View of part of the Fujairah Corniche and the Hajar Mountains in the Background

Monday, May 28, 2007

What will it be like to stay in a Shariah-Compliant Hotel in the UAE?

Recently there has been a flurry of press statements and articles about the new Shariah-compliant hotel chains, such as the Tamani hotels developed by KM Properties and Holdings. The most recent report was written by Shakir Husain and published on 26/05/2007 in the Gulf News under the title, ‘Sharia-compliant hotels gain popularity’.

Alain Guernier, chief executive officer of the recently-launched Tamani Hotels & Resorts, is quoted as saying of Shariah-compliant hotels that “the business potential is huge as there are many local and visitors from the region who would like to stay in hotels which respect their values and culture.”

In Husain’s column the main distinction provided is that Shariah-compliant hotels will be alcohol-free. It would be helpful for potential customers to spell out in greater detail the services provided by these new hotels. Here are some areas for clarification:

Shariah Financing and Profits
Will Shariah certification be awarded only to a hotel that has been erected and financed according to Shariah principles and will the profits of the hotel be distributed in Shariah style?

Shariah Structures
It is noted from one of the reports that the Tamani hotels will have a separate women’s floor served by female butlers. How many other facilities such as swimming areas will be segregated? Will there be a mosque or prayer rooms? What structurally will be different in a halal hotel?

Shariah Employees
What additional standards and responsibilities will be required of workers in a Shariah hotel? For instance, will hotel guests be served and entertained by workers who dress in accordance with Shariah law, including head coverings for women?

Shariah Guests
How stringently will Shariah law be applied in respect to the hotel guests? Will ID be requested to ensure that only married partners share a room, along with any children? Will access be permitted to escorts with hotel guests? Will same-sex couples be welcome?

Shariah Cuisine
One of the attractive features of these new style hotels will be a commitment to Arabic culture which is likely to be well expressed in its cuisine. It is assumed that in addition to being alcohol-free that all food will be halal, in contrast to many international hotels in the UAE. Will refreshments and other hotel services be available during times of prayer? Will Shariah-compliance also mean that food and drink will be unavailable throughout the daytime during Ramadan?

Shariah Entertainment
Again, the promised Shariah service, blended with Arabic culture is likely to be evident in the showcasing of home grown entertainers. A strict application of Shariah law in parts of Nigeria has recently involved vigorous protesting and policing of local musical styles and instruments. Furthermore, in Pakistan there have been instances of music shops being looted because of the sale of music considered to be haram. What will compliance with Shariah law involve for the new UAE hotels in regard to music styles, instrumentation and dancing?

Shariah Questions
The application of ancient Shariah law to modern hotels is already appealing to many people seeking accommodation that is respectful of deeply held values. It also raises questions for prospective clients about what they might expect in the Shariah hotel experience.

As exists in the Islamic banking industry, will there be a group of Shariah scholars who will deliberate on hotel culture and will there be regular inspections with recommendations so that hotels might maintain their Shariah status?

Geoff Pound

Image: Alcohol-free sign.