A spat on the sands has broken out in Dubai over a Dh75 (US$20) access charge on a section of beach that used to be free to the public. An area opposite the Rimal complex in the Jumeirah Beach Residence development in Dubai Marina has been sectioned off for the past two weeks as part of Dubai Summer Surprises, which will run until the middle of August.
Many residents in the area are unhappy that part of their free beach, which has been temporarily renamed "Beat the Heat", has been taken away from them. "They are charging Dh75 as an entrance fee and it does not even have anything worth that inside the beach," said Yasmin Shouei, 24, who spent the weekend on the free beach next to Beat the Heat. "For that price there should be something great." Her sister, Maria Shouei, 28, added: "Jumeirah Beach Park only charges a Dh5 entrance and it looks much better and the services are better. For Dh75 you would go to Wild Wadi, not JBR."
The section of beach, which has been cordoned off by a tall fence running around its perimeter, contains deck chairs, umbrellas, mist-fans, towels, access to toilets and showers, a large play area for children, and basic food and beverage outlets. There are also horse and camel rides, and water sports, although these cost extra. "It has been open for the last two weeks and I think business is keeping up," said Jennifer Tungol, who helps operate the area.
Ms Tungol hopes the crowd, which averages between 130 and 160 people at the weekend, and 30 and 50 on weekdays, will pick up as more people hear about the venue. "It is similar to the hotel beaches but cheaper. People are paying for access to a private beach, and while some think Dh75 is expensive, it is definitely well worth it." Despite the facilities, many beachgoers disapprove of the intrusion on their previously free beach, not only citing the entrance fee as a turn-off, but also claiming it is an eyesore to an otherwise clutter-free beach area.
"It looks terrible," said Bahram Jhanbrai, 19, a resident of JBR who was sunbathing just a few feet from the contentious zone. "It has destroyed the beach and its image." He went on to say that JBR residents should have free access to the fenced-off area. "We shouldn't have to pay to get in. This is our beach." Ms Tungol admitted the Beat the Heat beach had received mixed reviews, with the issue of payment as the biggest complaint.
"The number one complaint we have gotten is why do JBR residents have to pay for this entrance when the beach was free," she said. She said it followed an agreement between the municipality and JBR management, under which the municipality is renting out the land for a certain period. Not all beachgoers have been turned off, however. Several said they were happy to pay a fee to be separated from others who frequented the beach.
"It's the only beach in Dubai that is clean and allows you to stay clean," said Kiana Karbassi, an Iranian. "The fans help cool you down, and the grass means you don't have to be covered in sand. It also means that the people you don't want to be around won't pay that much to come in, and you won't be bothered." firstname.lastname@example.org