x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Beach signs warn against inappropriate behaviour

New signs urging beachgoers to dress modestly, as well as a range of other warnings, will be placed at all public beaches in Dubai.

New instruction signs have been put up at Jumeirah Open Beach.
New instruction signs have been put up at Jumeirah Open Beach.

DUBAI // New signs urging beachgoers to dress modestly, as well as a range of other warnings, will be placed at all public beaches in Dubai. Up to 35 signs will be posted during the coming month, with the first sign having already gone up on Jumeirah Open Beach this week. "Please dress appropriately in accordance with local customs," the signs say, in one of 14 regulations posted in Arabic and English. Two other regulations banned sleeping on the beach and warned that swimming costumes should not be worn off the beach. The regulations are part of a campaign to prevent antisocial behaviour on the public beach. It follows the introduction of police patrols along the stretch of coastline, which began after the arrest in July of Michelle Palmer and Vince Acors, both from Britain, for allegedly having sexual intercourse while drunk on Jumeirah Open Beach.

The new signposts warn against swimming after dusk, lighting fires and smoking shisha, and urge parents to look after their children, and swimmers to obey lifeguards' flags when they signal that swimming conditions are dangerous. Plainclothes police have been keeping an eye on beaches and security patrols have been stepped up since the arrest of Palmer, 36, and Acors, 34. Amid heightened vigilance on the beaches, security patrols have been handing out warnings to people considered to be engaging in behaviour deemed inappropriate, such as public displays of affection. Lifeguards have been instructed to blow their whistles at couples contravening the regulations and ask them to stop.

In addition, Dubai Municipality plans to install floodlights on beaches to prevent inappropriate behaviour at night. Officials say they are also responding to complaints about people sunbathing nude or who are scantily clad, and about men who go to the beaches to stare at women. Beachgoers are divided on whether the signs will make a difference or not. "There will be no more excuses and people will know what is acceptable and what isn't", said Adam Daff, an Australian who visits Dubai regularly. Jody Arnsby, a British woman who has worked in Dubai for two years, supported the measures to make the beach a safe zone for families and single women. But she said: "Most people go to the beach to have a good time. If others want to spoil it and do their own thing they are going to do it anyway, regardless of the signs." The trial of Palmer and Acors, in which they face charges of infringing public decency laws, resumes on Tuesday, when a policeman who caught them allegedly misbehaving is due to testify. They face possible jail sentences, fines and deportation if found guilty. However, they have denied the sex charges and defence lawyers have said DNA tests show they did not have intercourse. Palmer, a publishing executive, lost her job after being arrested on July 5 with Acors, a businessman she had met hours earlier at a champagne brunch in Dubai. She is said to have suffered health problems since her arrest put her in the public spotlight. Last week, she was treated in hospital for a stress-related condition after suffering a panic attack. Friends said she was too terrified to leave her home because of the public reaction against her. "She is a paranoid and nervous wreck who will not go outside. She has effectively been in hiding for seven weeks now since this all began," said a close friend. "The once bubbly, workaholic Michelle I knew has turned into a nervous and very scared wreck." Palmer sobbed during a court hearing on Tuesday and looked shaken when she was not allowed to say anything. Hassan Matter, her lawyer, said: "She likes living here and would like to stay if she is cleared of the charges, as she has a lot of friends." shafez@thenational.ae tyaqoob@thenational.ae jbennett@thenational.ae