Dubai: Slavery’s New Mecca

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In Dubai, the Arab country that tried to buy a controlling interest in American seaports and a 20% interest in the NASDAQ stock exchange, slavery is alive and well.

To enter Dubai’s most notorious brothel, the Cyclone, I paid $16 for a ticket that the bursar stamped with the official seal of the Department of Tourism & Commerce Marketing. Prostitution is illegal in Dubai, whose laws are rooted in Islam, with penalties ranging up to death. But the stamp was only the first of several contradictions in a place of slavery for women that one well-travelled British monger referred to as “Disneyland for men.”

One sign read No Soliciting; another read No Camouflage in the Disco Area. In the club, no less than 500 prostitutes solicited a couple dozen prospective clients, some Western servicemen among them.

An Indian living in London owned the place, and had not updated the decor in a decade, as if taste would reduce the charm and thus deter tourists. I walked over to the bar, and two Korean girls, who looked no older than 15 and claimed to be sisters, approached me.

“Do you want massage?” one asked.

While the strobe lights, the loud music and the general whirlpool of anxious femininity lent an air of abject chaos, the place was carefully ordered by race. Stage left was a crush of Chinese, Taiwanese and Korean women; centre stage were sub-Saharan Africans; stage right were Eastern European and Central Asian women, who initially identified themselves as Russians, but later revealed specifically that they were Bulgarian, Ukrainian, Uzbek and Moldovan.

A young Chinese woman wore a childlike perfume. The club bathed her in black light, so that she appeared like a radioactive negative of herself. In broken English, she explained that she had arrived in Dubai 28 days earlier, having been promised a job as a maid. Instead, human smugglers known as snakeheads sold her to a madam who forced her to pay off a debt by selling sex here. She trembled as she said that she just wanted to go home.

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Last updated: 2016-01-01 10:29 am PST
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