Derby for Nomads – the unique challenges of derby in an expat community

This month brought to you by DRD roller: Whirl Domination

Being a third culture kid gives you an interesting vantage point on the world. It has advantages like being able to make a home anywhere in the world, knowing multiple languages, and being accepting and understanding of different cultures. The disadvantages include a lack of permanence, the heartbreak of people constantly coming and going in your life, and having to give a complicated answer to the question, “Where are you from?”

Few of Dubai Roller Derby’s skaters are native to Dubai/the United Arab Emirates. This is not because we have any kind of restrictive or exclusionary policies but because of the U.A.E.’s demographics. Roughly 80% of the population is expatriate. Local (Emirati) women also tend to be from more protective family backgrounds. Athletic Emirati women are certainly the exception to the rule although this is slowly changing. We’re proud to skate with some of these exceptional women.


Possibly the primary factor that limits the growth of derby in this region is the transient nature of the population. Most people come here early on in their careers, at a time when their lives are changing rapidly, stay for a few years to benefit from the tax-free environment, before returning to their native countries to establish more permanent homes.


While they’re here, they take advantage of Dubai’s proximity and ease of access to many tourist destinations, and travel frequently. This constant turnover of people, and serial absence of skaters makes it difficult to plot and monitor progress of an individual skater, and of the league.


Expatriates also tend to take long breaks from work in the summer to escape the scorching, draining temperatures. This discontinuity certainly slows our progress. I’m sure this is the case for other cities that have a high percentage of expatriates such as Abu Dhabi, Hong Kong, Cairo, and Bangkok.


Another factor that has severely hampered our growth is the lack of infrastructure to support us. At the peak of the quad skate fashion, the U.A.E. was little more than a desert, and as such, has no old roller rinks, no old skates, no former wheely-disco-divas. Although today we do have an indoor ski slope!


Culture probably does play a significant factor in our challenges as the athletic development of girls and women is considered secondary to their moral well-being. Athletic facilities that women use are primarily built for men. We know that many derby leagues began in parking lots etc., but try skating in 99% humidity, and 50°C.


Recently, finding a decent sports hall with skateable flooring, has given our league a much-needed boost. With a consistent practice location and regular times, we’ve gained a good reputation, garnered a lot of media attention, and gotten a lot of new skaters.


As it stands, the Roller Derby World Cup’s eligibility rules need to be modified to be able to include places like the U.A.E., Singapore, Hong Kong, Qatar, Egypt, etc. and our particular social make-up. My biggest hope for derby is that it develops to make provisions for teams like ours.


I don’t want much else to change. I worry that as the sport grows, people jump on the bandwagon and beat the horses. Right now, I like that derby isn’t about money. I like that I’ve got an international sk8rhood. I like that we’re fierce, and I like that we have to fight for our right to party.


Whirl Domination

Dubai Roller Derby


Please feel free to give us your feedback on this article, and the opinions expressed. 

PS –

You can keep up to date with DRD via the following channels;



About The Author

Name: Jetson - 0
DOB: 5/15/1985

I'm Jetson, #0, from Dubai Roller Derby league.

I head up the marketing side of things; check us out at the following links;

To contact DRD, send us an e-mail at or send us a message via our facebook page

Media links

Dubai Roller Derby are all over the internet, and you can keep updated and follow us at:

If it’s merchandise that you’re after; merchandise can be purchased internationally via and locally via Dubai Roller Derby directly. Drop us a mail!


Share what you think

Add comment

Please Login or Register To Add A Comment