x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Bikini ban on Ras Al Khaimah's public beaches

Bikinis have been banned from public beaches in the emirate as police urge residents to 'use common sense' and dress modestly, or face a fine.

RAS AL KHAIMAH // Bikinis have been banned from public beaches in the emirate as police urge residents to "use common sense" and dress modestly.
The municipality and police have put up signs on public beaches that state: "All coastgoers should commit to public morality and modest clothing".
The signs are illustrated with a graphic of a man in tight swimming trunks and a woman in bikini with a cross over both. Police confirmed that women should not wear bikinis but did not specify whether trunks or swimming in white underwear was banned for men.
Captain Khaled Al Naqbi, of RAK Police, advised the public to "use common sense" and "just be modest".
Offenders will be given a warning and after a second warning, they could face an unspecified fine.
The two most popular beaches in Ras Al Khaimah are located next to hotels where swimmers sunbathe in thong bikinis or trunks alongside women in burkinis, a modest full-body swimsuit designed for Muslim women.
On weekends and at sunsets, RAK's public beaches fill with women in full hijab, who come with their families. Women in swimwear are a rare sight at these beaches and there are no women-only beaches in RAK.
In a plea to the public, police urged beachgoers to comply with "public morality and dressing modestly" to respect the country's traditions and culture.
The move followed complaints by families about tourists who attended public beaches wearing indecent clothing.
The public have greeted the ban in Ras Al Khaimah, a conservative emirate with a large Emirati population. In RAK, it is common for women to dress for the beach by putting on more clothing so that they do not attract attention from men.
"I totally agree with that [ban] for us because it's not a respectful thing to have on our beaches," said Hessa Ahmed, a 31-year-old Emirati mother-of-two.
Many people, like Ms Ahmed, would like tourists to cover up but are too shy or polite to approach them. Her last visit to the beach ended abruptly when a man and woman in revealing swimwear sat near her family.
"I wasn't sure about what she was going to do," said Ms Ahmed. "I was afraid she would take off her top. So I preferred just to drive away just in case anything was going to happen, so I would just be away and my kids wouldn't see them.
"There was no sign or board to inform these people you shouldn't wear this, you shouldn't wear that."
"Most people are too shy to talk to them," said Khaled Al Mansoori, 26, an Emirati who lives near the public Maaridh beach beside a hotel.
"If there are people from outside the country who are hugging and kissing, that is the problem. I ask my family not to look at these people and I talk to them if I can. Usually they react in a good way."
A campaign for public decency laws about appropriate clothing divided opinion in Abu Dhabi when a Twitter campaign was launched last year.
Ras Al Khaimah has adopted a lenient approach to public dress in hotels but customs remains overwhelmingly conservative in public spaces, such as shopping malls.
Farida Sulaiman, a 28-year-old from Ras Al Khaimah, hopes that new signs will clarify matters for tourists.
"Wallahi, I totally agree with this [ban], of course," said Ms Sulaiman. "I mean, it's an Islamic country and these things should be considered by Muslims and non-Muslims. I prefer not to see that in Ras Al Khaimah."
"It is annoying for me," she said. "I mean, it's naked people. I avoid them but if they come and talk to me, of course, I would try to be polite with them."
Police will organise hotel visits to give guidance and advice to tourists.
azacharias@thenational.ae