Most of the time living here, things really don’t feel that different. Other than the chaos that constant construction – even in these recessionary times – produces, Dubai looks and feels like a modern city with multi-lane highways, an abundance of steel and glass skyscrapers and all the stores today’s consumer would ever want.

But then I get a reminder that, Toto, we are not in Kansas anymore.

Consider the headline of a story that ran at the top of page 1 in Saturday’s National. “Emirati men shun women who study abroad.”

Uh, what?

Turns out the top of the news is a story about how Emirati men say they would reject a woman who had decided to go abroad to study. Now this was no Gallup poll, but the writer – an Emirati woman herself – reported that: “Emirati women, men and parents who were interviewed by The National said society considered women who had studied in the West to be undignified, damaging their chances of attracting an Emirati spouse.”

Sara, a 21-year-old Emirati woman, wants to study art overseas but fears that if she does her “chances of getting married will significantly decrease, because many Emirati guys do not accept a woman who studied in a foreign country and was exposed to different cultures than our own. … Emirati men love to think the one they will marry is pure in all senses. Studying outside means coming back with a liberated mindframe.”

Oh, wow. Again, this isn’t a scientific poll, just a story created through  a sampling of interviews. But still. The editors did deem this important to lead the Saturday paper.

I’m not sure I’ll ever understand why someone would believe that cutting off women from experiencing anything but their own piece of the world is a good thing.

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