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The New Tourism Campaign – The Dubai Executive Council has issued a strict code of conduct, making holding hands and dancing in public illegal

Posted by 7starsdubai on March 16, 2009


The Dubai Executive Council has issued a strict code of conduct, making holding hands and dancing in public illegal. How will Dubai reconcile its reputation for being the region’s party town with the government’s behavioral code?

Mar 15th, 2009 source Kippreport

The Dubai Executive Council (DEC) has launched a campaign against what it considers inappropriate behavior in public, reports Al Arabiya, based on a document leaked to the Arabic-language daily Al Emarat Al Youm.

According to the report, playing loud music, dancing, nudity, kissing, holding hands and being under the influence of alcohol in public will be considered offenses, and may result in jail time and hefty fines.

Furthermore, wearing revealing clothing in public, including short skirts and shirts that expose shoulders, will also be considered offenses.

Kipp called the DEC to get a copy of the list, but the communications director insisted the list had not been published yet. He also noted that the list will be released to the public by Monday, March 16.

When asked if the government will answer questions about the appropriateness of the new code of conduct, he assured Kipp the public announcement will settle all doubts about the code’s viability.

Kipp, however, remains unconvinced. Especially when you consider the explanation the UAE government gave for its comically named campaign against homosexuality – lesbianism in particular – “Excuse me, I’m a girl”.

According to the BBC, the UAE government has launched a series of workshops, lectures and television programs against what it calls ‘delinquent behavior’.  Awatef Al Rayyes, a social worker heading the campaign, explained that the behavior was first identified in special care homes, but spread across Emirati society due to the poor treatment of women by their husbands, and a lack of mingling between the sexes.

The government, however, failed to produce studies showing the extend of the ‘problem’ in the UAE, but insisted the ‘behavior’ is common in all-girls’ schools.

If the DEC’s explanation of its code of conduct is as colorful the UAE government’s explanation for its campaign against lesbianism, then we expect that the emirate’s expatriate population may take no comfort in the DEC’s soon-to-be-published statement.

Conversely, however, it is unlikely many will begrudge the government its attempts to impose its culture and norms on those who live in the UAE. This is their country, after all. However, unlike other nations, 80 percent of the UAE’s population is expatriates, many of whom choose Dubai out of all the GCC nations and emirates because of its tolerance towards foreigners and its relative openness.

Nevertheless, it is probable that the code of conduct may scare off the already shaken expatriate majority. Which brings us to the next point: is this the best time to tell people they can’t hold hands? We’ll grant the DEC nudity. We’ll even grant them revealing clothing. But dancing in public? Loud music? Isn’t loud music a feature of Emirati weddings? What about events held outdoors, such as public relations events and concerts, are they allowed to be loud? Does the rule only apply to expatriates who are not involved in commercial ventures, or does it apply to everyone, at any time?

And what about holding hands? Why would Dubai continue to attract honeymooning couples to pay AED2,000 a night to stay in one of the emirate’s luxury hotels if they can’t hold hands?

In fact, why would any couple visit Dubai if they knew that they could be arrested, fined and jailed if they played loud music, held hands or (heaven forbid) danced in public?

And what about being under the influence of alcohol? According to the article in Al Arabiya, those found with even a minimal amount of alcohol in their system in public will be arrested. What does that mean for those who meet friends at a bar? At some point, they need to walk outside in order to get a cab. Is that illegal?

On the one hand Dubai insists it is a cosmopolitan city. It banks its commercial success on attracting tourists and expatriates keen on experiencing the emirate’s luxuries However, many expatriates and Emiratis will explain that these luxurious are at odds with the emirate’s traditions.

Kipp isn’t breaking new ground here. It’s a problem that’s been plaguing this emirate for years. But it is also a problem that has not been addressed yet, and given what we know about the new code of conduct, it does not seem it is being addressed by the DEC either.

The question remains: how can the local government impose a code of conduct on an emirate that has built its reputation on being the region’s party town?

If the DEC’s statement answers that question, a Dubai riddle would’ve been solved.

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