Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Under Your Abaya

I remember watching a comedy show when I was a kid which featured a sketch where a woman had a fake pregnancy bump under her dress which opened up and became a receptacle for shoplifted goods.  I can't remember which show it was but it was at the Russ Abbot or Little and Large level of sophistication.  The joke was that she was above suspicion because surely no one would have the audacity to carry out such a sneaky method of theft.

I started thinking about that long-forgotten sketch thanks to this case reported widely in the local newspapers today.  I can almost hear the heads of those in the Dubai authorities spinning while they wonder what they are going to do about these woman who sneaked out of a series of designer stores with thousands of dirhams worth of shoes and handbags stuffed into their robes.  Despite its Vegas-style reputation, Dubai is still a conservative Muslim Emirate where the wearing of the Abaya is not necessarily encouraged but merely accepted as the done thing among locals and those from other Gulf states.  Having it abused in this way must be a big, big deal for them.  They can't demand to search the robes of women shoppers because they would take huge offence at it, in part due to the conservative codes about physical contact and in part at the suggestion that anyone from such a wealthy community would steal.   

In 7Days coverage of the incident, they are described as "Arab" which can be a shorthand for "Arab but not Emirati".  I think it's fair to say that if they turn out to be from a traditionally non Abaya-wearing culture, the authorities will probably be extremely tough on them for abusing the national dress. 

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