Family-only areas will encourage conservative families to visit Dubai beaches

DUBAI // New rules on dressing modestly will encourage conservative families who may have felt embarrassed around scantily clad sunbathers to visit Dubai’s beaches, Emiratis and residents said.

Two small areas north of Kite Beach, either side of Dubai Offshore Sailing Club, have been designated as family-only areas, with new, pink-coloured signs stipulating that visitors should dress modestly and that women be fully covered.

No single men are allowed and staff from Dubai Municipality are on hand to enforce the new codes. The family areas are away from the main section of Kite Beach, which is popular with tourists and residents alike.

Although there are no rules against wearing bikinis or swimwear when visiting the emirate’s other public beaches, many felt what was deemed to be acceptable swimwear varied wildly from person to person, with some opting to show more flesh than others.

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Mona Al Abdoli avoids public beaches, especially at weekends, because the crowds of male and female sunbathers make her uncomfortable.

“At weekends there is hardly any space on the beaches,” said the Emirati mother of three.

“It’s really uncomfortable. I think many people feel the same way,” she said.

“If I want to take my kids we pay and go to the Ladies Club. It gives us privacy. There are no men staring and watching. I feel more comfortable around other families for my kids.

“Families would love to have a specific place for them. It will encourage more people to go to the beaches.”

Anna Robertson said the rules on what people should and should not wear to the beach were regularly pushed to the limit of what is acceptable.

“There are people who stretch what rules we have in place too far,” said the New Zealander, who is married to an Emirati. She hoped the new rules would make people more mindful of others.

“It ensures there are areas of the beach where everyone can feel more comfortable and avoid large groups with loud music and smoking, especially when you have children.”

This 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.

Diogo Davidson Albuquerque, an academic in the tourism department at Amity University Dubai, said family-only areas and modest clothing rules would help to remind visitors and residents of the country’s traditions.

“Despite being a modern city, Dubai is deeply rooted in strong Islamic traditions and values,” he said. “While most tourists are aware of the restrictions imposed by such a culture, when they arrive in the UAE they need to be reminded of the importance of accepting and abiding by local laws; not being offensive in behaviour and dress.”

Although such rules might seem strange to visitors, they have contributed to making ­Dubai one of the safest cities in the world, he said.

“I’m sure the dress code would be well received by locals, residents and first-time tourists as well as experienced travellers. It will do very little to tourism.”

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Maha Habboush often takes her two children to public beaches, but would opt for the family areas to avoid disturbing people trying to relax.

“I don’t honestly mind going to the normal beach, but to have an option of a family beach is nice,” the Egyptian said.

“You don’t have to worry about them disturbing people there trying to relax or have people giving you bad looks because the kids are being loud.”

mswan@thenational.ae

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