runs several businesses while raising a young son as a single mother.
“I do what I want whenever I want. I am who I want. I want to show the world that we are not submissive, we are very free, we are liberal and Dubai is a land of opportunity,” “and I think the show does a good job of showing that.”
The Real Housewives of Dubai will premiere on Wednesday at 9pm EST on Bravo Channel.