Dubai is a mass of concrete, glass and sand arranged in a rather spectacular fashion. But we can see little of it as we sail into dock. We have just missed a sandstorm which is God’s way of rearranging the furniture. The air is still full of the resulting dust making the skyline almost non existent.This is not a place that was meant to be inhabited. For four months of the year temperatures get to over 150 degrees (an unbelievable 65 to 68 degrees centigrade). The other eight months are just bloody hot. But the presence of oil makes people do all sorts of things including pretend that living in Dubai is perfectly acceptable.
The immense wealth that the inhabitants accumulate allows them to have fabulous homes and the best shopping in the world. But for four months they can’t even touch their windows because they get so hot, let alone go out to the malls. And if that isn’t hardship enough they then have to cope with big brother (or in this case, bloody big Sheik), telling them not only how to live their life, but how to dress as well. Now I freely admit that many people on board ship could do with some fashion advice but this is taking it a bit far. For instance knees and shoulders must be covered at all times, even in the shopping malls. Although it doesn’t expressly say so, I presume that also means all the parts between the knees and shoulders as well. Offensive slogans or photographs on T shirts are also prohibited. Security staff in the malls not only ask you to leave the mall if you are dressed inappropriately, but may present you with a ticket, just like a traffic offense. It is not clear what guidelines the security staff are given to help them decide what is an offensive T shirt. For instance, I would find a T shirt with the slogan “death to all fags” offensive, but I think in Dubai they actually award you bonus points for that.
Nudity is strictly forbidden in every part of the city and can be punished by imprisonment or deportation. This doesn’t seem like such a bad law. We all know that only a few people look good in the nude, and it is never those few that take their clothes off. Nudists on the whole tend to be particularly unattractive people, especially when they have no clothes on. But how do they decide who goes to prison and who gets deported? And which lucky country gets the deportees? Presumably there is a scale used to decide just how unpleasant the offender looks with no clothes on and the really ugly ones get deported to some country that the rulers of Dubai hate. Of course the moral of this story is to make sure you stay on good terms with Dubai.
There is also a law saying that men cannot walk around public places without a shirt. I am making sure that a lot of my fellow passengers are made fully aware of this law. I see them round the ship with no shirt on and even I want to deport them.
Once the Sheik has made sure that you are dressed correctly he then goes on to tell you how to behave.
Displays of affection in a public place, whether the couple is married or not, is not appreciated. This law applies to everyone, but presumably it is particularly frowned on when the couple are nudists. Kissing is considered an offense to public decency but holding hands, as long as the couple are married, is acceptable although not appreciated. We do wonder whether married couples have to carry their wedding certificate with them so that they can produce it when arrested for holding hands. Gordon and I are married so we will put this to the test.
Now the sheik has insured that you are dressed and behaving in a suitable manner, he asks you to obey some more serious laws.
For instance there are very strict laws against drinking and driving. There is a zero tolerance policy and if you are caught with even the slightest amount of alcohol in your blood, you will go straight to prison. This seems particularly strange as Dubai is of course a dry city for its muslim inhabitants. Which only goes to show that where there’s a gill there’s a way.
And don’t even think about drugs. If you are caught with the slightest amount you go straight to jail, do not pass go, and do not stop at a lawyers office. It’s an automatic four to seven years followed by deportation. Wouldn’t it be simpler and cheaper to skip the jail bit and just deport them immediately?
The roads are all new and most of them have 3 or 4 lanes in each direction. They also have cameras everywhere. There are tall white posts with 4 cameras mounted on each. It was explained that one camera focuses on the number plate and speed, the second on the driver to make sure he is not on his cell phone, the third on the other passengers to make sure they are wearing their seat belts. Speeding is an automatic fine of $150, driving while on the phone $125 and not using a seat belt is $125. There is a fourth camera but no one can explain what that is for. That is the most worrying one! Perhaps it is to catch nudists holding hands in the back seat while not wearing a seat belt.
If you are in an accident there is no need to worry about hiring a lawyer or going to court. The Sheik in his infinite wisdom has made it all very simple for his loyal (and not so loyal) subjects. The police arrive at the scene of the accident carrying a red card and a green card. They decide on the spot who is at fault. The innocent party gets the green card and is free to go. The guilty party gets the red card which he presumably carries all the way to jail and then across the border as he gets deported. But the Sheik has not finished with you yet. Even under these trying circumstances he wants to insure that you still behave properly. Offensive language and hand gestures are not tolerated anywhere in Dubai, and having been rear ended by a shirtless drunken man is not a defense. If you are offensive to the guilty party you too will get the red card (the police carry a spare one or two just in case) and will go directly to jail.
It may come as no surprise to you to learn that the crime rate is extremely low in Dubai. Any law abiding citizen is too terrified to do anything wrong and any non law abiding citizen has already been deported to Syria or Pakistan.
We are in Dubai for two days, but are not sure whether we will get through the entire stay without being deported
Ed: I can hear you now. The guy has lost his marbles – sunstroke – as you puzzle at today’s header image. Ship in the middle of Dubai?
It’s the QE2 undergoing a transformation into hotel and spa.