DUBAI // Women are being asked to cover their bikinis and dress modestly at two new family beaches along Dubai’s most popular stretch of coast.
Areas either side of the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club have been declared families-only, with the municipality putting up bright pink signs to mark them out.
Staff are on hand to ensure people obey dress rules and to keep away groups of single men.
Signs state that the beaches are “dedicated to women and families only” and order all visitors to “wear respectful swimwear”, which means “women must be fully covered”.
Although close to Kite Beach, which is popular with kite surfers and sunbathers, the family zones are far enough away from the crowds to offer privacy.
The move was welcomed by tourists and residents who regularly the area in Jumeirah.
“The whole area is lovely but I imagine lots of people are missing out because they felt uncomfortable with how exposed some people are,” said Helen Lockhardt, from Britain.
“This gives families who aren’t comfortable with the many scantily clad people an area where they can set up. Dubai is very tolerant but it was getting a bit ridiculous down there.”
Ms Lockhardt said she would probably visit the new area if it were quieter than the rest of the beach.
“I am quite happy to use that section of beach as there will be no single men there, no large groups of young people smoking and swearing around my kids, and no barely dressed women posing provocatively with selfie sticks.”
Ms Lockhardt said she accidentally fell foul of the new rules while visiting the beach recently with friends.
“A man from the municipality approached me and a few other mums who were there with our kids, explained it was now a family-only section and politely asked us if we could cover up a bit.
“We were wearing swimsuits and tops, so we put shorts or dresses on and he was fine with that. He approached other people, some covered up and some chose to move.
“We were told that in that particular area these were the rules, but on the next part of the beach you can’t lie out in beachwear.”
It is the first stretch of public beach in the emirate to have such rules. Al Mamzar Beach Park, which charges an entrance fee, has women-only days on Sundays and Tuesdays.
Vaishali Raj, head of fashion design at Amity University Dubai, said it was an important cultural move.
“Emiratis dress conservatively and expats are expected to do so as well,” Ms Raj said. “Visitors often lose recognition of the fact that Dubai is very much a part of the Islamic world.
“Liberal as it appears, the recently changed beach rules should be taken as a positive step to awaken tourists to the vast journey the place has travelled in its outlook in such a short span of time.
“This step, far from being off-putting, should prompt the visitor to want to know the origin of these rules and how covering of body is viewed in modest fashion.”