NEWS FROM THE U.A.E.
Excerpts from U.A.E. Dailies
UAE expats not immigrants, but residents: Kaabi
DUBAI — 20 May:Expatriate workers in the UAE are not immigrant labour force, but residents who come to the country against employment visas, similar to the USA’s visa known as H1V.
This was said by Labour Minister Dr Ali bin Abdullah Al Kaabi, noting that he would clarify this fact before the attendants of the 95th session of the World Labour Conference to be held in Geneva from May 30 to June 16.
“In the UAE, we do not have immigrants, but temporary workers who come to the UAE on employment visas,” he stressed, adding: “This type of visa is similar to that in the USA which is known by H1V.”
He said that there are many wrong concepts about the UAE regarding expatriate labour force and he will explain and clarify them before the international community during the conference.
Aimed at correcting the negative practices of some companies relating to accommodation and delay in payment of salaries, as well as to avoid violations of the UAE laws committed by expatriates, the country is thinking of implementing different projects, he said, adding that the country is planning to set up labour cities to provide accommodation to all labourers.
“We are studying with the contractors committee either to set up a large city or a number of cities in different emirates. The city or the cities will be administrated by the Ministry of Labour,” he said.
Also, the UAE government is studying a proposal to set up just one recruitment agency, and accordingly the currently available agencies will be cancelled, he said, adding that the proposed recruitment establishment will be a private company that will operate under the supervision of the Ministry of Labour.
"The existing recruitment agencies may be allowed to join the establishment and operate under its umbrella. There will not be any other recruitment agency other than this,” he stressed. "The proposed establishment will be responsible for paying workers’ salaries and their dues, and workers will be lent to companies.”
Dr Kaabi will head the delegation which will include representatives of the government, businessmen and expatriate workers. The government team includes Dr Khalid Al Khazraji, Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Labour, and other ministry officials. The businessmen team includes Saeed Ali, Member of the Administrative Board of the UAE Federation of the Chambers of Commerce and Industry and Chairman of Administration Board of the Fujairah Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Agriculture. The team of workers’ representatives includes Saleh Al Marzouqi, Chairman of the Administration Board of the Association for Coordination between Societies Operating in the Country.
Labour recruiting agencies may be shut down
Dubai: 20 May:The Labour Ministry may shut down the labour agencies that recruit construction workers.
Many of these agencies pressure workers to take crippling, illegal loans to pay for their own visas.
Dr Ali Bin Abdullah Al Ka'abi, Labour Minister, told reporters that workers' cities will be built to take the place of about 170 labour agencies currently licensed by the ministry.
Construction companies will hire workers from the cities, which will be managed by private companies with government supervision, he said.
"We will close them down," Al Ka'abi said. "Some of the bigger companies may find a role in the new worker cities."
He did not provide further details on when the worker cities will be built, although he suggested that one will soon be announced in Dubai.
At present, only one company, Dulsco, is licensed to sponsor and rent out workers to UAE companies.
Another company, First Group, received a licence last year but has not begun work.
A Gulf News investigation in April found dozens of other companies openly engaged in this trade, often exploiting labourers for wages ranging from Dh3 to Dh6 an hour.
Another investigation found most labour agents recruiting workers from South Asia openly charge the men and women they bring to the UAE the cost of their visas.
The practice is illegal under the UAE Labour Law and had forced many workers to take loans of more than Dh7,000, often at high interest rates.
Although the UAE cannot punish companies which pass on visa costs to workers, the problem has been at the root of many labour protests here, and even suicides. Last week, labour officials met Indian government representatives to discuss ways to stop the practice in India, where the bulk of the country's expatriate labour comes from.
In April, the ministry's labour undersecretary, Dr Khalid Al Khazraji, announced that all applications for labour agent licences would be halted. Al Khazraji said too many smaller agencies were in the market and were creating "chaos".
Agencies need a licence to operate and must submit an undertaking "that it shall not get any commission from the labourer in consideration of their recruitment" according to the ministerial order.
ILO conference: UAE under no pressure to alter law
The UAE will not be under pressure to alter its Labour Law when labour officials go to Geneva this month to attend an important international labour conference.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) will hold its conference from May 31 to June 16 in which countries are scrutinised for their commitment to collective bargaining, freedom of association and discrimination in the workplace.
The UAE has not ratified two ILO conventions which allow labour unions. Labour Minister Dr Ali Bin Abdullah Al Ka'abi said despite earlier statements that he expected labour associations by year-end, ILO would not pressure the UAE. "The issue for us is to communicate to the ILO that we have temporary workers, not immigrant labour."
Residents complain of rat poison hand-outs
Sharjah: 20 May: Residents here have complained about the municipality's distribution of rat poison, saying it is often handed out to housemaids in the absence of the residents and called for tighter controls.
Residents complained that when the municipality distributes the poison, they do not issue any prior notification and simply give the poison to anyone who opens the door, such as housemaids.
"Handing out poison to whoever opens the door is a serious issue. It should be given to the owner of the house because the housemaids should not be given the responsibility of handling something so dangerous," said Eisa Abdullah, a resident.
"I am always hearing stories of problems going on with housemaids. The last thing we need is for them to get hold of poison," said Reem Ebrahim, another resident.
According to her, there should be greater control over who receives the poison.
"When the municipality comes to my house to bring the poison, I never know about it because I never asked for it in the first place. They come unexpectedly, about every few months, to give it to everyone down the street," said Mohammad Hassan, a resident.
"It is helpful that the municipality brings it to our homes, but it would be better if they gave it to us in person," said Hassan Salman. He said it would be a good idea to get a receipt that they could sign and hand back to the municipality confirming that the owner of the house received the poison.
On call: Getting rid of rodents
There are three ways to distribute rat poison.
Residents can either call Sharjah Municipality to deliver the rat poison to their homes, have teams spray the poison around their home, or residents can pick up the poison directly from the municipality, according to a municipality official who declined to be named.
"At present, there is no rule that says employees have to hand the poison to the owner of the house. We give it to the person who opens the door," said the municipality official.
Waiver of morgue fee sought for repatriating bodies of expats
Al Ain: 20 May: Expatriate communities are seeking exemption from the Dh1,000 morgue charges while repatriating dead bodies.
Community members say they have been facing difficulties while sending the bodies of low-income expatriates who had invalid health cards.
Hospitals charge Dh1,000 towards the cost of coffin, packing materials and chemicals used to prevent decomposition of bodies.
Community members say often the process of repatriating bodies of poor people is delayed due to lack of cash. They have to depend on charity or intervention from philanthropists to send the bodies home. Those who have valid health cards are exempt from the charges.
Besides, community members have to find money to pay the air fares which in most cases are huge as airlines charge special or cargo rates for dead bodies.
Naresh Kumar Suri, a former vice-president of Indian Social Centre in Al Ain, said mostly people depend on charity to meet the expenses for repatriation of the body of a friend or a co-worker. "Some companies or sponsors also extend their help on humanitarian grounds but legally they are not bound to do so.
"The authorities should make the employers legally responsible for arrangements for the repatriation of the bodies and to bear the expenses," Suri suggested.
Pakistani expatriates are lucky in that respect as their national carrier Pakistan International Airline (PIA) flies bodies of countrymen, along with an attendant, free of charge.
Younis Khan, a Pakistani expatriate in Al Ain, said the charges were strange. "How can a dead man pay the charges?"
"Authorities should either make the employers responsible for the payments or waive the charges."
Many low-income workers get health cards only for one year at the time of their visa renewal, he said.
TThe amount spent on the cards is later deducted from the workers' salaries, he said.
The health card fee is unaffordable for many workers, who draw a salary of less than Dh1,000, he added.
Low pay affects teaching standards
Dubai: 20 May: Teachers have reasons for turning up for lessons each day they need to earn a living and support their family. But is that earning enough for them and are teaching standards slipping because of poor pay?
The minimum wage for teachers, as stipulated by the Ministry of Education, is Dh2,000 and many working in the profession earn this amount or little more. Some teachers have seen their pay remain almost static in recent years.
Juma Al Salami, Undersecretary at the Ministry of Education, said the minimum wage should be increased to Dh5,000.
In a Gulf News poll, 84.05 per cent of respondents said they thought UAE education standards were affected by the low salaries of teachers while 13.66 per cent said they were not likely to be affected and 2.278 per cent were unsure.
Shivendra Singh, 31, a sales executive from India, said salaries for many teachers in Dubai were "too little". "They are not enough to survive in a city like Dubai. Teachers should earn more than Dh5,000 a month."
Lebanese administration assistant Zeina Akl, 34, who has two children, one of whom is at school, said low pay for teachers was a problem across the world. "Teachers have low pay in all countries, even the United States. I think more ... than low pay (the problem) is that schools here are too commercial and they put more stress on activities than they do on the academic programme. The best schools are the non-profit schools that are supported by the embassies."
Elizabeth Loadwick, from Australia, knows all about the issue of teachers' pay since she is a school principal. She said a major problem was that teachers were paid according to nationality, with Indian teachers, for example, tending to earn less than their European counterparts. She said this never happened in her school and said it should be stamped out elsewhere.
According to Yasmin Al Ahmad, 27, an administration manager from Syria, "Their salaries should start from at least Dh6,000 per month ... these people are educating the next generation and their job is very important".
Assistant sales manager Abraham Jacob, 33, said: "The cost of living is getting higher every day, but the salaries are not," he said.
Joyce Pais, 60, from India, who used to work as an executive secretary, said: "I have a lot of friends in the teaching profession, and it's just too bad. (At) some of the Indian schools, they give the teachers so much work, charts and projects, to do. I have a friend who is a teacher. She has two children and she doesn't go to bed until 2am because she has so much work to do.
"Her salary is Dh2,000 and they take Dh200 out of that for the bus to school so she only gets Dh1,800."
Syrian engineer Essam Sharkah, 44, an engineer who has two children at school in the UAE, said teachers should not get paid less than Dh5,000 a year.
Rekha Balakrishnan, a 33-year-old holiday company consultant from India who has a nine-year-old daughter, said: "I think the quality of education is not really that great in these schools I think teachers' pay is one of a number of reasons."
British cabin crew worker Katherine Hammersley, 22, said: "Teachers are invaluable .... As with any job, if teachers are low paid then there's no motivation for them to really work hard."
One person who took a different view was Tafrari Lakew, 34, a businessman from Ethiopia. He said a salary of about Dh2,500, if accommodation was also provided, should be enough for a teacher.
Indian cleaning supervisor Ahmad Yunus Surve, 47, said teachers' salaries had to come from school fees and these were already too high and big salary hikes for teachers would make life harder for families.
Fine on late payment of fees a violation of rules
DUBAI — 20 May: The Ministry of Education (MoE) has condemned private schools adopting extreme measures of levying fines on parents for late payment of tuition fee.
Parents complained that several private schools have devised their own rules on late payment of fee, like levying fines and humiliating the students and their families for the delay caused in the payment of school fee on time.
According to a ministry official, levying fines for the late payment of fee by schools is a violation of ministry rules.
“Although, there is no clear directive issued by the ministry to schools on the issue, schools are only permitted to hold back examination results or transfer certificates of the candidate in case of non-payment or late payment of tuition fee. But charging a fine, in my personal view, is very humiliating both for the student and the parents.”
“A school cannot run like a commercial establishment. We can understand that banks and other financial institutions levy fines on their customers on late payment of deposits, or mortgage instalments, or payment of credit card bills,” he said, adding: “But as a school, they should not operate as a commercial establishment and refrain from taking extreme measures to punish parents who may be faced with financial difficulty in payment of the school fee on time.”
“We should understand that education of children is the top priority of all parents and they will ensure that the school fee is paid regularly and on time. But only under very severe financial constraints, parents are forced to flout the rules. In such cases, the school should not use their muscle power to force parents to pay fees on time.”
The official disclosed that “while delay in payment of fees may not affect the school managements severely, strict action against students can cost them their careers.”
A poll conducted by Khaleej Times on whether fining parents for late payment of school fee is fair led to the parents highlighting their woes, who also ridiculed the school policy.
Mohammed Sharieff, a parent, noted that schools in Dubai are always very eager to collect money, no matter for what. The schools are the happiest to collect even the fine money, he said, naming a reputed school in Dubai which enforces fines on late payment of fee.
Another parent, S. Muketha, who strongly opposed the schools’ policy to penalise parents for late fee payments, said: “Parents never want to pay late and humiliate their children in school before their classmates and teachers. It bears a negative effect on the morale of the students, and they may develop a dislike towards their parents for humiliating them before the classmates and school staff.”
Condemning the school’s initiative to take such extreme steps of fining parents for late payment of school fee, S.J. Huq of Ajman said: “Schools should understand some of the factors often responsible for the delay. These include delay in salary transfer to the bank account, and the busy schedules of working parents who cannot take time off from work to visit their children’s schools to pay the fee.”
He pointed out that such extreme measures could result in many schools losing out on students because expatriate families are now opting to send back their families home, rather than facing such humiliation of high school fee and fines etc.
Nada from Dubai believes money is a materialistic asset and should never be compared to human emotions. "Schools should not play with the emotions of parents. Instead of making parents feel more miserable about this fact, the school authorities should relax their deadlines and make an effort to bear, cooperate and empathise with such parents to cope with their hardships.”
But school managements believe they are forced to take such extreme steps of fining parents simply to remind them to pay the fees on time.
“It is not a punishment on parents,” said Ashok Kumar, CEO and Principal of Indian High School, Dubai. “My school charges a late fee fine, but the amount is a negligible Dh10,” he said, adding: “The late fee is charged only after a stretched deadline of 18th of each month.”
He agreed that there is no directive from the ministry on late fee fines, but this has been the practice going on for a long time.
Kumar explained that IHS offers several modes of fee payment, especially in the interest of working parents, like a 24-hour payment system through ATM or through check drop boxes set up in the school. He added: “Genuine reasons for the delay in fee payment are looked into more humanely, and we often waive off the fines in such cases.”
Another school principal, who is not in favour of fining parents, said: “Instead, the school should work out a mechanism to prevent such humiliation to parents.” He believes that parents are anyway suffering due to escalating costs of education and high cost of living.
“Levying fines is only adding to their woes,” noted Dr Farooq Wasil, Principal of Our Own English High School, Sharjah.
Most shift workers say they prefer night duty
ABU DHABI — 20 May:Security Guards are the latest to support the Khaleej Times campaign for night-only shifts for workers saying, the construction sites can be made more secure.
Mohammed Rajab, an Egyptian security guard with Abu Dhabi-based Sultan Security Service Co. said he would prefer night shift to the day shift as many factors make work easier at night.
"Accidents at the site at night are also less compared to the daytime," he said, adding that a lot of measures should be taken such as ensuring uninterrupted power supply, sufficient lighting, and night-tailored safety measures.
One of the advantages of the night shift is that there is a lesser chaos than in daytime, says security guard Nasir. This would enable the workers concentrate on their job.
Salah who also prefers night-shift, had this to say: "There is a secret in the nighttime where you feel closer to people. Maybe because there are not too many people around. Maybe because it is more quiet, and after all it is safer in terms of industrial safety, accidents etc..." What are the other reasons why they would prefer night only shifts?
Said Rajab: "Workers will of course be more comfortable during the night than during daytime... During summers one's energy fades away faster during daytime because of many reasons, be it the searing temperature, the chaos of the surrounding environment etc..," he noted.
He said workers, such as in the construction sector would love to have the night shift and would double their effort in the night time. "Of course they would do better," he stated.
He said the idea of night shift for construction workers is "simple" and could be developed to cover many sectors in addition to construction industry. Citing an example of a pharmaceutical complex where he used to work back home years ago, he recalled that they used to feel more comfortable and wait for their night shift to come. "Our (security) posts at the complex used to be manned by six guards at night compared to 12 during daytime, unlike what people think that more people would be needed during the night.
" It is very easy to do the night shift, and no customers are going in and out", added Nasir from the point of view of security personnel who work at night.
Salah interrupted: "When you look at it from different ways, it applies positively almost to all sectors. So, if my company assigned me to work at a construction site let's say an oil company complex where expansion was to take place, I would love to do it. The employees of that company won't be there, so less people, less cars, and less tension."
He added that out of his personal experience people are nicer in the night than in the daytime.
Waleed, another security guard with a national security firm said he did agree that there are some advantages to the night shift. "It's not as tiring as it can be in the daytime in terms of weather and the fatigue associated with it," he said, echoing his colleague's views. "During daytime, for instance, you need to drink a lot of water to compensate for the liquids you lose, unlike the night time," he added.
Hike in air fares due to seasonal demand
ABU DHABI — 20 May:Residents looking to get away from the summer heat and head off to exotic locales or back home to their respective countries, are faced with the problem of having to pay high fares charged by major airlines.
In order to understand why the fares fluctuate so much, becoming especially high in the summer, Khaleej Times spoke to some people in the travel industry.
It is the International Air Transport Association (IATA) that sets a base fare for each destination depending on the distance, said an employee of Jet Airways. However, the market fare is much lower, he added.
"For example the base fare may be 3,000 and the airline may market it for as low as 1,200", he said, adding that the market fare may depend on factors like fuel, country taxes, and insurance.
The air fares peak during summer because of the seasonal demand. As the demand is high during this time the prices are high.
"Even when one is going for Umrah, airlines hike the price knowing that demand is going to be high," he said.
It's not just the season, it's also the place that affects demand for tickets.
"Almost 75 per cent of the profit of the airlines in the Gulf region is from travel to Asian destinations," said the Jet Airways employee.
This is owing to the large Asian community in the Gulf. "So an eight and a half hours' flight to Dublin would cost say about Dh1,200 while a three and a half hours' flight to India may cost Dh2,000, simply because there isn't a large Irish community in the Gulf as compared to the Indian community," he said.
Airlines employ several tactics to sell seats. "If the airlines ensure that 75 per cent of the business and first class seats and 30 per cent of the economy class seats are sold then they can break-even," he added.
According to an industry source, there are several ways to get better rates on air travel. One way to cut prices is by booking online. Some 10-15 per cent discount is possible through online booking as it eliminates the travel agent. And the eTicket cuts the processing charges. Ticketing structure is fast moving towards a wholly Internet based operation.
A direct flight will be higher priced as compared to indirect flights with stopovers. The longer the transit period the cheaper the fare, he explained. However the disadvantage is that if one of the connecting flights is delayed then you are likely to miss the next one, so be prepared to waste a day or so at a foreign airport in case of delay, he added.
One of the best ways to cut down on the ticket fares is to buy the ticket in advance.
"Every airline wants committed seats," said the industry source. "And an airline will be ready to sell tickets at a lower price if it means the seats are sold as early as possible. But the disadvantage is that the tickets cannot be refunded so its sensible to plan your schedule well in advance, and minimise the chances of not being able to fly that day," he added.
Apart from that, there are seasonal discounts and offers, which give passengers a good deal for money. An airline might offer discounts on limited seats sold on a 'first come first served' basis. So it's all about being swift enough.
Discounts are also offered on the tickets to companies for flying by a particular airline. "Certain companies get a corporate discount on air fares when flying with a particular airline," he added.
Armed with these tactics, holiday goers can definitely get good deals on air travel, thereby ensuring stress-free travel, at least on account of the finances.
Tea in styrofoam cups costs 75 fils
DUBAI — 20 May: Although there is no blanket ban on plastic cups, the use of which was regulated by Dubai Municipality through a circular last month, cafeterias in the emirate have swapped plastic cups with styrofoam cups to serve the hot beverages.
This has resulted in an increase in the price of tea from 50 fils to 75 fils.
The residents in Dubai have slammed the increase as "another burden" on their household budget.
According to a number of cafeteria owners, they were forced to increase the price of tea having switched over to styrofoam cups.
They said the sale of the tea had not declined even after they increased the price. The public took the 25 fils increase in its stride because prices of everything in the UAE is on the rise, they added.
Cafeteria owners noted that although they were not clear on the use of plastic cups to serve hot beverages, they switched over to styrofoam cups to be on the safe side despite minimal increase in cost of the hot beverages.
Said Naseer, owner of Deira Star cafeteria, said: "We are facing problems with the increase in rent and operation costs and were anyway considering increasing the price of the most popular beverage among the people from the subcontinent. But, now under the new directives by the civic body which still remains unclear for most of us, we are left with no choice, but hiking the price of a cup of tea.”
Vinod, owner of another cafeteria, said: "We are using styrofoam cups instead of plastic cups to serve the hot beverages. We cannot sell tea for 50 fils specially now after having switched over to styrofoam cups. The switchover has made it difficult to meet our operational cost and we cannot continue selling the beverage at its old price of 50 fils.”
He lamented that the increase in price of tea may affect business. "Like in the past when cafeterias had hiked the price to 75 fils, people protested and we were forced to revert back to the old price. But, the residents should also understand our problems," he said.
Reeling under the pressure of the increasing costs, cafeteria owners have no option but to hike the price of tea. "Besides, the civic body's directive regulating the use of plastic cups to serve hot beverages, remains unclear for us. As a precautionary measure, we have replaced plastic cups with styrofoam cups forcing a hike in price of tea," Vinod pointed out.
Murali, a resident of Bur Dubai, said: "The increase in the price of tea is unfair. We are all struggling with the increasing cost of living in the emirate. The increase in price of tea will add an extra burden on us and for many of us who often called for tea from cafeteria, will end up reducing consumption of tea, one of the cheapest beverage across the world."
A number of residents said that attributing the increase in price of tea to the use of styrofoam cups is not entirely correct. Because, some cafeteria owner who serve tea in glass or steel glasses inside the cafeteria, have also started to charge 75 fils, they added.
Fighting for the cause of the needy Indians
DUBAI — 20 May:He made his debut visit to the UAE as a businessman in 1964. In 1983, he embraced the UAE as his second home. Living out of India as an expatriate for 60 years, he still holds an Indian passport and has always believed he is a true Indian and has loved the UAE as his second home.
Bharat Kumar Shah, popularly known as ‘Bharat Bhai’, is an unofficial ambassador for Indians who have lived in the Middle East for the past six decades. Once he starts talking, no one can stop him and it is up to him to decide when to stop. But he is always taking up the cause of the needy Indians living in the Gulf region at all platforms where he can voice his views.
“I used to visit the UAE often for business at that time. I always enjoyed coming here. In 1983, Dhirubhai Ambani, founder of the Reliance Group, requested me to change my base to the UAE to solve some problems in his business. I came here and I felt the Rulers here are pragmatic and they have a vision about the development of this country,” he said.
“When I came here the first time, I felt that this place was very vibrant and Shaikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai then, was a great visionary. He always knew what the people needed. I felt very comfortable here and from then on, Dubai is my second home,” he said. “Dubai was like a small town when I visited it the first time. But each time I came back, I experienced the growth of this country. All the credit goes to the rulers who realised how to build their country. In my 23 years of life here, I witnessed the immense growth of this country. It is unbelievable,” he added.
“It was hard to drive to different emirates at that time. There were no good roads, and to travel from Dubai to Abu Dhabi was a hard journey. The growth of this country is a lesson for other countries,” he noted.
Bharat Kumar Shah started his career as a houseboy at the age of 15. He left India in 1948, a year after independence, in a ship called ‘Alawi’ to Aden in Yemen. “I paid Rs92 to travel on the deck of the ship to Aden, and it took me nine days to reach there. I started work as a houseboy in the house of a rich Indian for a while. Later, I decided to start my business and started to sell kitchen crockery and other small stationery items on the street,” recalled Bharat Kumar Shah.
He continued: “I got a job in a shipping company where I learnt more about exports and imports. I was working for $20 that time and the founder of Reliance Group Dhirubhai Ambani was my colleague working with me. Later, I decided to start a small business and left the shipping company.”
“I started my business and was later associated with another businessmen. I did not have any academic qualification. But life has always taught me lessons. It helps me to grow myself and my business. I became a big businessman. But in 1970, communists took over power in Yemen. I moved to Saudi Arabia where I started another business,” he added.
Now, Bharathbhai Shah is unofficial spokesperson of the Indian community in the UAE, always bringing to the notice of Indian government various issues of the NRIs and their problems and issues facing overseas Indians.
Labourers appeal: ‘Don’t kick us off the beaches’
Dubai - 20 May:Labourers on Dubai’s beaches have said they are not to blame for making women feel uncomfortable following news of a major crackdown on sexual harassment at the seaside.
Extra police will be posted to the beaches in new towers after complaints from women that they were being hassled by groups of young men. Police will use binoculars to scour the beaches for unpleasant behaviour and may deport offenders.
The city’s public beaches are popular with expatriate workers in the evenings and on Fridays. They say they go there to socialise and bathe in the waters of the Arabian Gulf.
Aqueel, a 39-year-old Pakistani machine minder, who was sitting with a group of friends on the wall near a beach, said: “We do not stare at women and we do not talk to them.
“Everyone has the right to come to the beach. It’s a nice place to be and it doesn’t cost money. I see other men trying to talk to girls and I don’t think they like it.” However, all the female sunbathers in bikinis Emirates Today spoke to – and they are far outnumbered by men on the beach – told a very different story.
Karen Taylor, 24, and Hazel Donegan, 26, both from Ireland, were surrounded by young men in groups, most of whom were staring directly at them.
Hazel said: “We went in the water and immediately we were surrounded by loads of men yelling. It was quite scary.” Karen added: “It’s the same story at every public beach. We are never coming back. We will have to pay Dh800 a month for access to a private beach – but it’s worth it.” They said lifeguards had had to remove one man who was sitting and staring at them – wearing only his underpants.
Karen said: “We need more lifeguards and more police. It just isn’t comfortable here. They stare at us without respite.” However, men in one of the nearby groups said it was natural for them to look if they were confronted by a near-naked female body. They said they were not doing or saying anything vulgar and argued that if the girls did not like being stared at, they should wear more clothes or leave the beach altogether.
Egyptian glass worker Ibrahim, 25, said: “If the girls feel hassled they should become more respectable. They should get dressed more or leave.
“The police should understand the situation – if there is an almost naked female body in front of me how can I not look?” Mohammed, who is also 25, said: “It is the force of nature – it is stronger than our will. But I agree that the police should step in if someone does something vulgar. We all have mothers and sisters and we respect women.” Mickey, a 29-year-old South African who works at Wild Wadi, said police should also take steps to ensure that men do not go on to the beach wearing underpants, rather than swimming trunks.
He said: “There’s a big difference – with the underpants you see everything.
“It’s obscene – and it only costs a few dirhams to get shorts.” And Abdelaziz, a 30-year-old banker from Pakistan, said: “Of course, men come to the beach to look at women… it’s natural. They come here to enjoy