Sex on the beach or drunken trysts may not raise eyebrows in many cities, but a recent case in Dubai has exposed a growing cultural divide between native Muslims and Western residents seeking fun in the sun.
The story of a British pair facing possible jail terms on charges of having drunken sex on the beach made headlines around the world, but in Dubai, reports are frequent of hapless foreigners falling foul of local laws that strictly control drinking and ban homosexuality or kissing in public.
Dubai’s foreign population has expanded rapidly in recent years, dwarfing the native population, as the Gulf Arab trade and tourism hub tries to put itself on the international map with a promise of tax-free earnings and year-round sunshine.
But balancing its Muslim identity in what remains a deeply conservative Gulf Arab region with the lifestyles of expatriates who comprise over 90% of its population is no mean feat.
“Everybody who lives in this country, whether they are citizens or expats, can sense how massively difficult it is to be a minority in your own country and feel such pressure on your habits, your language, your religion,” said Abdel-Khaleq Abdullah, an Emirati political scientist.