Marathon runner reveals why Dubai is a safe city for women

Israa Sharaf, who has run marathons in UAE and Lebanon, also gives you a peek into the kindness of Dubai that only the early birds get to experience

by

Rituraj Borkakoty

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Israa Sharaf has done marathons in Dubai, Ras Khaimah and Beirut. — Supplied photos
Israa Sharaf has done marathons in Dubai, Ras Khaimah and Beirut. — Supplied photos

Published: Wed 24 Jan 2024, 9:00 PM

Last updated: Wed 24 Jan 2024, 11:29 PM

Born to Sudanese expats in Dubai, Israa Sharaf’s heart is filled with gratitude for the UAE, a country that has given her the freedom to grow into a strong, independent woman.

A qualified dentist, Israa juggles work with the challenge of raising two children as a single mother.

She does all that with a smile on her face, sometimes even pauses during a phone conversation to check on an acquaintance.

Perhaps, it’s the caring nature of Dubai, a city she calls home, that has rubbed off on her.

Dubai is also a place which has inspired Israa to take up running. Now a regular marathon runner, her most recent event was last Sunday’s Burj2Burj half-marathon which started at Burj Al Arab and finished at Burj Khalifa.

Running that race featuring two iconic landmarks was like taking a trip down memory lane for Israa.

“When I grew up in the UAE, there was nothing in this (Jumeirah) area but Burj Al Arab. There was nothing, Jumeirah was not like how it looks today, with no Kite Beach, Sheikh Zayed road was very basic, and there was no Burj Khalifa. Nothing,” she recalls.

“So, growing up and seeing the country flourish like it has now is an amazing experience.”

The 38-year-old then explains how the safe and secure environment of this city leaves you with no room for excuses to avoid a healthy lifestyle.

“The fact that I can go out at 3 in the morning to run feeling completely safe as a woman, means the world to me. You have to understand how important it is for a woman,” she says.

“It’s part of the training to go for long runs, to avoid the heat of the sun, you have to go out very early in the morning. You do see people on the beach, but you feel very safe. You are not scared of anything. And to me, it is very important.”

Israa also gives you a peek into the kindness of Dubai and its people that only the early birds get to experience.

“Apart from the proper running tracks in various parts of Dubai, you also have free drinking water stations,” she says.

“Many people also keep water coolers outside their houses for the public to drink from, it’s something which is so nice.

“Everything makes it easier here to keep a healthy lifestyle, so there are no excuses. You don’t need to have a gym membership, there are so many wonderful outdoor facilities where everything is so safe.”

Israa hopes one day Sudan, the country of her origin which has long been embroiled in socio-political conflicts, will be as safe as Dubai.

“Living in Dubai, I have all the privileges that people back home in Sudan don’t have,” she says.

“That’s why I always dedicate my runs to my country, for peace in Sudan, and also for peace in Gaza, Ukraine, Congo, Ethiopia, and so many countries where people are not able to lead a normal life.

“So I run for peace, I run for the refugees, I run for women, I run for mental health and I run for those who can't,” says Israa who has run marathons in Dubai, Ras Al Khaimah and Beirut.

“Now I have a dream to run a full marathon in Sudan one day. Hopefully, peace will return to my country and I can run along the Nile River!”

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