Coronavirus: Dubai residents flock back to beaches on scorching weekend

Restaurants largely remained quiet as the public looked for open-air entertainment and avoided indoor spaces

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Thousands flocked to Dubai's beaches at the weekend as the emirate lifted many restrictions after more than 10 weeks.

Beaches including JBR, Al Mamzar, Jumeirah and Umm Suqeim re-opened on Friday, drawing crowds of jet skiers, kite surfers and sunbathers.

“I’m an island girl from Mauritius and my boyfriend is from Goa so we didn’t have any other choice,” said Diya Khuruj, 38, who rested in a lounger at the periphery of Jumeirah Beach. “It’s good to feel nice.”

She had spent most of the lockdown on unpaid leave, watching TV movies and cooking new dishes. The beach visit was a return to normality.

“For one month, it was a holiday,” she said. “From the second month, I felt excited to go back to work.”

People of all ages, including those under 12 and over 60, are allowed at the beach.

People are not permitted to gather in groups of more than five, and must wear a mask at all times if they are not in the water.

Trust in the government had given people the confidence to return to public life and meet friends for the first time in months, they said.

This was the case for Manal Al Ahdab and Niha Tadros, who sunbathed at the edge of Jumeirah Beach.

“It feels great, liberating and a bit normal,” said Manal Al Ahdab.

Ms Al Ahdab had spent the lockdown gardening, reading psychology articles and history books, and had continued her work doing coaching online. When she heard beaches would reopen, she found an isolated seat on the periphery of the beach, though the water was crowded when it came time to cool off.

Even as the barometer rose past 40 degrees on Saturday, visitors came toting boogie boards, umbrellas and an inflatable pink flamingo.

Alex Milivokevic, his wife Angelica dined with friends under a tented shelter at a beachside restaurant as their daughter played nearby. The visit was a relief for their daughter Enis, age 6, who had spent weeks biking in circles in their car park and running around their home indoors.

Ms Milivokevic’s elderly parents had stayed home. “At one point they were just walking up and down the parking lot stairs.”

For Mr Milivokevic, the beach was a relief but his main concern is his daughter’s education.

“It’s not about her learning math or writing, we’re worry about her general learning,” he said. “School should take the priority. If school doesn’t open until September, I know a lot of people who will move their families.”

By early evening, runners and bodybuilders crowded the boardwalk. Some followed the rules about masks. Many simply wore masks on their chin.

It feels great, liberating and a bit normal

They were joined by their friend Hatem Mukattash, a Jordanian singer who had gotten negative results that morning. He had taken precautions and regular testing to make sure his elderly parents and infant child were safe.

“We got to a stage now where if the government tells me to go out now, I will go out. Life should go on.”

Tables at most beach restaurants stayed empty, despite easing regulations that allow them to operate at 30 per cent capacity. Many said more than 90 per cent of their orders are takeaway.

“For restaurants, people have been scared up until now,” said Marwan Raham, a waiter at a nearby restaurant. “I think that will change in September.”

Tent Jumeirah Restaurant benefitted from its location directly on the beach. With the fierce heat of May, it would usually be empty. On the weekend, it was at 75 per cent of its permitted capacity.

Despite customers' casual approach to mask wearing and distancing, its supervisor Saeed Ahmed was grateful to be back at work.

“If I stay in the house, I feel sad," he said.