Dubai takes action on 'indecent' sunbathing

Three beaches will have prominent warnings in English and Arabic telling beachgoers not to change in public.

Jumeirah Beach in Dubai.
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DUBAI // Public beaches in Dubai will soon have large signs warning women against topless bathing and indecent exposure contrary to the cultural values of the UAE. Dubai Municipality said yesterday the decision followed repeated complaints from residents about nudity, mostly among tourists. Residents had complained that a growing number of women were sunbathing and swimming topless, municipality officials said.

The signs would be put up at Jumeirah open beach, Jumeirah Beach Park and Al Mamzar park within three months, officials said yesterday. "The signposts will be in Arabic and English and will be prominently placed at the beaches," said Mohammed al Louz, head of unit for Deira Parks Section at Dubai Municipality, who looks after beach regulations. The boards would clearly warn beachgoers against any indecent exposure, he said: "We are presently checking the samples of the signboards and soon a decision will be taken."

Changing clothes in public and lying on the beach insufficiently covered would also be prohibited, he said. "The tourists often change clothes in public and even take off all their clothes before lying on the beach. They are obviously not aware of the regulations and the cultural sensitivities of the country, which is why we plan to put signboards informing them that such behaviour should be avoided," said Mr Louz.

However, he said no fines would be imposed on visitors. "Our lifeguards will speak to them and if that fails, then the beach supervisor will explain the rules. If they still do not listen then we may ask them to leave the beach," he said. The signboards would also prohibit pets on the beaches. "This is another area where we have received several complaints. A lot of people still take their pets to the beach though it is not allowed. The new signboards will clearly mention that pets are not allowed on these beaches," said Mr Louz.

He said the municipality had increased inspections by plainclothes inspectors to deter men who stared at women on the beaches and even took photographs of them. A lifeguard who did not wish to be named said it was often difficult to convince tourists to cover up. "At the Open Beach we often get many such cases of obscenity and we urge them to cover up. Many of them ignore our request and are even rude at times. A signboard will certainly make the rules clear to the visitors," he said.

There was a mixed response to the announcement from beachgoers. "This is a personal choice and there is no harm if you have a good sunbathe discreetly," said Lucy Mueller. "Of course, if you are attracting a lot of attention from troublemakers then you should stop. However, such a signboard can make it difficult for women to have a good time." Nizrin Rashed, a resident of Jumeirah, welcomed the proposal. "It's difficult to send my children to the beach because of the kind of things they see there," she said. "Besides, such exposure is attracting a lot of bachelors and single men, which is spoiling the family atmosphere."