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11 April, 2005

East, West, best dressed - part I

Two stories in the papers today highlight the vast gulf in cultures and understanding that endures in the UAE.

The first concerns a large crowd of men ogling two young women on a beach in Ajman. The women were western/European, described as "twentysomething" and having "blonde hair and blue and green eyes". Most probably the men were lowpaid subcon labourer types, given their habit of flocking to beaches on Fridays.

"The civil defence officials demanded the men leave the two women alone so that they could enjoy their time on the beach.

"The crowd finally - hesitatingly - dispersed, leaving the twentysomething women in peace."


More interesting and more revealing about attitudes here is the tone of the article. Firstly the headline: "Women in bikinis put on a show for men" - suggesting they were deliberately attracting the attention. Any one witnessing the revolting crowds of leering shalwars at a public beach in the UAE knows how unlikely this is. Later we find a witness:

"gazing at the wonderful sight and enjoying the scene just like the other 50 men"

Imagine a fifty-strong crowd of white males standing around in their business suits and ogling two abaya-clad Arab women on the beach. Would "Bassma" and her editors titter about the "exotic beauties"? Would they headline it: "Local ladies put on a display for men"?

No. They'd be bloody outraged.

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16 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree with you more x

11 April, 2005 14:10  
Anonymous DubaiGuy78 said...

Dear Secret Dubai,

I have started reading your diary since yesterday & have read all your posts till october 2003.

First of all, I don't see any thing bad in the Gulf News headline, "Women in bikinis put on a show for men". You & all the westerners who always criticize us just for the sake of criticism must put this thing in their minds, the name of our country is United Arab Emirates. We are a muslim country. Foreigners must respect our customs & traditions the same way they expect from us in their countries. I dont think I have to say anything more on this topic.

Secondly, in your previous articles, you have portrayed Sharjah in a very negative manner. I disagree with you here. You must understand that basically we are a conservative society. Do you know what is wahabbism? Or you have simply repeated whatever your so called free media says.

Apart from the above 2 points of disagreement, I simply love your writing style & would appreciate some tips from you since I am also planning to start my own blog or whatever they call it.

Also if there are any grammar mistakes, please do point out. After all, english is not the mother tongue of majority of people here.

Will wait for your response.

11 April, 2005 16:59  
Blogger secretdubai said...

Firstly, thank you for your kind words on my blog and writing style! It is great to hear you will be starting your own blog, the more from the UAE the better.

Don't worry about minor grammatical things. I rant a lot about bad grammar in professional communication (such as journalism, or business correspondence) but a blog is a personal thing, and it does not have to be 100% perfect.

Re this article: The headline pisses me off because it suggests the women were inviting the attention, that they were actively flaunting themselves. Nothing in the actual article text suggests this. Muslim society or not, tourism is hugely encouraged here, and it is not illegal (in Ajman or Dubai or Abu Dhabi or Fujairah at least) to wear a bikini on a public beach.

"Men gawp at women in bikinis" or "Police disperse gawping crowd" would reflect the story more fairly. I think that you misunderstand my point here. It is also somewhat unfair to lump me in with "you and all the westerners who always..." That's the same sort of generalisations and prejudice we should be all trying to fight!

It should be clear - I hope - from what I write that I am not anti-Islam, or anti-Muslim, or anti-Arab. I am anti-hypocrisy, repression, injustice and intolerance in ANY culture.

Re Sharjah: I do know what wahhabism is, and I deplore the "decency" laws that Sharjah has thought fit to impose. Abu Dhabi is considerably more conservative and traditional than Dubai, but it has not imposed them. I am sure you understand, as a muslim, that anything that begins to resemble Saudi law - which is a worrying perversion of Islam from every understanding I have of it - is very damaging to the image of a country. The UAE, as you mention, has "Arab" in its name. It cannot afford to be tarred with the same brush that Saudi is.

For me, Abu Dhabi is a beautiful example of a tolerant, open yet traditional, Islamic country.

11 April, 2005 18:04  
Anonymous DubaiGuy78 said...

Dear secretdubai,

The incident reported was for Ajman. And you should not compare it with Dubai, which is far more westernized. Have you been to Ajman beach? It is a very small area compared to the beaches of other emirates. And ladies bathing on Ajman beach is very rare if not non existent. For this reason, in my opinion neither the on lookers nor the news reporter should be blamed.

Secondly, who said Sharjah is an extremist emirate? I suppose you are a lady but I am not sure. Have you lived in Sharjah? If yes, how many times you were stopped by the police? If discouraging alcohol or tight indecent outfits is extremism, then I am proud to be called an extremist. For some people it might be a normal thing that their daughter goes to nightclubs & comes back home early in the morning. But for majority of muslims, this is something unacceptable not just for our own daugthers & sisters, but for daughters & sisters of other people too.

By the way, Abu Dhabi has a dedicated beach for ladies.

Stay in touch, I have learned many thigs from you about which I was unaware so far. Keep sharing the little known secrets of Dubai with your readers.

12 April, 2005 08:46  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you shouldn't have women in bikini's in a country you should not have the type of people who would stand there gawping at women in a country either! That is not very religious now is it?

12 April, 2005 09:23  
Anonymous DubaiGuy78 said...

Dear Anonymous,

You are trying to cure the symptom without bothering to find out the cause. No ladies in bikinis, no gawping. It is as simple as that.

12 April, 2005 12:27  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

there is wide-spread gawping when dressed conservativley. At women generally. there are people gawping when women are dressed in Abayas. If you wear a bikini, people will stare. But if you are covered head to toe and people still stare, it seems the problem lies outside what women are wearing. Are you telling me the gawpers are blameless? Doing nothing wrong? It is their right to stare lustfully and sinfully at us even when we are dressed appropriatly for this country?

12 April, 2005 13:48  
Anonymous DubaiGuy78 said...

Dear Anonymous,

I am not defending the gawpers. This is something unacceptable in Islam which instructs both men & women to lower their gaze when facing each other. Please do not mix up the two issues.

I guess it is better to close this topic & pray to God to guide all of us to His right path.

12 April, 2005 14:32  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You said, and I quote 'no ladies in bikini's - no gawping. Simple as that'. I was merely trying to point out that it is not as SIMPLE as that. I would love it if everyone walked around with a lowered gaze because I am sick of having men lasciviously staring at me when I am modestly attired.

I do not wish to argue. I want you to realise that maybe it was you who mixing things up as I have been straight forward.

12 April, 2005 15:49  
Blogger AHSAN GHORI said...

The three important vices for men
Gambling ,wine & woman.Dont u think woman come in the evil category.strange isnt.u cover her or leave it open its just temptation for men.maybe less or more tats it.So anonymous think about it.

28 April, 2005 15:17  
Blogger secretdubai said...

I believe that every human being should take responsiblity for his or her own behaviour and actions. So it is a man's responsibility not to abuse a woman, not hers to hide herself away. It is his responsiblity to moderate his thoughts, words, and deeds, not anyone else's.

It might interest you to know that women also have lustful thoughts about men! However (most at least) moderate their behaviour and interact with men in a non-harrassing, non-embarrassing way. As do the majority of men.

Those pitiful few men who cannot control their attraction to women are the ones who should stay inside and hide away. Restrict the perpetrators, not the victims.

29 April, 2005 08:23  
Blogger AHSAN GHORI said...

Dear Secret Dubai

U certainly did not get my point.I said woman come in the evil category along with gambling & alcohol something that men should not fall in to.Once u r there its difficult to get out from it but for woman there is no such thing & it cant be ,rather they fall for fame(money),security etc except for alcohol & gambling so where are we.Got to be practical sometimes. I do agree with being moderate & control ourselves but arent they tempting.

30 April, 2005 09:20  
Blogger secretdubai said...

As a (young?) man it is no surprising you find women tempting! It is just hormones. But there is nothing inherently evil with seeing a woman and getting aroused. That is just your natural, hormonal processes - like seeing a delicious meal and getting hungry.

What is wrong is acting uninvited on those desires: stealing the woman (rape/abuse/adultery) or stealing the delicious meal (if it isn't yours).

Women are not "evil".

And you are wrong: women don't only fall for fame/money/security. They also feel sexual attraction. They are also physically tempted by men. And they also can get addicted to alcohol and gambling.

30 April, 2005 16:06  
Blogger AHSAN GHORI said...

Yes, harm moans, men really gotta no control on it.Here u agree that woman are objects of desire & I am sure u r trying your best to project men too are for them.Well, let a woman agree tat.Maybe u r right woman are not evil but they definetly are there(no fault of theirs) in those objets which could ruin a man if he gets addicted as I had mentioned those famous three.So now u totally agree to my point of maybe less, maybe more depending on how much they reveal.

01 May, 2005 08:13  
Blogger AHSAN GHORI said...

My apologies to the ladies u r no objects.

01 May, 2005 08:23  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about a female point of view? I'm an American woman who lived in Dubai for 2 years on business. I enjoyed it. I'm wondering since I'm a slightly older woman, I didn't get much gawking.

I agree that sexual harassment is unacceptable and there should be no excuse. This is my perspective. What if a woman was out in the street in America in a very sexy lace bra and panty? Would she not get stares? American women would typically not wear thong bikinis or go topless on the beaches like the Europeans.

Likewise, that would be the equivalent here. Take these gawkers - usually young guys and I'm guessing they are 16 - 25 and not too bright. They've probably never seen a woman in a bikini ever.

I wore tankinis or a modest two piece and I didn't have much problems. What is wrong with wearing a swimsuit with a little more coverage? I wore sleeved shirts and long skirts and didn't have much issues.

As for Sharjah and other places, we have to realize its a Muslim country and the culture is generally conservative. My advice to anyone who travels is that you are a guest in another country. Behave like a guest and you'll be treated like one. If you cannot or dont want to respect the local laws, customs or have some cultural sensitivity or don't bother leaving home.

My experience in Dubai has been good. The local people have been hospitable, friendly and I had friends, collegaues who were Asians, Indians and some Emiratis.

20 October, 2009 06:02  

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