x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Beach fee to deter crowds of men

Visitors will have to pay to enter Abu Dhabi beach as part of measures to stop men congregating on the beach.

Young men play volleyball at sunset on the unrestricted section of Abu Dhabi Beach on the Corniche.
Young men play volleyball at sunset on the unrestricted section of Abu Dhabi Beach on the Corniche.

ABU DHABI // Visitors to the new Abu Dhabi Beach will have to pay an entrance fee starting this weekend, as part of measures to prevent large groups of single men from congregating on the beach, municipal officials say. From Friday, families will have to pay Dh5 (US$1.36) per person to use the beach, while men unaccompanied by women will be charged Dh10 each.

The announcement comes less than a month after the capital's first landscaped public beach was opened to much fanfare. Municipal officials said they received numerous complaints about single men occupying much of the beach, with women in particular voicing their discomfort. Salem al Maameri, the director of municipal services, said some had complained of harassment on the beach. The city was now charging because "we do not want the beach to be for people who are not there for swimming. We have had lots of complaints from people that men are just watching them and their families."

Mr Maameri said the men were mostly "labourers" who had been descending on the beach in their hundreds at weekends. "People are fighting to get a place, there is virtually no space," he said. "We made this decision to control the beach for the benefit of the public, as a beach for those who want to swim there." Jumaa al Junaibi, the general manager of Abu Dhabi Municipality, said in a statement that the primary aim of the new fee system was to "manage access" to the beach in order to provide a secure environment for beachgoers. The money generated would go towards the further development of the beach, he added.

Ticket booths are now being installed at intervals along the beachfront. Mohammed Abu Taleb, 36, an Egyptian construction worker, said he would not be able to afford a trip to the beach. "Really, Dh10 is too much, maybe I could afford Dh2," Mr Taleb said. "I don't understand why they are doing this. It is nice and we like to come here, but it is not as nice as Egypt, where the beach is free." Another beachgoer, Mohammed Naveed from Pakistan, said that he would be able to pay the Dh10, but only once a month.

Shafeeq Salah, 22, from Syria, said the decision to introduce a fee was a good idea if the money was put towards maintaining the beach. "Some people come here and make a mess, so it could be a good idea, but Dh10 is too much," he said. The decision comes only two weeks after the beach was divided into two sections - one for families and women, and one for the general public. Mr Maameri previously said that the reason for the segregation was because families had complained that the number of single males was preventing them from using the beach "peacefully".

But some women who continue to use the open section of the beach say they have not experienced anything to make them feel uncomfortable. In addition to the security staff hired to ensure that beachgoers adhere to the rules, plain-clothed CID officers also patrol the beach. Other amenities, including landscaped gardens, shaded tables, changing rooms, cafes and beach-volleyball courts, will also be added to the site.