New spaces and sociabilities are reshaping Emirati society

Author First name, Last name, Institution

Jane Bristol-Rhys, Zayed University

Document Type

Book Chapter

Source of Publication

Participation Culture in the Gulf

Publication Date



While the clubs, groups and voluntary associations taken as indicators of civil society are still required to have an official, royal patron in the UAE, it appears that new forms of sociability and association are reshaping Emirati society. Whereas, in the early 2000s, while Emiratis were ubiquitous in shopping malls, it was rather rare to see them in restaurants, hotels and venues associated with the foreign population. Now it is commonplace to see young Emirati couples dining out in a hotel restaurant or two and three women having lunch or coffee in a location known to serve mostly foreigners. Another change has been that friendships made in high school and university have now extended women’s social sphere far beyond the family and the tribe, linking them across the public and private organisations in which they work. This chapter explores how a rapidly growing Emirati population that is young, highly urbanized and educated is experimenting with new forms of sociability and association that are changing perceptions about Emirati social life. The observations and research presented here represent a decade and a half of participant observation, research, living and working in Abu Dhabi.






Social and Behavioral Sciences

Indexed in Scopus


Open Access