The “Real Housewives of Dubai” cast hopes to shine a new light on the City of Gold.
The faces of Bravo’s flagship franchise set in the glamorous Middle East explain in an exclusive interview with Page Six how Dubai is making “quick” progress after years of the United Arab Emirates enforcing strict socially conservative laws.
“It’s changed now, but about a year ago, you couldn’t even live with somebody unmarried. So, if you were dating, you couldn’t have lived with them, things like that, ”says Caroline Stanbury, an expat from the UK, who fans may know from her first reality TV stint on“ Ladies of London. ”
In late 2020, the UAE government relaxed a series of laws in a major legal overhaul. In addition to lifting the ban on unmarried couples cohabitating, alcohol consumption and suicide was decriminalized.
Furthermore, protections for women’s rights increased. Notably, individuals who carry out “honor killings” – for which a male relative could previously receive a lighter sentence for assaulting or killing a female relative under the pretext of “protecting honor” – now face life imprisonment or the death penalty.
“But all of these things have just changed,” Stanbury reflects. “So much has changed over the last [few years]. Dubai moves so fast. ”
Still, the aspiring hotelier had to flee Dubai for Mauritius to marry her now-husband, 27-year-old Spanish soccer star Sergio Carrallo, last year – before exchanging “I Dos” for a second time during a celebratory December 2021 affair held at the Palm resort in Dubai.
At the time, their marriage would not have been legally binding in the UAE as the country had yet to recognize interfaith civil unions. (Stanubury is Jewish, while Carrallo is Catholic.)
That law has since been amended, allowing for UAE residents, tourists and visitors of differing religions to get married, provided that couples are non-Muslims or citizens of a non-Muslim country.
“Just as you’re getting used to something, then you can’t,” Stanbury says. “The rules are less and less and less now.”
However, showing too much skin in public or engaging in PDA can still cause problems, Caroline Brooks points out – not that the Newton, Mass., Native minds.
“Respect the culture, respect the religion,” she says, delineating how she operates in the Islamic nation so many years after immigrating from the States.
“Personally, as a Christian woman, I don’t actually want to see anyone tonguing their boyfriend down the street. It makes me gag, ”she elaborates. “So, that’s a rule. I respect it. Keep what’s for behind closed doors, behind closed doors. ”
Otherwise, the Glass House spa founder says Dubai is the place to “live your best life.”
“Nobody’s going to stop you. You can be who you are. You can feel free to be who you are with your sexuality, with your mentality, with your behavior, ”says Brooks, an LGBTQIA + ally.
It should be noted that there are existing UAE laws that put its resident queer community at risk. Same-sex marriages are still not allowed, consensual same-sex intimacy is illegal and LGBTQIA + people are not allowed to serve openly in the military, among more anti-queer jurisprudence.
The government is also known to promote conversion therapy to “reverse” one’s sexuality or gender expression. The 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 US, conversion therapy has been banned in 20 states and more than 100 municipalities.)
LGBTQIA + equality may be the next step in the UAE’s reformation.
The stars of “RHODubai” are certainly optimistic that their city will continue rapidly embracing neoteric values that align with its eclectic population.
“There’s a lot of misconceptions about everyone here in Dubai. But if you come here, you will see that it’s a melting pot of people. We have people here from different backgrounds, religions, cultures, ”says Nina Ali, who asserts that Dubai women are a far cry from enduring“ submissive ”stereotypes.
“These women that live in Dubai have a voice,” the Texas-raised Fruit Cake CEO acknowledges. “They’re successful, they have careers, they own businesses and a lot of us are running the show around here.”
Dr. Sara Al Madani, a proud Emirati and self-proclaimed “rebel” who runs multiple businesses all while raising a young son as a single mom, agrees.
“I do whatever I want whenever I want. And I am whoever I want. I want to show the world that we’re not submissive, we’re very free, we’re liberal and Dubai is the land of opportunity, ”she states. “And I think that the show does a good job of showing that.”
“The Real Housewives of Dubai” premieres Wednesday at 9 pm ET on Bravo.