x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Emirati vistors to London have said that they feel safe in most parts of the UK capital, despite a warning issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Edgware Road, in central London, has been a hotspot for Arabs since the 1970s. Stephen Lock for The National
Edgware Road, in central London, has been a hotspot for Arabs since the 1970s. Stephen Lock for The National

LONDON // Warnings from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs over danger spots in London have not deterred Emirati tourists in Oxford Street.

The heart of the British capital is still bustling with tourists from the UAE and broader Arabian Gulf, parading or shopping in its landmark retail outlets.

The ministry this week released a map of dangerous areas in the city, which included Oxford Street, Edgware Road, Piccadilly and Soho.

But Emirati tourists and those from other Gulf countries said they felt safe in London and would continue to visit such areas, although some expressed concerns about being out late at night.

One Emirati from Abu Dhabi who is on holiday in London for four days said he had no fears about staying in the city.

“Everything is safe. We don’t worry,” said the man, who asked not to be identified. “Anywhere you go you have to take care of yourself.

Mohammed Al Kitbi, a visitor from Dubai, said he was also unconcerned about the warning. “It doesn’t bother me. I know the places that I visit in London well.”

But Mr Al Kitbi said he was wary of being in Edgware Road or Soho after dark.

“I know those places are not safe at night. They told us about robberies in these areas,” he said.

Maps released by the ministry highlight areas it said had high crime rates for fraud, theft and pickpocketing. It specifically mentioned the area around the Selfridges department store, which attracted many Emiratis.

The UAE crime warning comes at a time of heightened safety fears over visiting the UK capital, after two attacks on Emiratis this year.

On April 6, a burglar armed with a hammer attacked three sisters in their room at the Cumberland Hotel, at the end of Oxford Street.

Two weeks later, intruders wielding a gun and butcher’s knife confronted an Emirati couple and their compatriot friend in their Paddington flat.

Despite this, some commentators said that the UAE warning on London was over-cautious.

Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, called the travel advice alarmist.

The areas cited in the UAE warning are not the most dangerous in London, Mr Doyle said.

“As a Londoner, I would find it strange that some of these areas are included as being highly dangerous,” he said. “If I was to point to the most violent areas of London, these wouldn’t even be in the top 20.”

Mr Doyle acknowledged that tourists may be targeted by pickpockets but said violent crime was not especially high in areas such as Oxford Street.

He said such safety guidance may need to be developed further to be less blunt and more balanced.

Scotland Yard tried to reassure Emirati tourists, who are highly valued by London’s prestige boutiques and emporiums.

“There is absolutely nowhere in London that should be avoided,” said Cmdr Makhdum Chishty.

“We understand the incidents involving Emirati nationals earlier this year were shocking, but it was also very, very rare.”

Citizens of other Gulf nations were not concerned by the warning from the UAE.

Crowds of Arab tourists, including many women in burqas and headscarves, were outside Selfridges on Wednesday afternoon.

Saudi Arabian Nabeel, 60, said he had no worries about being out during the day.

“During the daytime I think you can go anywhere but at night I don’t go out very much,” he said.

Nabeel, who did not give his last name, said he had noticed more beggars in London than when he lived in the UK during the 1990s, when he studied economics at the University of Southampton.

“If they could do something about the beggars that would be a good thing. It gives the wrong impression,” he said.

Londoner Farzana, 23, who was waiting for a friend outside Selfridges, said Oxford Street was generally safe for tourists but there were sometimes problems in nearby Soho.

“It’s one of the busiest streets in London, so it’s pretty safe,” Farzana said. “But around Soho there are a lot of pubs, so I’m not sure about around there.”

Khalid, a Kuwaiti visiting London with his family, said he felt comfortable visiting all parts of the city.

“All of London is safe,” Khalid said. “It’s Iraq that’s not safe.”