“Non-Muslim Section” the sign read. Being non-Muslim and human, I just had to take a look behind the beaded streamers at the rear of the local supermarket.
Coming from the fairly stringent Muslim society of Doha, the slightly more liberal laws of Abu Dhabi were welcome. Since arrival in Abu Dhabi four weeks ago, it has become evident that in many areas the ratio of Expat to Emiratis is more equal than expats to Qataris, which possibly has the side effect of diluting the Middle Eastern culture and shaping a new Arab society with a western twist.
So although the Muslim culture is still very much alive and kicking, Abu Dhabi has accommodated western culture and beliefs to a small degree at least. Shoulders still need to be covered and knees should also be kept under wraps for ladies heading out. Alcohol is still only available in select hotel bars with alcohol shops requiring a liquor license; however, it is not always requested, as it was in Qatar, and so the rule is not as strict. There are ways around sponsorship which enable you to stay in the country after ceasing employment and there is no agreement in place which prevents moving employment from one company to another within Abu Dhabi. The nightlife in Abu Dhabi is a lot more diverse with ladies nights and happy hours available in a lot of the hotels. So, aware of the little pockets of opportunity available to express our Non-Muslim religion, I was intrigued to see the sign “Non-Muslim Only” in the local supermarket. Having a vivid imagination and a natural curiosity for what goes on behind closed doors, or in this case, plastic beads, I couldn’t wait to see behind the curtain in the section that was off limits to my Muslim counterparts.
I decided to drop the kids home and come back alone later for a proper look, after all, liberal as I considered myself to be, I didn’t want to expose the children to multi person sex acts being performed by feral Christians in the back of the supermarket, or a smoke filled casino frequented by a handful of clapped out Catholics, down in the mount and down in their luck, angry and aggressive at their growing losses. Whatever was behind curtain, I would experience alone, when the kids were in the bed.
Later that evening, inquisitiveness high and mind wide open, I got ready to go back to the supermarket. Mentally running through the possibilities and deciding if I would partake or not, rows of slot machines and roulette tables, not for me, pole dancing pagans to uncut Eminem, maybe, key parties with wall to wall mattresses areas, I dabbed on a spot of perfume just in case. Walking through the doors of the supermarket, I thought it a good idea to linger behind the well appointed fruit stand for a while to get a look at the kind of clientele going in and out. Behind the stand of massive African imported yellow bananas, I got a good view of the beads and from what I could see it was mostly young to middle aged professional men, walking in an out with ties loosened as they mopped their brows before entering the den. Tension rose and I found I began to falter, but it was time I bit the bullet and entered the lair.
Sweeping the beaded curtain to the side with an air of tentative caution and bubbling excitement, I squinted my eyes before opening wide and taking in the full view before me. This was what separated Muslims from Non Muslim right before my eyes was German, Polish, Irish, Australian, American, English and French, Pork Sausages, stacked neatly by order of country in refrigerated display units. Turning to inspect the other side of the area, I saw ham and pineapple pizza, pork chops, ham joints, rashers, gammon steaks you name it was in it. This den was filthier than any Muslim could ever imagine. A real find. Finally the laws were bending to accommodate us piggy lovin’ people. I felt accepted, acknowledged. So then, with the full fare available, I went home and had chicken.