Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Who would have thought that Abu Dhabi has it's very own Red-Light District?

Last night I went out clubbing with my husband and some friends. Sometimes I feel I am getting too old for the local club scene. Everytime we go, the crowd seems to get younger and younger. Last night D, M and I were the only women present who weren't entirely adolescent. One after the other, the clubs are getting invaded by people in their teens and early twenties. And people our age are migrating to more extravagant, obscenely expensive restaurant and cafe settings that have live music, a dance floor and a formal dress code. It has it's advantages I suppose. After years of going out dancing in jeans, I am finally getting a chance to dress up quite often. But on the down-side, I guess I haven't aged so much that I don't miss DJ's, funky music and going wild on the dance floor in comfortable shoes as opposed to strappy, high heels that cut into my feet as I dance and that are so expensive I have to worry about damaging.

When I look at some of these kids though I wonder that their parents let them stay out so late when I wouldn't have dreamed of it at their age. Technically, the clubs don't allow anyone under 21 but that's not enforced very strictly. Especially if it's a couple.

The venues were Saks and Ocean at the Royal Meridien. We kept moving between them, following the songs we liked. The evening started out well. By 1:00am though, I was exhausted. My head started to hurt from all the noise and smoke. I tend to take my headaches very seriously because they're liable to turn into horrible migraines if I don't.

I told my husband, he said fine let's go home. The others tried to convince us to stay and not be party-poopers etc....In the end, the compromise was that he'd take me downstairs to the lobby for some peace, strong coffee and Panadol. If I felt any better, we'd come back. Otherwise we'd just go home.

The Royal Meridien has a really nice lobby. Big, comfortable couches and lots of space. But they were closed when we arrived. No service so no coffee for me. We settled down on one of the couches. I rested my head on it and we got into one of the famous, whispered conversations everyone keeps teasing us about. I guess it's true though. We tend to speak to each other almost under our breath. I don't know why. I never had that problem with anyone before. It was very quiet. Hardly anyone there. I felt the headache starting to recede a bit.

We lost track of the time until suddenly, hordes of people began descending on the lobby. The clubs upstairs were closing and everyone was leaving. I couldn't take it. The weather was really nice so I told him I wanted to go for a walk to get some fresh air.

It's been years since I've walked in the Khalifa/Najda/Hamdan area that late at night. Usually if am out that late, am in a car and am somewhere on the Corniche. The Royal Meridien itself is a recent discovery for me.

Imagine my shock when I saw downtown Abu Dhabi transformed into what looked like a red-light district. Women of every age and of 3 or 4 nationalities at the most, wearing things you would never see in Abu Dhabi any other time, standing on the sidewalks. They were getting picked up or dropped off, haggling with men. Young men, old men. Arabs, Europeans, Asians, you name it. All classes of men. From taxi drivers to men in brand new Mercedes and BMW's.

They were everywhere. Down Khalifa Street. Around Next and the AlMariah Cinema. All the way down Hamdan. Short of walking towards the Corniche, it seemed like you couldn't get away from them.

The worst part was when we passed the area around the Howard Johnson Hotel. It was a big crowd there. Like some mad cattle market. That was when we got close enough to them to hear all the haggling. People with no language in common trying to communicate, bargaining for sex. In surprisingly loud voices.

As I stepped off the pavement to cross the street, I felt something sticky under my foot. I looked down. A used condom was stuck to my heel. I shook it off and wiped my heel on the pavement. I could see a few more lying on the ground. My stomach literally heaved.

My husband asked me what happened. I said nothing. It was so gross I didn't want to talk about it. I was glad he didn't see it or comment.

You could see police patrolling the streets. Not surprising that. Abu Dhabi always has a heavy police and security presence on the streets - especially late at night. What was surprising was that the cops appeared singluarly uninterested in what was happening.

How bizzare. So the government - represented by the police - stands guard over this sort of thing at night. And then in the morning, the government - as represented by the Municipality - cleans up the streets after the prostitutes and their clients, picking up all the used condoms thrown from the cars I guess?

How much more legal can you make prostitution?Seriously what does Bangkok or Amsterdam have on this? And forgive me for being prudish but isn't this supposed to be a Muslim country?

And these women. So many of them. We women are screaming all the time about men who see us as inanimate pieces of meat as opposed to intelligent beings. And then you get THAT many women selling their bodies exactly like inanimate pieces of meat?

I commented on this to my husband.

Him: If there's mutual consent, the police here doesn't get involved.
Me : What are you talking about? You and I get in trouble for kissing in public and then they allow this?
Him: No one is kissing. They're just people standing around talking. The police don't think it's their problem what is being talked about.
Me : And this doesn't bother you?
Him: 7abibti i7na malna?(What does it have to do with us?)
Me: I can't believe you brought me here.
Him: You wanted to walk. Ba3dain howa i7na fi biyot-hom?I7na masheeyin filshari3. Khalas 2arabna niwsal.(We're not in their homes. We're walking in the street. And we're almost there anyway.)

Suddenly I just wanted to go home. Even the air felt contaminated. It was getting cold. I felt tired. My head was pounding again. I was scared. The whole thing was scary.

Me: K ana khayfa. (Am scared)
Him: Khayfa min eh ya bit?Winti mashiya ma3 kharoof?7ad yi2dar yikalimik wana ma3aki?(Basically he's saying he won't let anyone bother me)

Maybe not but I wasn't physically afraid. He missed the point. The funny thing is if he had acted all Arab and offended that his wife should be exposed to such things I would have complained that he was being patronizing and chauvinistic. As things went though, I was disgusted and disturbed by what I saw and I am left feeling a little let down that he wasn't more protective of my feelings. And that he wasn't as disturbed as I was. He's more of a cynic than I gave him credit for.

Go figure.



Blogger Haroun El Poussah said...

Without such prostitues, the level of tourism in the Abu Dhabi would decrease by 30% and the country would not be able to afford the infrastructure that appeal to people like you and I. Unfortunately

12/06/2006 06:49:00 PM  
Blogger Forsoothsayer said...

i'm pretty impressed by his stance, really. bas the entire point of freedom is being free to CONSENT - whether to prostiuting urself or to just sex. women have bodies, women have sex. what we object to is men thinking that consent is NOT necessary to sex.

12/07/2006 02:47:00 AM  
Blogger LouLou said...


You don't see that many tourists in Abu Dhabi anyway. Most of these people are either locals or expatriate workers. Added to which, Abu Dhabi is a very rich oil emirate. It's economic problems at the moment stem from a surplus of cash flow from petrodollars and the local economy not being diversified enough to absorb all of it i.e. lots of people with money and no means of investing it locally.

This needs to be resolved by decreasing corruption and increasing efficieny and transparency to build a healthier economy - not by importing prostitutes.

The reason they import prostitutes is more social than economic. They have a large population of young, single male laborers and expatriate workers who are ridiculously underpaid. They can't afford to get married or bring their wives to live here with them if they are married. They also cannot afford to maintain a girlfriend. The theory is that if these men are not provided with a sexual outlet - i.e. women who are willing to be treated like sex objects and nothing more then these men might be driven by sexual frustration to start seducing/raping/harrassing 'decent'women. Or like a friend of mine put it to me - I shouldn't be upset from these prostitutes because they're there for 'my own protection'.

Again it seems to me that it would be much better to build a proper economy, create better job opportunities, pay people enough etc....Maybe it's just me but I think that would help the economy and resolve demographic issues much better than what I saw last night.


Surely you don't feel that a man who frequents prostitutes is a man with a healthy, respectful attitude to women?

12/07/2006 11:01:00 AM  
Blogger Forsoothsayer said...

"We women are screaming all the time about men who see us as inanimate pieces of meat as opposed to intelligent beings. And then you get THAT many women selling their bodies exactly like inanimate pieces of meat?"

i meant that, freedom really means the choice whether to sexualize our bodies - or not. we don't need to have it forced on us, like the middle east generally does with its high premium on female modesty and the sexual role. i didn't make mself very clear.

12/07/2006 09:54:00 PM  
Blogger N said...

i have no problem with a man who frequents prostitutes, as long as he knows that these are prostitutes and knows that women of other sorts are not to be treated or viewed as prostitutes as well. you see it's the generalization that is not acceptable, it's like saying all men are pigs, or all women are bad drivers. it's an ignorant statement. however no one is any place to judge anyone. i may not agree with the action of both parties of that deal, and thus not respect them but if they both consent, then you can't set the world straight. plus there are worse things happening in the world really. mutual consent is a big deal.

12/08/2006 12:34:00 PM  
Blogger Safiya said...

It just sounds horrible. Just because something can happen, it doesn't mean it should.

Anyway, this is just a symptom of a bigger problem: the appalling treatment of the labourer in U.A.E.

12/09/2006 11:22:00 PM  
Blogger LouLou said...

Forsooth & N,

A man who frequents prostitutes is a man who doesn't care if his partner in sex really wants to have sex or was beaten into submission by her pimp or would starve to death if she didn't or is being enslaved by her addiction to drugs. To me, this shows a basic lack of compassion and respect for women, a tendency to see a woman as a vehicle for his own pleasure regardless of her feelings on the matter.Men like this create the demand that makes prostitution such a big business for mafias everywhere. If it wasn't for such men, you wouldn't hear of white slavery. I seriously doubt whether any girl grew up dreaming of being a prostitute.

In theory, prostitutes are liberated women exercising full sexual freedom over their own bodies. In reality, most of the time their bodies are actually owned by their pimp and the gang he works for. It's just men selling women to other men. Let's take off the rose-colored glasses shall we?

12/10/2006 09:32:00 AM  
Blogger SaRaH said...

This is truely disgusting but in Egypt at night specially where I live it could get pretty ugly as well not to the extent you are talking abou of course but I do not blame you for being disgusted or creeped out..
Somehow knowing about something is nothing comparing to see it.

12/10/2006 10:49:00 AM  
Blogger jjones said...

Abu Dhabi is a corrupt, dirty, hypocritical place. I lived and worked there for a couple of years. Prostitution and booze were easily available. The locals pretend to be good Moslems, but the truth is they indulge, especially in the women every opportunity. AD is no more than a glamorized Bangkok. I worked with many locals that would set the standard for filth, but I suspect this is not uncommon. Certainly not a place to bring a family to or really to live. Better to treat the place as a dirty weekend.

4/16/2009 04:24:00 AM  
Blogger Syed said...

1) If women want to be treated in a good manner then they should cover themselves properly & thats one reason why the ruling of a veil is for women.

2) In Ramadhan I remember going to the masjid at 2:30 am in hamdan street behind UAe exchange and I saw prostitutes for the first time in my life near NOVOTEL hotel. If this is happening in Ramadhan expecially in the last 10 nights, then imagine what's going on in the other months.

3) Abu Dhabi is a safe country no matter what when compared to other countries because the law is strict but even that evading which means more problems are underway. You wont find any sort of nuisance in public like other countries.

4) Prostitution is legal if done (inside) and If a person doesnt like all this then he/she should avoid going to such places. Mosques to worship the Lord are there and 5 times a day you can go and pray

5) Locals are bad, I agree BUT not each and every local. I know of many locals who are good. Mosques don't allow people talking about islam in groups so ppl cant talk about islam and maintain islamic brotherhood. But still Allah guides whomsoever he wills.

6) Its actually gone to such an extent that I am scared to go to corniche with my family or alone as I see women in veil but the shape of their body is seen and I'm sure they are prostitutes. Its very scary as Allah says in 6:151

"Come, I will recite what your Lord has prohibited you from: Join not anything in worship with Him; be good and dutiful to your parents; kill not your children because of poverty - We provide sustenance for you and for them; COME NOT NEAR To Al-Fawahish (shameful sins, illegal sexual intercourse) whether committed openly or secretly; and kill not anyone whom Allah has forbidden, except for a just cause (according to Islamic law). This He has commanded you that you may understand

2/25/2010 03:38:00 PM  
Blogger SaLmAn.9E said...

Well i have been in Abu Dhabi since 2005 . . And i live in khalifa street next t0 emmar building. . .h0w c0me i never saw this at al mariah cinema although there are lots of hookers at liwa street but . . . . Btw m 19 yrs ;)

3/27/2012 03:32:00 PM  

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