Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 July 2019

The wider world is not as safe as home

Greater vigilance when travelling overseas is one of the few down sides of the UAE's near-absence of crime.

The brutal hammer attack on three Emirati sisters in a London hotel raises a bigger issue than just one incident that shocked the UK and the UAE alike. We pray for the speedy recovery of the three young women. The attack, nevertheless, cannot help but bring to mind how trusting we all are of the world, because of where we live. It is a reminder to travellers of the need for caution while abroad.

London neighbourhoods popular with Emirati and other Gulf tourists, like Knightsbridge and Mayfair, are hardly the slums of Mogadishu or the favelas of Rio. Even so, precautions are still required to ward off the low risk of falling victim to crime, whether it involves violence or targets property.

One of the few downsides of the exceptionally low crime rate in the UAE is that people become accustomed to lowering their guards. One aspect that shocks new arrivals to the Emirates is how residents here habitually leave their doors unlocked or even leave their purse or wallet in their supermarket shopping trolley while getting an item several aisles away. Soon enough, they find themselves following suit and on the few occasions when dishonest people exploit that vulnerability, it is so rare that everyone is shocked.

Outsiders often point to the harsh punishments for offenders as a reason for the low crime rate, but an alternative viewpoint is that it reflects the absence of a disaffected underclass.

Thanks to the policy of sharing the country’s oil wealth, Emirati families are assured of a comfortable standard of living. And any expatriate here is an indirect beneficiary of the country’s prosperity. Despite the income disparity between jobs, almost everyone here is doing better than they would in their home countries and is able to get ahead financially, or at least live rather more lavishly than at home.

The price paid for that is losing that innate sense of wariness that is second nature to those who live in more crime-ridden parts of the world.

The solution is simple enough for UAE citizens and residents who travel: a combination of personal vigilance and being aware that nearby could be others with dishonest intent. They can thank the lifestyle of the UAE for only having to think like that when they are abroad.

Updated: April 12, 2014 04:00 AM

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