Is it OK?
The brief answer is NO. It is illegal.
Does Topless Bathing Happen in the UAE?
Yes, it sometimes occurs on public beaches but more so at hotel beaches which are considered to be private areas and where there is a great number of international tourists.
Kicking Up a Storm
The issue has been kicking up a storm in the UAE (see all the comments on the articles listed below).
A British Travel Advisory warning last Tuesday was put out by the British Government, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advising against topless bathing and indicating that 24% of British women sunbathe topless when they are on holiday.
The warning follows several highly publicized incidents of British tourists being apprehended and imprisoned for doing things in the Emirates about which they said they were ignorant of the local laws.
Some are furious that the travel advisory was directed at British citizens (‘What about the liberal Europeans?’), making them appear ‘indecent’, ‘ignorant’ and putting them (not their bodies) in a bad light.
Some people are annoyed that the travel advisory focused on women (‘What about men and their offensive Speedos?’).
To read all sides of the topless debate check these articles and the comments:
Kevin Scott, Keep Your Tops On Brit Women Warned, Gulf News, 16 June 2009.
Alice Johnson & Kevin Scott, Blame Europeans for Topless Displays, British Women Say, Gulf News, 17 June 2009.
Rabab Khan, Gulf News Readers Speak out on Advisory Against Public Decency, Gulf News, 17 June 2009.
UK Foreign Office Issues Warning to British Travelers Abroad, KippReport, 17 June 2009.
Charlie Hamilton & Eugene Harnan, Britons Warned to Respect UAE Laws, The National, 18 June 2009.
Traveling to the UAE?
If you are traveling to the UAE check out these articles:
Public decency in the UAE, Gulf News. This addresses questions about what to wear in the malls, kissing in public, holding hands in public, having sex in a car, what to wear in Sharjah, do you have to wear a veil when you play netball?, what do you wear when you play beach volleyball?, what about see through bathing suits?, wearing your birthday suit?, what about bikinis? attending a club, drinking alcohol in public, Is cross dressing OK so long as it is discrete? What about wearing national dress like kilts?
What to Wear in the UAE, ETE, 24 November 2007.
What to Wear in the United Arab Emirates, ETE, 21 May 2009.
Bodies, Bikinis and Breast Feeding in the UAE, ETE, 21 October 2008.
Etiquette in the Emirates, ETE, 21 February 2008.
Drug Laws in the UAE: Travelers Beware! ETE, 4 March 2008.
Dr Geoff Pound
Image: Dress debate (Some of these images are drawn with thanks from the GN Gallery).
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