x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

How a ladies-only beach can turn into a force of nature

What makes a place special when it is just for women is that you can just be yourself.

Whenever I'm at a ladies-only beach, I stand back in awe and say to myself: "If men only knew what happens here ..."

Then I'm reminded: some men venture to find out.

This past week, at a ladies-beach day in Dubai, women were splashing about in the water dressed in everything from T-shirts and shorts to the skimpiest bikinis, having fun, when a squad of alpha male wannabes powered towards us on jet skis.

In a perfect line, they jetted along the series of buoys marking the parameters of the swimming area and strutted their stuff. One jumped high into the air, and dropped into the sea. Another twisted and turned and howled like a wolf. A third simply slowed down and stared at the beach filled with chattering women. Some women ran for cover, picking up their hijabs; others swam out to the men, laughing at, or with, them - I'm not sure which. And then there was an angry group who kept yelling at the men: "Mamnou" (it's not allowed).

But they kept on doing it, almost killing us with the fumes of their jet skis. As it was a cordoned-off section of the beach, there were no lifeguards or police in sight. Then some of the women on the beach started playing the drums and others danced, ignoring the men who kept on doing their thing. A friend asked me: "So, how is that manly? Dancing and jumping on a jet ski?"

The men eventually lost interest after the women turned their backs on them. The parade of the genders had ended and things returned to normal.

Women shared their food with their friends and random strangers. They talked about beauty tips, asked where to buy certain outfits or hats, and watched while their children built sand castles and ran about. Two daughters were teaching their mother - who initially appeared terrified - how to swim.

Unless you stand there and take it all in, you can't imagine how potent this "girl power" stuff can be.

I don't like to go to mixed beaches; I feel my best at the all-women ones. It's less hassle, and you don't have to worry about how you look, if you've gained weight, are extra pale, or just not feeling great that particular day. Of course, there are women who are confident enough to be themselves wherever they are. Not all of us are that lucky.

When you grow up in segregated communities, it usually stays with you into adulthood. And so with summer setting in, ladies-only beaches and women's clubs will be all that more crowded.

Women from all walks of life - conservative, covered, liberal, single or married - enjoy hanging out in a place that is man-free. Perhaps they don't enjoy doing it all the time, but taking a day off from men is a good thing.

"My husband always notices that I come back more relaxed and positive after I spend a day with my girlfriends," said one of my married friends, who always spends at least one day a week with just her female friends, at the beach, park or another public place.

What makes a place special when it is just for women is that you don't have to worry about wearing the latest fashions - even though some women still do - you don't have to brush your hair or wear make-up; you can just be yourself.

When a woman is comfortable and confident, she glows. I have a very self-conscious friend who simply beams whenever we meet up in an all-women environment. She talks more confidently, laughs more loudly and is simply happy. She grew up in a very segregated society, in a home where she was told to be "as meek as a mouse" because that is how a real lady behaves.

But a few days with other women in a ladies club brought out her personality and her confidence.

Whenever a woman is feeling down, I recommend that she head to the closest ladies-only beach and jump right in. There really is nothing like girl power embraced by nature's power. Just look out for the jet skis.



On Twitter: @arabianmau