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UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: Sex and the desert city

December 6, 2007 | 11:26 am

Dubai authorities smashed a huge prostitution ring in their glittery Persian Gulf kingdom. According to the Gulf News, police arrested 170 prostitutes, a dozen pimps and five dozen Johns at 22 homes and apartments throughout the city. Most of the sex workers were East Asian migrants.

Dubai is one of seven kingdoms that make up the United Arab Emirates. Tourists and businesspeople from all over the world flock to the city for its many shopping malls, vibrant nightlife and commercial potential.

But it's got a couple of dirty secrets, including a thriving sex industry that caters to the largely male migrant workers here as well as rich residents of more conservative Gulf kingdoms like Saudi Arabia.

Sadly many of the women are hoodwinked into coming to Dubai with promises of a decent job, only to be forced into the sex business. New media website Current offers a short documentary film about Dubai's sex trade. Watch it below.

The PBS show Frontline also recently broadcast a segment on its Rough Cut website about this topic. It was directed by Berkeley photographer professor Mimi Chakarova, who writes about her visits to Dubai.

Men outnumber women 3 to 1 in Dubai, and the variety of places to purchase sex is abundant -- from the brothels where Vika described being sold and resold and the back alleys where migrant workers pay for a few minutes of pleasure, to the mainstream Westernized nightclubs, often inside upscale hotels, where women from all over the world congregate according to their nationalities awaiting the next client.

One Western woman living in the U.A.E. describes on her blog what it's like to go to one of these clubs when you're not a prostitute.

...I was lost for words at the openness and amount of prostitution going on ...I was the only woman out of about 20 who was not on the game. There was a sofa near the front door where about 10 girls of different ages and nationalities (mainly Asian) were lined up waiting for business. And the clients? The majority European.

Recently the U.S. State Dept. took the U.A.E. to task for not doing enough to stop human trafficking, which may explain crackdowns like the one this week.

— Borzou Daragahi in Dubai, United Arab Emirates