Dubai police have begun to crack down on beach revelers. Undercover police are strolling beaches and manning watchtowers all along the coast. Around 80 persons have been detained in recent days for "indecent" behaviour.
The crackdown comes in the wake of the arrest of a British businessman and his acquaintance who were caught having sex on the beach recently. They are facing up to six years in prison, and the woman, an employee of a publishing firm, has already been sacked for her indiscretions.
AdvertisementThe incident, the couple's drunken binge and the tantrums the women threw when the police tried to separate them, all that created a stir in the Muslim city state that attracts thousands of Westerners.
Now the authorities have embarked on a public awareness campaign to remind tourists and foreign residents that the city may have flashy hotels and glitzy skyscrapers but it also is located in a Muslim country with traditionally conservative values.
The city is installing signs warning tourists in Arabic, English and several other languages not to sunbathe topless or change clothes in public, said Abdullah Mohammed Rafia, an official with Dubai Municipality whose office is overseeing the public awareness campaign, AP news agency reports.
Police have installed watchtowers and dispatched undercover officers to patrol the beaches, which also will be lit up at night to curb "inappropriate behavior."
First-time offenders may be issued a just warning but, if caught twice, tourists could be referred to the public prosecutor for possible criminal charges, authorities say.
The action is in response to "numerous complaints" filed by people who visit the city's beaches, Rafia said. Complaints have ranged from families "offended by displays of nudity" to women sunbathers who say groups of men stare at them while at the beach.
The police campaign also will target people who harass beachgoers with acts "deemed offensive, immoral or disrespectful," including loitering and voyeurism, said Dubai's acting police chief, Maj. Gen. Khamis Mattar al-Mazeina.
Actually Dubai is more liberal than many other Muslim countries in the region and the foreigners could be seen moving around in shorts and skimpy clothes.
Thousands of European and Asian expatriates live and work in Dubai, where native Emiratis make up only about 20 percent of its estimated 1.2 million residents. Shopping malls and fast food restaurants have replaced traditional Arab houses, and English has overtaken Arabic as the emirate's lingua franca.
The backlash seems to have begun. Westerners would think twice hereafter before letting themselves go.
The woman, arrested recently, for instance, used to get hammered weekends, with endless drinking bouts and then take the floor with an abandon rarely seen in that part of the world.
Such things will now come to an end, it is felt. News agency AP quoted John MacLean, on a holiday with his girlfriend, as saying, "I am not sure if I can kiss her or touch her in public now."
You don't push the boundaries too far, as an observer counseled.