The degen

Was the ar­rest of a drunken Bri­tish cou­ple hav­ing sex on Dubai’s beach an iso­lated in­ci­dent? This shock­ing dis­patch re­veals that the sham­ing be­hav­iour of the ex­pats is now so wide­spread there are grow­ing fears of a ter­ror­ist back­lash

Daily Mail - - Front Page - from David Jones IN DUBAI

DE­SPITE the pres­ence of un­der­cover ‘love po­lice’ now pa­trolling its scald­ing white sands, and the prom­ise of new signs warn­ing for­eign­ers of dire con­se­quences should their pas­sions get the bet­ter of them, lit­tle has changed on the Dubai beach where two drunken Bri­tons staged their now no­to­ri­ous ‘sex romp’.

Last Wed­nes­day, at one end of the vast, cres­cent-shaped ex­panse, a con­tin­gent of preen­ing ex­pat women in de­signer biki­nis fried them­selves for as long as they could with­stand the 50 de­gree heat be­fore plung­ing into the blue wa­ters to cool their bronzed bod­ies.

Fur­ther along the shore­line, mean­while, their hap­less Emi­rati coun­ter­parts were forced to wade into the waves wear­ing their amor­phous black abayas, which weighed them down so heav­ily when drenched that they could barely pad­dle out again.

Set against a back­drop of dizzy­ing new sky­scrapers and a for­est of gi­ant cranes (50 per cent of the world’s en­tire stock of the largest cranes is con­cen­trated here), this tableau neatly epit­o­mises the seis­mic clash of cul­tures and morals which has lately be­set this desert-built Dis­ney­land of a state.

This col­li­sion be­tween tra­di­tional Is­lamic val­ues and those of the deca­dent West may have been brought sharply into fo­cus by the tawdry sex-on-the­beach saga — which is ex­pected to reach its de­noue­ment next week with the pros­e­cu­tion of ex­pat pub­lish­ing ex­ec­u­tive Michelle Palmer and her fleet­ing part­ner, busi­ness­man Vince Acors.

To un­der­stand fully its com­plex­i­ties, and po­ten­tial grav­ity, how­ever, one must leave Dubai, with its glitzy shop­ping malls

‘Bad be­hav­iour could stoke the fire of ha­tred’

and night­clubs, and drive north for 50 min­utes along the new Emi­rates High­way.

Here, sand­wiched be­tween the dra­matic Ha­jja Moun­tains and the Ara­bian Gulf, one en­ters the most beau­ti­ful but lit­tle-known emi­rate of Ras al-Kaimah. Though it is still the same coun­try, here there are no boozy Brits or flashy ho­tels. And to its 295,000 souls — nat­u­rally hos­pitable but fiercely re­li­gious and tra­di­tional in their ways — neigh­bour­ing Dubai is the new Baby­lon.

It is no co­in­ci­dence that the 9/11 hi­jacker Mar­wan al-She­hhi, who pi­loted the plane that crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Cen­tre, hails from th­ese parts. In­deed, some lo­cals re­gard his fam­ily’s white stone villa, which stands near the mosque in a dusty ham­let where goats roam the streets, as a shrine.

By now, the enor­mity of the drunken beach romp — which is merely symp­to­matic of the rou­tinely ap­palling be­hav­iour of the new breed of Bri­tish ex­pats in Dubai — should be plainly ap­par­ent.

But if not, then it is spelt out by Dr Christo­pher David­son, a Durham Univer­sity lec­turer who has spent much time in the United Arab Emi­rates and has just pub­lished an ac­claimed book ex­am­in­ing the pos­si­ble con­se­quences of Dubai’s emer­gence as the world’s fastest-grow­ing com­mer­cial and tourism cen­tre.

He is con­vinced that Dubai, with its unique po­si­tion as a cos­mopoli­tan and cap­i­tal­ist so­ci­ety at the heart of the Mid­dle East, is high on the list of tar­gets for Is­lamic fun­da­men­tal­ists — an as­ser­tion which gained cre­dence re­cently when the For­eign Of­fice el­e­vated the emi­rate to the high­est state of ter­ror alert.

And Dr David­son fears that the re­vul­sion of see­ing mem­bers of the 120,000-strong Bri­tish com­mu­nity tram­pling over the sen­si­tiv­i­ties of their Is­lamic hosts could stoke the fire of ha­tred, turn­ing some dis­af­fected young Emi­rati into the next al-She­hhi.

‘It’s not mak­ing a quan­tum leap to con­nect the ris­ing threat of a ter­ror­ist at­tack with badly­be­haved Bri­tons,’ he told me. ‘The Dubai gov­ern­ment has gone for mass tourism and huge for­eign in­vest­ment, and they’ve been very suc­cess­ful so far, but the cost could be enor­mous.

‘There is still no out­let for the frus­tra­tions of dis­af­fected lo­cals, many of whom are ap­palled by loose West­ern stan­dards, in par­tic­u­lar among women.

‘I have sat in cof­fee shops with UAE na­tion­als and they’ve looked me in the eye and told me: “I want my coun­try to be an Is­lamic emi­rate.” There is a lot of re­sent­ment. It is not stretch­ing cred­i­bil­ity to imag­ine that, for some, the only way to vent that frus­tra­tion could be by com­mit­ting an act of vi­o­lence.’

For Dubai, of course, such an act would be dis­as­trous. It

Lo­cals are priced out of the best ar­eas

would, as Dr David­son points out, in­stantly burst the bub­ble of con­fi­dence on which the rul­ing Mak­toum fam­ily have built their in­cred­i­ble dream­land in the dunes.

In­ter­na­tional in­vest­ment would dry up; the mil­lion Bri­tish tourists who flock here to shop and sun them­selves each year would melt away; the Premiershi­p foot­ballers and pop stars who have bought exclusive vil­las on the new Palm Is­lands de­vel­op­ment, such as Michael Owen and Rod Ste­wart, would doubt­less move to safer shores.

More­over, since Dubai is the Mid­dle East’s cos­mopoli­tan melt­ing pot, and its ex­per­i­ment with Is­lamic cap­i­tal­ism could be­come the blue­print for sur­round­ing Arab states, its fail­ure would have dire con­se­quences for the en­tire re­gion.

On the sur­face, the sor­did en­counter be­tween Palmer and Acors may be the stuff of saucy sea­side post­cards, but to the many Duba­ian na­tion­als I have spo­ken to this week it is no laugh­ing mat­ter.

As I was re­minded re­peat­edly, they are al­ready mi­nor­ity group in their own coun­try, where more than 85 per cent of the es­ti­mated 1.8 mil­lion res­i­dents are from over­seas. And this latest in­ci­dent is but an­other re­minder of the man­ner in which, they claim, their mores are be­ing eroded by the vast for­eign in­flux.

Af­ter spend­ing a week here, it is easy to un­der­stand why they feel so strongly, for it is not only on Dubai’s beaches that one finds the lo­cals on the wrong side of an in­vis­i­ble line in the sand.

Take, for ex­am­ple, trendy bars such as Sho Cho, on the exclusive ma­rina de­vel­op­ment, where Michelle Palmer and Vince Acors downed cock­tails be­fore their star­lit fum­ble.

Here, as in many fash­ion­able restau­rants, only West­ern cloth­ing is per­mit­ted, and any man wear­ing an Arab cos­tume is sum­mar­ily turned away.

This dis­crim­i­na­tion ex­tends to the work­place. Young Emi­ratis may be first in line for civil ser­vice po­si­tions, but the plethora of perk-laden, tax-free jobs in the new for­eign busi­nesses in places such as Me­dia City and In­ter­net City rou­tinely go to can­di­dates from Lon­don, Birm­ing­ham or Manch­ester.

Gen­er­a­tions ago, when an al­to­gether dif­fer­ent kind of Bri­ton ven­tured to the Mid­dle East to help unite the Arabs and build their coun­try, such priv­i­leged po­si­tions were hard-earned.

As one ex­pat, Lucy Roberts, ex­plained scathingly, how­ever, the sad truth is that many of the new Bri­tish émi­grés have only de­camped here af­ter fail­ing to forge ca­reers back home.

‘Frankly, there are a lot of id­iots here who are work­ing in jobs they shouldn’t be do­ing,’ said Lucy, 32, who quit her job as a Lon­don es­tate agent and runs a graphic de­sign com­pany.

‘I think the term is “punch­ing above their weight”. They brag a lot and don’t de­liver. One girl I know works in PR and thinks

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