Nothing says “make yourself at home” quite like a list of rules.
This is apparently the thinking behind the new behavior guides that Abu Dhabi’s tourism police will soon hand out to visitors arriving in the conservative emirate.
The booklets, which offer “Advice for tourists” in several languages were designed to help foreigners understand that activities that wouldn’t turn any heads in New York, London or Beijing are actionable in the wealthy Islamic city-state.
"The pamphlet was prepared to educate tourists on rules of public behavior," Brig. Gen. Omair Al Mihiri, deputy director general of police operations, told The National. "It includes trends and behavior which is uncivilized and would make them subject to prosecution."
The booklet urges visitors to “wear respectful clothing,” “avoid any behavior in public place, which could be considered indecent, such as, kissing, cross-dressing, etc.” and remember that “abuse of drugs and psychotropic substances is against the law.” In publicizing these guidelines Abu Dhabi runs the risk of alienating overly-affectionate, acid-dropping cross dressers, but one gets the sense that the UAE was never the leading destination for that demographic.
The rules are also being released amid a national debate over the implementation of a dress code for tourists, a measure supported by Emirati Culture Minister Abdul Rahman Al Owais, but viewed with some trepidation by westerners in the hospitality industry who believe it sends the wrong message.
In a sign of the region’s modernity, the debate has played out on Twitter, where @UAEDressCode has gained over 3,000 followers and stirs the pot daily with such statements as, “As you plan for the coming weekend, plan some proper outfits respecting others in public who'd like to enjoy their time too.”