Random WTF – Financial Times Edition

Last Friday, the Financial Times covered the “richest race meeting in the world”, the 2009 Dubai World Cup. What do you think might best illustrate a story about horse racing in Dubai?


Two Arab women in abayas contrasted with a white girl in a short dress. Of course!

This is really just a preview of what’s to come, because the Financial Times’ Robin Oakley can’t seem to get enough of those abaya-wearin’ ladies: when describing the atmosphere, s/he states: “Women in black abayas, some wearing veils that cover all but their eyes, dish out family picnics of curry and flatbread.”

How terribly relevant to horse racing! Thanks, Robin.

Muslimah Media Watch thanks ‘Aqoul for the tip.

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  • Person

    Wow. I don’t even know how to begin characterizing the obsession with veiled/covered (almost always Muslim) women. It’s gotten so far it appears it is a stumbling block to any reporter trying to do a piece. I don’t know how to explain it but I think this goes beyond fetish, Orientalism, and othering. It pops up so much and is so mainstream can it even be considered a fetish (don’t fetishes have to be pretty not maintsream?). It’s exotification run amok to say the least.

  • Rchoudh

    Oh damn I’ve lost count of the number of times these so-called “journalists” insert something about the abaya-clad Muslim women they come across while travelling through some Gulf State (UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, etc). Just a few days ago BBC had an article about “unveiling Qatar” (yeah that was their actual title) and guess what? The article also mentioned about those “black abaya clad women”. Another thing articles like these like to mention about “those” women is the aura of mystery and aloofness surrounding them. Another article I read about Dubai recently mentioned the blank stares emanating from those abayad eyes whenever the journie tried to strike up a conversation with them. Too many dumb cliches constantly get recyled through these articles to keep hitting you over the head about the “alien” lifestyle these (and other) Muslim women live!

  • http://www.7obsessions.blogspot.com Yusra Tekbali

    Honestly, when will the media get over it. They were black abayas, they wear, who the fuck cares? but you know, it’s true, Arab women love to stare!

  • http://www.7obsessions.blogspot.com Yusra Tekbali

    Me thinks the “white girl” is European. German.

  • http://getoutlines.wordpress.com Safiya Outlines

    Salaam Alaikum,

    Actually, for all this speculation about the “white girl”, she could be an Arab, there are plenty who are that pale.

  • http://muslimahmediawatch.org/ Fatemeh


    I actually did give that a thought–the idea that she was Arab, I mean.

    But let us bury the “white girl” speculation. Truthfully, it shouldn’t even be in the post–it’s sort of inappropriate for what I was trying to convey, which was no skin vs. skin.

  • Person

    While I totally get that the “white girl” speculation is not very relevant to what you were trying to say and also know that some Arabs/Middle Easterners are that color, I do think it is somewhat relevant because the media often likes to juxtapose covered/veiled WOC Muslims with uncovered “white” women. I’m sure they could have photographed very light skin/white covered women and found some women who appeared to be WOC who were relatively uncovered (no hijab/abaya) but didn’t.
    However, I think I understand that your post was more about the fact they would use this picture (or any of veiled women or people at all for that matter) and bring up coverings in a piece about racing.

  • http://getoutlines.wordpress.com Safiya Outlines

    Salaam Alaikum,

    Yes, if it’s a story about racing then I want to see some horseys in the accompanying photo. Show me the horseys!

    Especially as last time I checked, it was horses being raced in Dubai, not women (wearing abaya or otherwise).

    Also, note that they state the women are eating curry. AFAIK, curry is not an Emirati dish (Luckyfatima would know better if it is). The FT is a U.K publication. In the U.K, about 98% of the Muslim population are desi, hence the assumption that all Muslims eat curry.

  • Paula

    I don’t know. I kind of like this picture. Another interpretation could be possible. Instead of the abaya-clad women turning heads and gathering unwanted second looks, it’s the skin-y blond who’s objectified and subject to a skeptical gaze. In many ways this photo forces you to see things from the arab women’s perspective. At the same time, the (designer?) handbags and sunglasses make me wonder if these women have more in common than not, each is just responding to expectations of a different time and place. Somehow it conveys the absurdity of european style horse racing in Dubai and the general contradictions of modernity very well.

  • Rchoudh

    I agree with what Person said about the juxtaposition between covered “nonwhite” women and uncovered “white” women. In this sense, the actual nationalities of these women is irrelevant, meaning that even if the white woman is actually Middle Eastern and not European it’s not necessary to know that because she still represents the American/European Western woman ideal. Likewise we don’t know for sure if the covered women were Emirati. They could have been any other nationality including Western; there are plenty of Western Muslim women who live in the Gulf states and cover like that too (I should know I’m one of them!) But it doesn’t matter because they still represent the Arab Muslim woman ideal. This goes back to the racialization of Islam where brown equals Muslim (because all Muslims from the Middle East and South Asia are brown don’t you know?)

  • http://forgetbaghdad.blogspot.com Nadia

    This is in like literally every story about lebanon written ever-find a girl in an abaya next to a girl in a tank top, heels and big designer sunglasses, take photo, publish. I hate it.

    Also, note that they state the women are eating curry. AFAIK, curry is not an Emirati dish
    To be fair there’s probably close to as many desis living in the UAE as native Emiratis, cultures aren’t hermetically sealed unchanging things, it wouldn’t surprise me at all that they’re eating curry.

  • luckyfatima

    Hahaha the Emiratis eat something as daily food called “salona” also called “marag” (marq in standard arabic) in some families which is similar to a curry, meat/chicken in a liquidy spiced gravy. The Gulf Arab “salona” is a lexical borrowing from the Hindustani word “saalan”—their language has a lot of Hindustani borrowed words, too, you see. But probably the guy who wrote the article don’t know all that. To him all of us are just a large mass of curry eaters. Although I won’t say it is impossible, I don’t know why anyone would take a wet curry to a picnic. We also have sandwiches and kabab rolls and fataayer and more easily portable edible stuff over here. I think “curry” just sounded more Muslim to the author.

    Nadia: There are actually only 15% Emiratis in Dubai. The majority of people, somewhere around 70% of the Dubai population are from the sub-continent, about 50% Indian.

    I agree that this woman could be a non-Gulf Arab, or not.

    Very lame but typical article.

  • http://getoutlines.wordpress.com Safiya Outlines

    Salaam Alaikum,

    Thank you for answering my call Luckyfatima ;)

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