The rumoured cast of ’Real Housewives of Dubai’. Top: Chanel Ayan, Caroline Stanbury, Dr Sara Al Madani. Bottom: Nina Ali, Lesa Milan Hall and Caroline Brooks. Picture: Instagram
The rumoured cast of ’Real Housewives of Dubai’. Top: Chanel Ayan, Caroline Stanbury, Dr Sara Al Madani. Bottom: Nina Ali, Lesa Milan Hall and Caroline Brooks. Picture: Instagram

Is 'Real Housewives of Dubai' really a good idea?

By Buhle Mbonambi Time of article published Nov 6, 2021

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It is time that the world accepts thatReal Housewives” is a major part of pop culture.

It’s a fan base that is as vocal as football, cricket and Marvel fans, sometimes even more so.

They get so involved in the shenanigans of cast members, whether it’s the multiple US cities, UK, Australia or African versions of the franchise, that there are dedicated group chats, podcasts and communities on social media.

Few reality shows are able to catapult their casts into mega stardom and yet with “Real Housewives”, it’s become very common.

And the women are coining it, using their newfound fame to launch new careers as business people, from candles and homeware to luxury fashion.

Even Kathy Hilton has decided the franchise is good for her image and she’s old money!

Even though the shows have a fan base that has a voracious appetite for “Real Housewives”, it still came as a surprise that NBC Universal and Bravo TV have chosen Dubai to be the city for the network’s first international series - the “Real Housewives of Dubai”.

The executive producer and housewives whisperer, Andy Cohen, announced during an appearance on “The Today Show” that Dubai would become the 11th city to receive a “Real Housewives” show, which will explore the lavish lives of ultra-rich women and promises the same dramatic format as its predecessors.

“Everything’s bigger in Dubai, and I couldn’t be more excited to launch Bravo’s first international ’Housewives’ series in a city I’ve been fascinated by for years, with an outstanding group of friends as our guides. This is going to blow the lid off the entire franchise!”

In a statement, Bravo said: “With the desert paradise of Dubai as the backdrop, this billionaire’s playground is known for its over-the-top opulence, jaw-dropping modern architecture and wild nightlife scene.

“Whether they’re coasting on a private plane, running their own empires or hosting on a private island, these glamorous, successful women are ready to serve up scorching hot drama and unexpected twists.”

The rumoured cast includes Caroline Stanbury, who previously starred in “Ladies of London, a UK spin-off of ”Real Housewives“, and runs a luxury goods company. She moved to Dubai at the end of the show. She is now engaged to former Real Madrid player Sergio Carrallo.

The other cast members are said to be Sara Al Madani, a doctor, Caroline Brooks, who is in real estate, Lesa Milan Hall and Nina Ali, who are housewives and mothers, and veteran model Chanel Ayan.

And yet, while it’s exciting for fans, there were immediate misgivings about a Real Housewives show set in Dubai.

If you’ve ever seen an episode, it’s basically a group of grown women behaving badly.

There’s copious amounts of alcohol consumption, wild fights where the cast members break glasses and have screaming matches.

Sure, there are some great moments where the cast members come together for good, but we basically tune into the show to watch these wealthy-adjacent women (because not all of them have money, some are in serious debt and owe taxes) live their best wild lives.

So with Dubai’s famously harsh rules for women, will the cast be able to, you know, behave badly? Or will they wage war on social media?

There’s obviously no drunken behaviour that will be allowed. No profanity. How will the cast handle the rules that come with being an expat in the country?

The UAE is very strict about its moral and ethical code.

It has rules that are very different to those in the US, where most of the “Real Housewives” cast members have the freedom to do whatever, unless of course it’s illegal.

It’s known that if you want to live and work in the UAE you need to tread particularly carefully when it comes to your behaviour.

You can’t dance in public. It is considered to be indecent and is seen as provocative.

You can, however, dance in your own home, at official clubs where dancing is allowed. The dress code is always conservative.

Sure, you can show a bit of body, but it needs to be tastefully done and not vulgar.

Expat sites say: “It is mortally offending public decency and punishable officially with imprisonment and unofficially with abuse and potential assault.”

So with all these rules, will this be the tamest edition yet? I highly doubt that.

But I actually think they might allow these women to follow the antics of their US counterparts.

Because I strongly believe that this is a PR effort from the city with an image and human rights problem, not to mention the missing princesses.

Even so, there are some interesting changes happening in the country, especially Dubai.

There are many success stories of women in business in the country and also the role that Emirati women have played in contributing to the success of the country.

There is a rising feminist movement that is happening, although it’s not prominent and widely spoken about.

I think this is the image that the show will project - of expat women who are successful and have found gold underneath all that sand and are making their mark in a city where, for the longest time, women were seen as second-class citizens.

Maybe it will be a new beginning for the franchise, where conflict amongst women is not something to be celebrated, but derided.

Sure, it might be a bit boring to watch, but maybe it’s what the show needs- some positivity.

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