How RHODubai's Nina Ali and Sara Al Madani Are Breaking Stereotypes of Middle Eastern Women

The Real Housewives of Dubai's Nina Ali and Sara Al Madani got honest about representing modern Muslim women on reality TV, breaking stereotypes, blending cultures and more.

By Meriam Bouarrouj Aug 10, 2022 6:00 PMTags
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The Real Housewives of Dubai is making history in more ways than one.

In addition to being the first time the series has gone international, Bravo's latest installment—set in the Arab world—features two Muslim Housewives: Nina Ali and Sara Al Madani.

It's a new—and important—perspective for viewers to bear witness to: They are representing multidimensional, successful Arab woman who are blending modern life with centuries-old cultural traditions.

"I've been watching Housewives for so many years," Nina exclusively told E! News. "Now to actually be on a franchise that represents Middle Eastern women, I feel like, ‘Wow, finally!' I want the whole world to see how women in the Middle East are...They get to see how we live life, how we see things."

And, at the end of the day, it's pretty damn normal. Well, for Housewives. So far, viewers have seen Nina and Sara make their homes more welcoming with bakhoor (a traditional Arabic incense), teach cultural customs to their children and celebrate Thanksgiving Arab-American style.

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Sara echoed her co-star telling E! News, "Now we have a voice. We can kill all the stereotypes, all the misconceptions that are out there about Arabs and about Muslims. This is a chance for us to show how peaceful the religion is and how happy and liberal we are as Arab women."

Sara—who was born and raised in the United Arab Emirates—describes herself as a fusion between her culture and the modern world. "I'm an explorer, I like to take risks, I like to try new things," the tech entrepreneur said, adding, "at the same time, I know where I come from. I know what my limits are as a person. Not because society put that limit for me."

Chris Haston/Bravo

However, when it comes to raising her 6-year-old son Maktoum as a single mother, Sara leans toward her contemporary side.

"I think this is something a lot of cultures do, not just the Arab culture, but they raise men to be stoic," Sara explained. "But I believe a man should be able to cry, should be able to open up to his partner. It doesn't make you less of a man. On the contrary, it makes you so proud and confident you're a man that you don't mind crying."

Meanwhile, Nina was born in Lebanon and moved to Austin, Texas with her family as a child.

"I remember, for my father, it was very important that when you are in the house, you only speak Arabic and then when you're outside of the house, you can speak English," Nina, who relocated to Dubai in 2011 when she got married husband Munaf, shared. "They made it a priority for us growing up that we understood the culture, we spoke the language, that we don't forget."

Straddling the two cultures shaped her into the woman she is today. "I'm very Lebanese, but I'm also very American," Nina, who runs a cake business, said. "I take from each culture the things that I'm comfortable with, the things that resonate with me. I don't forget my background, my religion, my culture, but, at the same time, I mix it up with the American culture. There's days I'm more American, there's day I'm more Arab."

Her priority as she raises kids, Sophia, 10, Nour, 8, and Ayan, 6, in the City of Gold? Keeping them as grounded as possible.

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"I give them what they need, not what they want," Nina shared. "We have this thing: for every item that I buy them, they have to give me three that they're going to give to charity. Because giving them stuff is the easy part, right? But teaching them to appreciate the little things in life, that's where it becomes a challenge when they're living in a world where things are so accessible."

See more of Sara and Nina's fabulous lives on The Real Housewives of Dubai Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on Bravo.

(E! and Bravo are both part of the NBCUniversal family)

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