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The discovery of oil in the late 1960s catapulted the people of Abu Dhabi out of the isolating poverty into which it had plunged in the 1930s and onto the global stage. Massive construction projects built the city and infrastructural developments altered the physical and cultural landscape; in a few breathtaking decades, the lives of Emiratis were transformed by new opportunities and a social welfare system that offered free education, medical treatment, generous pensions, subsidies to families, and government incentives offered to citizens to participate in all sectors of the economy. Oil wealth also brought new expectations and new life-styles that are often sophisticated and lavish yet just as often criticized for being conspicuous displays of unbridled consumerism.
Emirati Women offers a rare view into the lives of Emirati women and how they perceive the changes that have made poverty a dim and almost forgotten memory. In Emirati Women, Bristol-Rhys weaves together eight years of conversations and interviews with three generations of women, her observations of Emirati society in Abu Dhabi, the unflattering stereotypes commonly heard in the extensive expatriate communities, and discussions with her Emirati university students on topics ranging from marriage, independence, freedom, and the future.