Babylon & Beyond

Observations from Iraq, Iran,
Israel, the Arab world and beyond

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UNITED ARAB EMIRATES: No making out allowed

September 9, 2008 |  8:22 am

If you’re with your partner on a Dubai beach, don’t be lured by the city’s apparent social permissiveness. You’d better think twice before engaging in an affectionate embrace. 

Media in the Persian Gulf’s tourism and business hub have reported several stories of couples arrested for displaying “inappropriate” behavior on the beach.

Last week, a British couple was charged with having sex on a public beach in Dubai. Each could face up to six years in prison in a case scheduled to be addressed by a court this week.

Another of the latest reports, picked up by the blog Menassat, involved an apparent lesbian couple. Two women vacationing in the United Arab Emirates have been recently sentenced to one month in jail for "indecent acts" on a public beach in Dubai.

The women -- a 30-year-old Lebanese and a 36-year-old Bulgarian -- have been charged with kissing and fondling each other and will be deported after serving a jail sentence. They both pleaded not guilty.

This was reportedly the first case of its kind in the Emirates.

Witnesses told Emirates newspaper 7Days, which carried the initial report, that: "the Lebanese woman was lying on top of the Bulgarian and the two were cuddling and kissing each other" in front of other guests.

Another witness reportedly admitted to calling the police "because it was indecent especially as there were some families around."

The story posted on the website of the Arab Satellite TV channel Al-Arabiya received mixed reactions. One reader was sympathetic. “Love is a very natural thing, just live and let live," a comment said. "It's as simple as that."

Another commenter was less tolerant. "Give them the Abu Ghraib treatment and deport them eventually," a posting said.

-- Raed Rafei in Beirut