RAS AL KHAIMAH // Photos of people on signboards outside beauty salons and gyms will be banned as of this week, the RAK Department of Economic Development has announced. The ban targets photos of scantily clad women and muscular men.
Companies that do not comply within six months will face a Dh500 (US$135) fine. The ban was implemented for commercial reasons and not religious ones, said Mr Mohammed al Mahmoud, the department's director of commercial affairs. "Show me what kind of cosmetics you use, what products you offer," he said. "We need to lift RAK, not focus on pictures. We should make comparisons about the products, not the women in the pictures. It's not about choosing the face or the body."
The ban was sparked by customer complaints, Mr al Mahmoud said. One man complained after his taxi driver crashed while staring at sultry photos of woman on a beauty salon. "We want to encourage the shops to grow but not like this," Mr al Mahmoud said. "This is not the way to advertise." The painted faces that peer from beauty salons are a familiar sight in RAK. Photos of pouting models and smiling brides are plastered over windows to give women's salons privacy.
Many of the brides and henna-painted hands that decorate the city's 190 beauty salons have been around for more than 10 years. "I see new salons with bad pictures but mine was fine," said Mira Aswani, the manager of two salons in Old RAK. "I had photos of women with make-up, not their full bodies. Why should I have to change it?" It cost Dh1,500 to replace one sign, she said. Leila Arceo, a Filipina hairdresser at the Sondos Beauty Salon, said her salon would not change its sign that shows women's faces.
"Photos for make-up or hairstyles are no problem," she said. "But if the model wears a sexy dress this is not allowed. It's a good idea. We are Christian but we respect the country." The department has six templates that can be used for salons, or the traders may submit their own for approval. Paintings and drawings of women are acceptable but discouraged. The department's templates include photos of beauty products, a slender foot with red nail polish and flowers.
It is hoped that the ban also will reduce the use of images without copyright permission, which carries a minimum penalty of Dh500. Merfet Mohammed, an Egyptian who runs the Nawaem Beauty and Henna salon, was against the ban. "What's the problem with the board? This is for make-up, for hairstyles, for henna, not for sex," she said. "All boards in Europe, in Egypt, in Russia have pictures on their salons. We just do it so people know who we are."
When the salon opened three months ago her sponsor spent Dh10,000 on the signboard and stickers that decorate its windows. Ms Aswani said she will be given until September to change the Dh4,000 board on her new salon in Old RAK. Mr al Mahmoud said the department notified the public about the ban last year and sent text messages and e-mails to salon owners. If the signboard ban is well received by the public, it will be extended to a complete ban of body images from windows, Mr al Mahmoud said. If the ban receives negative feedback from the public, it will be cancelled. "We want feedback from customers," he said. "We issued the rule and we want feedback over four or six months." @Email:email@example.com