The Laws in Dubai

I meant to comment on this earlier:

A British woman has been charged with having extra-marital sex in Dubai after reporting she was raped, according to a UK-based legal advice group.

The Detained in Dubai group said the woman was arrested after she claimed she was raped by two British men.

The woman, who is in her 20s, was reportedly attacked by two men from Birmingham while she was on holiday.

And according to the Daily Mail:

Last year, Ms Waterman Smith waived her anonymity to reveal how she was raped when her attackers tampered with her drink at the Rock Bottom Bar in the Regent Palace Hotel.

Here’s a thing a lot of people don’t know about Dubai: the laws there can not only be very strict, but they are also flouted so brazenly people forget they exist.  For instance, it is illegal to drink in Dubai unless one of the following is the case:

1) You drinking in the bar of a hotel in which you are resident, i.e. a paying guest.

2) You are a resident of Dubai or one of the other Emirates and you hold a liquor-license.

In other words, if you are drinking in a bar at a hotel in which you are not resident, you are breaking the law.  The problem is, everyone does this, and the whole place is set up to allow this.  At least one bar – the Irish Village under the tennis stadium – is not attached to any hotel, yet is packed with tourists.  Provided there are no problems, the authorities turn a blind eye.

Also, it is illegal for a man and woman to share a hotel or residence in Dubai unless they are married.  Enforcing this law would destroy the tourist industry overnight, but that is the law nonetheless and if you live in one of the smaller hotels you will sometimes be asked by the hotel staff to prove you are married if you’re trying to bring a girl home.  Which can be a bit difficult if you don’t know her name, as I have seen once with an Arab trying to sneak a prostitute into his quarters.  So if a British woman turns up with her boyfriend in Dubai for a weekend stopover on the way to Thailand and they check into a hotel together, technically they are in breach of the law.  Again, none of this is a problem – until something goes wrong.  Then, usually for the first time, somebody finds out what the law actually says.

Islamic laws apply in Dubai, and they say that a woman is not allowed to be alone in a hotel room with a man who is not her husband.  This is based on the belief that a woman who is alone in a hotel room with a man who is not her husband might have sex with him, and that is prohibited in Islamic law.  Now this might be a bit backward, but that’s how they think.  And the law is also there because they believe a woman alone in a hotel room with a strange man or men might be subject to an attack, and to prevent this they simply make it illegal for her to be in that position in the first place.  It might be illiberal, unfair, misogynistic, etc. but it is not inherently stupid, and it avoids them having to get into the “he said/she said” arguments which plague all such cases everywhere else.

I know Rock Bottom Bar, it is an absolute shithole with a sticky carpet – or at least it was when I was there in 2003-6.  It is chock-full of wasted tourists, and it is a meat-market for those looking for a pick-up.  The bar is well named, which is more than can be said for the hotel itself: there is little that is regal or palatial about the Regent Palace.  I never knew of anyone who stayed there, and would guess the bar provides the bulk of its revenue.  Those people staggering back to a hotel in the company of somebody they just met are unlikely to be met with a sympathetic hearing from the authorities if something goes wrong.

Of course, if she was raped then an appalling crime has occurred.  But the authorities are in a difficult position here: the law says she should not have been with them in the first place, precisely to avoid unpleasantness like this.  Us westerners might not like this law, but that is how the Emiratis govern themselves, and to be fair they give tourists and expats a free pass on this – until something goes wrong and their hand is forced.  When the woman concerned made the complaint she didn’t know the law, and she has now compelled them to enforce it.  If they turn a blind eye then locals – who are more closely policed on such matters than tourists, especially women – will be entitled to ask why the law is not being applied in such an obvious case, and will likely think her being white and Western is the reason (pity the Bangladeshi maids who have been imprisoned and flogged for minor offences).

This will be the case regardless of whether the men are charged with rape or not: the reports are unclear as to whether the two men will be charged, are on bail, or are free to leave but the two offences are separate as I understand it.  Now it may turn out that the woman gets charged and jailed and the men go free without anyone taking her claims seriously, which would be pretty awful.  But it might also be the case that the police take her seriously but don’t have any evidence except for her say-so that she was raped, and aren’t prepared to put them on trial just to make the country look more modern (as if rape trials in Western countries are not fraught with problems).

The accusations of drink tampering only serve to make things worse: the Dubai police will know Rock Bottom well, and the type of place that it is.  Perhaps there have been other cases of drinks being spiked in there, and if so the police would know about it: more complaints would have been forthcoming, and undercover policemen – who frequent the bars – would see it.  Also, the bar managers and security would be keeping a sharp eye-out: the last thing they want is a police investigation.  That’s leaving aside the issue of where a date-rape drug would be bought from.  Sex isn’t hard to come by in Dubai, the place being rammed full of prostitutes.  Drugs might be easily obtained (I have no idea), but I think the police would take some convincing that she had her drink spiked and wasn’t just hammered.  If the two men were residents, the police might consider it a possibility.  If they were tourists, no chance.  I hope to hell she didn’t make up the bit about her drink being tampered to cover for her being totally wasted on tequila, leading the police to doubt her entire story.

I am not writing this in defence of Dubai or the prevailing Islamic laws, I don’t like either the place or the way it is run, which is why I left.  However, I don’t think berating the Dubai police is exactly fair either: rape accusations are notoriously difficult to deal with anywhere, and they have tried to avoid their occurrence by applying laws which I don’t agree with, but then I’m not in charge.  It might simply be the case there is no evidence that a rape occurred, which of course is not proof that it did not, only that charges cannot be pressed with the hope of a conviction.  One could argue that the Dubai authorities should do more to inform visitors of what the laws are, but had they done so would the woman in question have stayed home with a book and given Rock Bottom a wide berth?  I doubt it.  There are serious issues with the way women are treated in Dubai and the wider Middle East, particularly as regard equality under the law and sexual assault/rape.  I just don’t think this is the best case to put forward as an example of why things ought to change.

If she did go to Rock Bottom, have her drink spiked, and was then raped she has my every sympathy.  If that was indeed the case, I think the Dubai authorities will figure this out and find a way to drop the charges in a face-saving manner, which they may do anyway even if they don’t believe her.  What the British press needs to do is resist the temptation to stand on their soapbox and piss off the Emiratis so that they throw the book at her just to make a point.

Even More on Carrier Bags

This is the post I know you’ve all been waiting for!  Further to my previous two posts on carrier bags, I now have something more to add.

Back in August I said that my local supermarket had stopped providing free carrier bags and everyone jumped on me by saying you can buy them for only 5p.  Only I couldn’t, because my supermarket wasn’t selling them.  But now they’ve given us an alternative: a strong, American-style paper bag with handles that looks like this:

They cost 23 cents each.  Last night I bought one because I found myself needing a couple of bottles of milk, a bottle of some sugary fizzy shite that I drink, and a bottle of wine and I didn’t have room in my gym bag.  As I was walking the few hundred metres home I noticed the handles were cutting into my hand, and that carrying more than one in each hand would be damned near impossible.  Plus they’d lose all their strength if they got wet.  You know what I did with it when I got home?  I put it straight in the bin.  What the hell am I going to use it for?  It is too big when folded flat to go into a pocket, and it’s useless for lining a bin, wrapping shoes, or any other purpose to which a secondhand plastic bag can be used.

Maybe it is because my supermarket is a “metro” style one in a nice suburb that these are on offer and traditional carrier bags are unavailable, but I am still convinced that whoever decided free plastic bags should be replaced by inferior paper bags at 23 cents each didn’t have poor, single mothers with no car in mind when they campaigned for it.  No, like my French acquaintance – who no longer speaks to me following an initial argument over the original post and another row over my mentioning her in the follow-up – they will be wealthy middle-class and living a short walk from the nearest supermarket either alone, or with a car in the basement.  Or both.  The types who buy overpriced organic avocados and wear complete Nike outfits when they go to their gym classes.  Now that’s probably enough snark for today.

Staying on topic, there was a rather revolting story doing the rounds on social media the other day about a camel in the UAE having eaten a load of plastic and dying.  I have looked for it online but it seems to be one of those stories that gets recycled every few years, only the name of the camel changes each time.  Anyway, the premise of these articles goes like this:

1. A camel has died in the UAE by eating discarded plastic, some of which is carrier bags.

2. GLOBAL BAN ON PLASTIC BAGS NOW!!!

Whereas my first reaction, having lived in the UAE, was how’s about they get the ignorant, arrogant, self-centred assholes who inhabit that part of the world to strop strewing litter all over the place?  This would do more for the wellbeing of camels than banning carrier bags in Parisian supermarkets, surely?

Christians Intolerant of Others at Christmas

This report via the Khaleej Times:

MANY shops and businesses in London continued to withold presents during the days of Christmas at their outlets in violation of the law, John Smith, a resident of Baron’s Court complained to the Khaleej Times Hotline.

“Even after Christmas Eve many of the Iranian and Turkish shops around Leicester Square continued to function as usual. I do not know how they can do it without having any consideration for the hundreds of thousands who are at home enjoying their presents.” “Shops and business’ owners should give presents from their premises. It is not just a violation of law but it is a matter of respect for all those who are celebrating Christmas,” he said.

“With many outlets so openly being mean when they should be giving presents to the public during the Christmas period, the officials should intensify their inspection efforts to curb these malpractices,” he added.

SPEAKING to Khaleej Times, Tony Taylor, Director of Compliance Department, London West, said: “No shops and businesses are allowed to hoard presents on their premises during the Christmas period. The errant outlets will face fines and penalties.”

“During the Christmas period, it is a mark of respect to the faith and belief of those celebrating that others do not refuse to give presents. However, taking into consideration the cosmopolitan culture of London, many shops and businesses have been issued temporary licences to be exempt from the obligation to deliver presents. The public can pick up presents from these places but are not expected to open them on the premises. Outlets flouting the regulation will be subject to fines ranging from £1,000 to £2,000,” he added. Those shops that do not have a licence for witholding presents but need to prepare presents for Christmas Day are permitted to open the outlet but they must not be refusing presents to whomever wants one. By not abiding with the regulations, these outlets can be fined from £2,000 to £4,000,” he said.

Makes me ashamed to be a Brit, that does.

A Wedding in Dubai

Now that we are in full possession of our marriage certificate….hang on, I’ve made a mistake there.  My wife is in full possession of our marriage certificate, following the advice of my father that the woman should be its custodian as she is unlikely to ever want to deny the marriage took place, whereas the man….

So, now that my wife is in full possession of our marriage certificate, I think it’s now safe to comment on the process of getting married in the UAE.  As you can imagine it was not particularly easy, largely because the information on how to go about it is a bit sketchy and contradictory in places.  Having scoured a few websites and ringing the British consulate, I managed to get a rough idea of what to do.  And as there are probably quite a few Brits wishing to marry in Dubai in the future, I thought I’d describe how we went about it such that it may serve as a useful guide for other couples.  Bear in mind this only applies to a Protestant Brit marrying a Communist Russian, and I’ve heard Catholics have to go through a more complicated process.  Jews, of course, should by now have been put to the sword and have no business trying to get married in Dubai. Continue reading

…the Cons

Things I will not miss about Dubai:

1.  The weather and humidity in summer.  I might retract this statement after a winter in Russia.

2.  Censored internet.  Blocking anything which is deemed to be contrary to the “moral, political, or cultural values of the United Arab Emirates” is the action of a government which believes it could find itself strung up from lamposts should the population become better informed.  I will be glad when I am no longer affected by this paranoia.

3.  The traffic.  For a small city by international standards, Dubai has a serious problem in this regard.  Unfortunately, there is no way to take an alternative route in Dubai, largely due to there being only a few major arteries and unavoidable bottlenecks at the Creek crossings.  It is also difficult to change your travel times to avoid traffic, as nowadays there appears to be gridlock between the hours of 7:30am and about midnight.  No longer can you nip across town at 10:30am once the morning rush has subsided, it is the same story all day.  By contrast, a traffic jam in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk is defined as more than 20 cars stopped at a junction where there are roadworks or an accident.  And after three junctions, you are across town. Continue reading

Rip-Off Britain

On Sunday I bought a North Face down jacket in preparation for my move to Sakhalin, almost identical to this one for sale in Cotswold Outdoor for £145.  I paid £53 for mine, a saving of £92, or 64%.

I can expect the usual glib replies that the one I bought is probably fake, but I’m betting these will come from Brits who cannot comprehend the degree to which they are being shafted by their own retailers.

Rip-Off Britain

Yesterday evening I bought this Fujitsu-Siemens laptop, identical except mine has a 200Gb hard drive capacity instead of the 120Gb on the one advertised.

Had I bought it in the UK, as the advert shows, I would have paid £1209 including the VAT.  As I bought it in Dubai, I paid £670.  That is a saving of £539, or 45%.  Yes, I am sure you could get it cheaper than £1209 in the UK by not buying direct from Fujitsu-Siemens, but even so the consumers in the UK are being shafted royally.

If anybody asks you why some of us prefer to live in a 50 degree desert or minus 40 tundra than stay at home, be sure to direct them to this post.  Rip-off Britain is still alive and well.

The Pros…

Things I will miss about Dubai:

1.  The weather in late Autumn and early Spring.  This cannot be beaten.

2.  The swimming pool on the roof of my apartment block.  I doubt I’ll have one of these in Sakhalin.  Maybe a skating rink, but not a swimming pool.

3.  Multi-screen cinemas.

4.  The shopping malls.  Normally avoided, I will surely miss being able to buy all manner of clothes, household goods, and electronics all under one roof.  The first time I need a new pair of jeans, I know I’ll be wishing the Bur Jamman Centre had a branch in Yuzhno.

5.  Driving about in a Mercedes coupe.

6.  Clean streets.  I know they are covered in litter and sand, but at least it’s dry dirt.  Your car doesn’t get covered in sludge, and your shoes don’t need a polish every day.

7.  Being able to nip out to the grocery store without changing clothes or putting on a jacket.

8.  The abundance of electrical and computer shops, and the prices at which they sell stuff.

9.  The Viceroy bar in the Four Point Sheraton hotel, and one or two other bars and restaurants.

10.  Seing the sun shine every day without fail.

11.  The Fillipino band in the Sea View hotel.

12.  Cans of Pepsi for 1 Dirham.

13.  Proximity to a major airport served by a pretty decent airline, and a superb geographic location for travelling.

14.  Scuba diving.  Although I’ve heard you can do this in Sakhalin, if you bring a pickaxe with you.

15.  Watching live Premiership football immediately after work on a Saturday and Sunday.

16.  MBC2.  I know they show a lot of crap, but I’m going to miss it.  I really liked how they had no watershed for showing 18-rated films.  You could wake up on a Friday morning and find yourself watching an uncut Platoon.

17.  The general benevolance, or laziness, of the police.  They leave you alone, which is good.  I’m going to yearn for this after a year in Russia.

18.  Dirt cheap petrol.

19.  Seeing Dubai’s megaprojects completed.  I know half of them won’t be, and the other half will be white elephants, but I’d still liked to have seen the Burj Dubai and The Palm finished.

20.  The guarantee of doing next to bugger-all at work in the three months of summer and a month of Ramadan.

A Change of Scenery

Ah! Dubai.  The Jewel of the Desert, Pearl of the Middle East.  With its rich culture, exotic beaches, authentic cuisine, world class hotels and restaurants, friendly locals, and luxurious lifestyle for all, Dubai is truly heaven on earth.  Witness those who pay thousands to come from the slums of Europe to taste the nectar of this desert flower for a short week, and the place speaks for itself.  And with a dozen exciting new projects under construction and a further dozen on the planning charts, life in the city can only get more idyllic.  Who could want more?

Well, me for one.  I’ve had enough.  I’ve handed in my notice, and after 6 weeks or so I will be moving to that other well known holiday paradise, Sakhalin Island.  Here’s a description of its climate:

Owing to the influence of the raw, foggy Sea of Okhotsk, the climate is very cold. At Dui the average yearly temperature is only 0.5 °C (January -15.9 °C; July 16.1 °C), 1.7 °C at Kusunai and 3.1 °C at Aniva (January, −12.5 °C; July, 15.7 °C). At Alexandrovsk-Sakhalinsky near Dui the annual range is from 27 °C in July to −39 °C in January, while at Rykovsk in the interior the minimum is −45 °C. The rainfall averages 570 mm. Thick clouds for the most part shut out the sun; while the cold current from the Sea of Okhotsk, aided by north-east winds, brings immense ice-floes to the east coast in summer.

All the snow you can eat, and all the seals you can club.  Now that’s what I call expat living.

Local Joke

A man brings a lion into Dubai.  For the next month, the man feeds the lion nothing but bananas.  The lion is obviously unimpressed with this, but still the man continues to feed him only bananas.  Eventually, the lion snaps:

“Look, you dickhead, I’m a lion!  A lion, understand?  That means I eat meat, not damned bananas!”

And the man replies:

“Yeah, sorry about that.  But I got you in on a visit visa as a monkey.”