Thursday, March 19, 2009

Ambivalent Dubai

I've always wondered how Dubai can be both a financial business-cum-expat hub and a very conservative country (at least by world, not regional, standards). After all, it is Dubai that is trying to open up to the world in order to diversify its economy, attract hordes of tourists, and make as much money as it can.

Well, it's about to get even more conservative--and harder to attract those tourists and their hard currency.

According to Internet reports, a local newspaper recently published new rules that are either being mulled or that have already been officialized. In any event, quite soon banal activities such as dancing and playing loud music in public will be banned. In addition, couples who are kissing, holding hands, or hugging could facing detention, large fines, or, in some instances, deportation. The Economist adds that "miniskirts and skimpy shorts would no longer be tolerated outside hotels and other private areas." And other illegal activities will include drinking alcohol outside licensed premises, swearing and displaying rude gestures in public, and the like.

Indeed, the latter rules seem to make sense. Drinking alcohol in public in a Muslim country, no matter how secular, just does not feel right, unless the majority of locals do it (such as in Kazakhstan). Swearing and displaying rude gestures are misdeamonors quite common to many of the countries in the West.

And it is true that, by regional standards at least, these rules may seem quite tame.

However, if Dubai is trying to become a global hub, shouldn't it adopt more global, worldly standards? While the aforementioned rules will not be applied to private resorts, the mere fact of someone being detained for wearing a regular bikini to a public beach in one of the most open regions of the Arab world still feels a bit hard to fathom, at least in this blogger's opinion.

The row that erupted between the U.K. and this Arab emirate when two Brits (a couple) were detained in October for having sex in public is only a prelude of things to come, it seems. True, the couple was at a beach, but they should have exercised common sense. They should have been deported, but Dubai's authorities sentenced them to three months in prison for public indecency. For a place that is marketing itself as the global hub of the Middle East (and one currently experiencing severe problems due to the global economic meltdown and an tenuous housing market), this only creates unneeded negative publicity.

1 comment:

Mark said...

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