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Bikini incident Dubai Mall

Saturday 15 December 2018 (UAE)   

Bikini incident Dubai Mall

Bikini incident at The Dubai Mall shopping mall in August 2010 - a British lady is confronted about her dress sense by an Arab lady, an argument ensues, Dubai Police are called and take both woman back to the police station for questioning. International newspapers start to promote the story, and the Brit is released without charge.

See dress code in UAE for general guidelines about what to wear.

Bikini-gate Dubai ... or storm in a D-cup?

A good example of unwise behaviour from semi-naked shoppers in Dubai was reported by The Daily Mail (UK) on 05 August 2010.

  • A British woman shopping in The Dubai Mall while dressed in a low cut top had her dress sense criticised by an Arabic woman.
  • An argument then flared up, and the Brit apparently responded by stripping off her clothes down to a bikini (or underwear according to some stories/rumours).
  • Mall security called the Dubai Police, who then escorted Miss Dubai Bikini 2010 to the police station for observation questioning.
  • A police source reportedly said "The British woman was wearing a very low top and most of her legs were on display." Leaving one wondering just how many legs she had, and where she'd left the ones that were not on display.
  • And this is another good example of why your mother tells you to wear clean underwear before going out in public.
  • Dubai Mall: The mall, where the incident took place, - was the caption underneath the photo in The Daily Mail report. Except the photo was of Deira City Centre, a different shopping mall in Dubai. Prompting one to pause for thought before taking anything The Daily Mail says at face value.
  • But on a more serious, or realistic note, if you are displaying more flesh than average, and someone says something about it, try to defuse the situation by apologising and covering up a bit. Even buying a t-shirt for 100 dhs is surely less aggravating than spending a few hours at a police station (or worse). If a member of the public is offended enough to say something, they might be hoping for a bit of a fight. And if the police get involved, they will be on the side of UAE law and culture, which, after all, is the way it's supposed to be in any country.

Other newspaper reports following up the Daily Mail story provided slightly different points of view.

  • The distraught mum ... was then arrested by police ... And she was subjected to a three-day ordeal during which she learned the woman claimed she had stripped naked in the plush Dubai Mall. - The Sun (UK) 06 August 2010. The "three-day ordeal" sounds plausible since the first mention of the incident was on 02 August 2010 in online forums (Expat Woman for example), but not reported by The Daily Mail until 05 August 2010.
  • A group of Gulf national women recently tried to enforce a dress code morally acceptable to them by distributing leaflets to women they found to be dressed inappropriately, a Dubai Mall official said. - Gulf News (GN) report 06 August 2010 of how the incident started (well, their version anyway).
  • "She was wearing very revealing clothes as it is, and decided to dress down further after she was approached, which led to an argument," according to the same unnamed official from The Dubai Mall in the GN report.
  • The Foreign Office confirmed that the woman was arrested and charged, and said the charges had since been dropped. - The Guardian (UK) 05 August 2010
  • "We called in both women to the police station to resolve the matter amicably. We didn't charge the Briton or open a case against her," - said Colonel Dr Mohammad Nasser Al Razouqi, Deputy Director of the Criminal Investigations Department for Police Station Affairs, according to the GN report. Which appears to sharply contradict reports of the UK Foreign Office statement that the woman was in fact arrested and charged.
  • Cololnel Al Razouqi also said to the GN that the clothes "were so short and revealing, close to a bikini. Such outfits are not permitted in shopping malls or family-oriented public areas," prompting the question of whether or not the woman really was wearing a bikini or not.
  • But yesterday after spending an hour explaining her behaviour to a judge in a Dubai police station the charges were dropped. - The Sun (UK) 05 August 2010 which seems odd, given that judges are usually based at Dubai Courts, not the police station
  • "She told them I took everything off and was standing in the mall with no clothes on." - Ms Meager in The Sun 06 August 2010 referring to what the police had apparently been told by the concerned and offended citizen.
  • "I'm amazed she was believed by the police." - Ms Meager in The Sun again, referring to her accuser. Many residents of Dubai are not as likely to be as amazed as Ms Meager was. Dubai Police speak Arabic as a first language, not English, although most have a degree of proficiency in English. So from a practical point of view it makes sense that the police find it easier to believe an Arabic speaker. Especially if there were witnesses backing her up (one report said a group of women were involved).
  • She was finally brought before a prosecutor on Wednesday for another hour-long grilling conducted entirely in Arabic. But the charge was dropped when CCTV pictures from the mall exposed the Arab woman's claims as a pack of lies - The Sun (UK) 06 August 2010, referring to the allegation that the Brit had stripped down to her bikini in response to the Arab woman's criticism of her dress sense. The Sun carried a photo of the bikini lady, Ms Tessa Meager, showing her wearing a see-through kaftan with apparently a swimsuit underneath. It appeared to be taken at The Dubai Mall but that wasn't explicitly stated. The Sun also seems to contradict its previous report by referring to a prosecutor rather than a judge.
  • A couple of observations are worth noting:
    1. The Sun is a UK tabloid newspaper that sells on sensationalism, and publishes photos of semi-naked women - their infamous Page 3 girls. Unknown if Ms Meager herself was asked to pose for Page 3 after her Dubai adventure.
    2. A woman wearing a see-through item of clothing allowing underwear or beach clothes to be revealed is probably going to be noticed in a shopping mall in any country.
    3. For Muslims, especially very conservative Muslims, a woman (or man) dressed in transparent clothing is pretty much equivalent to being naked in their eyes. Westerners can argue it's not but we're trying to explain perceptions here, not definitions.
    4. Given the number of people visiting Dubai shopping malls every day who are wearing substantially less than the recommended daily clothing allowance, the surprise is not that an incident like this occurs, but that it doesn't occur more often.

So who knows what really happened. But it could just be that this time around, Dubai decided that it was worth letting the offender go and moving on, rather than suffer yet another deluge of negative PR from international newspapers. We do think the last word on this issue should go to Lieutenant Colonel Jamal Al Jallaf, Deputy Director of the General Department of Crime Monitoring Affairs at Dubai Police, who made what sounded like quite a reasonable comment in the Gulf News 06 August 2010:

  • "We do take into consideration that different cultures have different definitions of what is and what is not acceptable. Our effort is to maintain harmony among the many communities we have in the country."
Last update Sunday 08-Aug-2010. Page development 4L 5C.
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