July 19, 2024

254996-emirates-bikini-banTourists are being warned to cover up on certain public beaches in the United Arab Emirates or face the consequences of showing too much skin. Authorities in Ras al-Khaimah, the northernmost emirate in the UAE, have posted signs on public beaches warning of possible fines for revealing swimwear, such as bikinis and banana hammocks. Located 60 miles northeast of Dubai, Ras al-Khaimah is one of the least popular emirates for tourists, but the decision still highlights the cultural challenges facing the UAE as it attempts to balance its booming tourism industry with the sensibilities of its conservative citizens. Many local women choose to wear the modest abaya to the beach and few enter the water to swim. In Dubai and Abu Dhabi tourists can wear bikinis on the beach but are advised to cover up when visiting other public areas, such as malls. In 2010, a British woman was arrested after she stripped off to a bikini in the Dubai Mall following an altercation with a local who complained about her wearing a low-cut top. Throughout the mall, signs urge women to “wear respectful clothing”. Similar messages are flashed up on LCD screens in most shopping malls across the United Arab Emirates. Reality is so complex that equally valid observations from differing perspectives might seem to be contradictory, but one thing’s for certain: in the UAE skin is not in.

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