UAE: Meet the 'real housewives' influencing the world from their homes in Dubai

Their authenticity and passion have helped them connect with audiences from around the globe


Nasreen Abdulla

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Published: Fri 27 May 2022, 6:42 PM

Last updated: Fri 27 May 2022, 10:37 PM

Being a real, Instagram-famous housewife of Dubai isn't always as glamorous as Bravo TV's upcoming series might have one believe, but it's certainly rewarding.

Khaleej Times recently caught up with some housewives - who double as social media influencers - in Dubai. And if there's one thing they like to do, it's to get real.

One wakes up every day at 5.30am to create content while her one-year-old baby sleeps. Another manages a Facebook group of over 25,000 women and juggles her own family of seven. Social media is a source of income for one influencer, whose husband has been stuck in a migration limbo due to Covid-19. Yet another is simply trying to make friends in the UAE after months of loneliness.

These are the real housewives of Dubai. Their authenticity and passion have helped them connect with audiences from around the globe.

Creating a safe space

British-Emirati Megan Al Marzooqi was feeling overwhelmed by the mothers she saw on social media in 2016.

“Everyone had spotless homes with the kids all in matching clothes and here I was with huge laundry piles, kitchen full of dishes and toys strewn everywhere,” said Megan.

“In addition to this, every Facebook group that I was a part of was so harsh. If you were not exclusively breastfeeding, you were a bad mother. If you chose to potty train a certain way, you would be called out. I started to think that I was failing at this motherhood thing. However, when I spoke to a couple of people, I realised that I wasn’t the only one like this. There were other moms like me who were tired or struggling. With the aim of creating a safe space where mothers could ask questions or confess their feelings without getting judged or bashed up, I set up the Facebook group Real Mums UAE in 2016.”

A mother of five boys aged between 11 and six months, Megan has her hands full. “Maintaining the group and my Instagram page is a full-time job,” she said. “Yesterday I started at 8am and finished at 2am. The last couple of weeks have been very hectic and I have been on my phone for over nine hours most days. I mostly plan and create content while the kids are in school.”

Still, she considers herself “extremely lucky" to have help with managing the online group catering to thousands of mums.

"We have a very rigorous vetting process for our members. We get a lot of requests from men or single women who want to push their business or people who are not in the UAE. Now, my mother Rosemary takes care of the vetting completely and that has freed up a lot of my time. My best friend Jo helps in manning the page and keeping it judgement-free. I also have people at home to help me with housework and taking care of the baby. So, I feel incredibly blessed to be able to do what I enjoy doing," she said.

Cooking up a storm

Shabina Afzal, popularly known as @shabosphere on Instagram, started off as an active participant in Facebook food groups before starting her own YouTube and Instagram channels for restaurant reviews. However, she soon realised that the content which got the most engagement was her own cooking videos.

“I called my recipes ABC - anybody can cook,” she said. “I shot my everyday recipes and people really resonated with them.”

Shabina’s hobby turned into a source of income when Covid threw a curveball into her life’s plans. “My husband went to New Zealand for his further studies. The plan was that we would join him there when he finished, but then the pandemic struck,” she recalled. “Stuck in Dubai, my influencer campaigns became my primary source of income for me and my two girls: Azza, 14, and Ayaana, 7.”

According to Shabina, the biggest impact of being an influencer has been her change in personality. “I was never a popular and outgoing kind of person,” she said. “However, through social media, I have built some confidence for myself. I am a plus-sized woman. It is my social media journey that has helped me accept myself.”

She has also become more patient in the process, she added. "I learnt how to take photos, use lighting, decorate my food and everything needed to improve the aesthetics of my social media page on my own. I also set up as well as unpack everything before and after a shoot. Some days, I am so tired after a shoot that I wish the pots and pans would just walk into the cupboard by themselves. But they don’t, so I have to put them away. I think the entire process has made me a lot more patient with life.”

Shabina thinks that the biggest drawback of her career is the social media addiction. “I don’t create content separately,” she said. “It has come to a point where, for me, content comes first. If I am going for a family dinner, my phone will be out first. I want to capture everything before I experience it. My everyday life is the content for my social media. My everyday life is what is on social media. So it is difficult to switch off.”

Beauty, baby and a bit of Bosnia

Passionate about fashion and beauty, Sabrina Tubic started her blog to share her style a decade ago while still in her home country Bosnia.

“I have a curvy body and I would often find it difficult to dress up,” she said. “It was my difficulties that led me to start my blog, YouTube channel and Instagram. Five years later, when I moved from Bosnia to Dubai, my social media evolved from just fashion to include beauty and lifestyle.”

Even though she has done thousands of brand reviews, the most special one is the first one she did. “I was so excited that I was approached by a beauty brand,” she said. “I was almost beside myself with happiness.”

Last year, Sabrina faced the biggest change in her life when she gave birth to a baby girl.

“It has been the biggest blessing in my life,” she said. “But my life has changed completely. As any new mother will tell you, when you have kids, 24 hours in a day is really not enough to get everything done. Earlier, I used to wake up late, like at 10am. But now, I wake up at 5.30 in the morning so that I have enough time to plan my day and content before my little one wakes up. I need all those extra hours to make it work. My content has also evolved to include more goofy videos with my little one."

For Sabrina, the educational aspect of social media is very fascinating. “When I was starting out, you learnt everything on your own,” she said. “However, now everything is available to you at your fingertips. I learn from a lot of bloggers the same way they learn from way. Together, we are stronger as a community.”

A big family adventure

For American-Pakistani Faiza Ali, her move to Abu Dhabi with a two-year-old in 2014 was a huge change. She started to document her experiences and adventures in the capital city with her child in an effort to build friendships in a strange city.

“When we moved her, my husband was busy with his new job and I didn’t have many friends,” she said. “So, it was just me and my son. Every time we went out to the play area or a park, I started posting it on Instagram." This became a fun thing that helped her connect with other mothers too.

“Four years ago, when I moved to Dubai, I walked into a very vibrant mommy blogging scene. That is when I started to take it more seriously."

"Mornings are usually the planning and shooting phase. Nights, after the kids have gone to bed, I engage with followers and look at what other bloggers are doing. It is something I immensely enjoy. So, I find the time for it.”

For Faiza, her Instagram family has become her village. “Today, my son is nine and my daughter is four,” she said. “Raising kids without an extended family or a support network is hard. Last week, my daughter had a swollen eyelid. I was unsure what to do. I posted on Instagram and, within hours, I had anecdotes, home remedies and just messages of love. I am truly grateful for that kind of support that I have been able to build.”


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