x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Let's see these men who are too good-looking for Saudi

A strange news story from Riyadh points up the awkward plight of those who are deemed by the morality police there to be just too good-looking.

It must be difficult to be a beautiful woman or a handsome man, the target of so much "unwanted" attention. As three Emirati men reportedly discovered at a cultural festival in Saudi Arabia, being "too handsome" can even get you deported.

Now the hunt for these three is on, because naturally, many women are curious to meet them and see what exactly made them "too handsome". All we know is that they returned to Abu Dhabi.

This story, reported by a Saudi-based Arabic online newspaper, Elaph, has gone viral. It began when a Saudi religious-police officer objected to the presence of a female artist. But it was the three men who drew the attention of the officers of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, who feared that female visitors would end up falling for the three.

Details of the incident are not entirely clear. Officials in the UAE have said little. But for argument's sake, let's assume it happened as reported.

Imagine the egos of those men now, and how for the rest of their lives they can say "I was too handsome to handle."

I have seen the Saudi morality police approach individuals to say they are "too" attractive; they have been doing this for a long time. When I lived there a beautiful friend of mine always got attention from them, as well as from other men and even women, whenever she went out in Jeddah. Some men would insist she cover her face but also ask for her mobile number. Some women would just give her evil looks.

But how does a handsome man "cover" his good looks?

One of my male friends got the "you are too handsome" treatment while meeting us at a family restaurant. He was wearing a regular pair of jeans and a loose white shirt, but was told to go home and put on "less tight" clothes and asked to keep his gaze down, since his light-green eyes were "too attractive."

He fought back, saying he "can't undo what Allah has given me". He even cracked a joke: "Even if I didn't shave or brush my hair, I don't think I would look ugly enough."

Adding oil to the fire, a group of women stepping out of a car nearby seemed to give my friend a thorough up-and-down inspection, which left the morality police fuming. They literally pushed the man to go home "now."

"And get married. It is a cover for you," one of them said as my friend was escorted to his car.

This very handsome friend is still walking about Jeddah breaking women's hearts - and annoying the commission whenever he can.

At the time of the incident, the rest of us debated rescuing him, but we were too amused, and wanted to see for a change how men get treated by the morality police.

What the morality police can do, and where they can go, has been cut down a lot in recent years. But when the commission's men show up, they are taken seriously; they can cause problems for young people. If a couple is sitting together in a car or in a public place, it is not uncommon for the commission to show up and ask for proof of their marriage.

I was sitting with my father once at a waterfront cafe. They asked us what our relationship was. When I replied "isn't it obvious? This handsome gentleman is my father," they snapped at me - and at him for allowing such a ill-mannered, undisciplined daughter to speak to men.

They also dropped a few books about Islam on the table in front of me before they moved on to the next table. I should have left my father to handle it. I'm not sure what triggered me to speak that night.

The simple reality is that an attractive man or woman will get attention. In the end beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and no amount of covering or even deportation can change that.

So if anyone has contacts for the infamous three handsome Emiratis, please pass them along. A lot of women would like to see them, and hear what they thought about the incident, found out if they consider themselves "too handsome" and learn if all this changed the way they see themselves in the mirror.

 

Rghazal@thenational.ae

On Twitter: @arabianmau