DUBAI // Women now have exclusive access to two beach parks in the emirate that will be cleared of men for four days a week.
Before now, only Jumeirah Beach Park held a women-only day - on Mondays between 8am and 10pm. From this week, Dubai Municipality will restrict access between the same hours at Jumeirah Beach Park on Mondays and Wednesdays, and Al Mamzar Beach Park on Sundays and Tuesdays.
Only boys below the age of 4 will be allowed in the park on ladies-only days - even the lifeguards, cleaning and ticketing staff will be female.
"We had a tremendous response with 1,500 women coming to Al Mamzar already," said Ahmad Abdul Kareem, the director of the parks and horticulture department.
"We are planning to add fitness and sports facilities for women. One of the best exercises for older ladies and students is in the pool and sea. Clubs will be able to use the beaches to develop teams."
The beaches will be additionally segregated for different groups of women: Al Mamzar beaches 1, 2 and 5 will be reserved for female tourists and beaches 3 and 4 will be for local women, student school groups, elderly ladies and ladies with disabilities.
In Jumeirah Beach Park, the right section near the ladies club will be designated for locals, while the left section near the restaurants will be for tourists.
Complaints about inappropriate swimwear worn by tourists prompted the decision to demarcate areas, the municipality said.
"We decided to classify our beaches according to needs of different visitors," Mr Kareem said. "Tourists want to swim but local women come with friends, children, bring their own food and enjoy the day."
Women in the emirate were full of praise for the idea of ladies-only days.
Sonia Al Hashmi, chairman of the UAE Down syndrome Association, said she appreciated the move as it was not always safe to take special needs children to a crowded beach. "This is a chance for girls and children with special needs to enjoy life and live normally," she said.
The idea of segregation, however, was described as a tough call by others, including Mari de Villiers, marketing manager of Surf Shop Arabia. "It's understandable that some get offended but there should be respect for the law of the land," she said. "The whole of Dubai is about multiple nationalities living together. As soon as you segregate it affects both sides."
"There should not be segregation," agreed Helen Schrader, a member of an all-women dragon boat racing club, "instead the municipality should make it clear and communicate guidelines about acceptable swimwear."