A Dubai resident claims she was asked to leave at least three restaurants in Dubai and Al Ain because she wears a hijab, the Muslim head scarf.
“It makes me sad that more than once here in Dubai and the UAE, I was asked to leave a restaurant [because I wear the hijab]… I was asked to leave [a restaurant in Dubai Media City]. I was pregnant, and I was clearly not drinking [alcohol],” says PR executive Yara Nimer.
“I was innocently sitting with my colleagues in the afternoon, at around 6PM, in the restaurant side, so I was not sitting at the bar. I also was at a hotel in Al Ain, sitting in an empty restaurant with my friends, and the manager comes to me and says, ‘Sorry, you need to leave, because you have this,’ and he points to my hijab. It’s very offensive,” says the UAE resident.
In addition to her day job, the soon-to-be mother of two runs an Instagram account with over 8K followers on Instagram, which she dedicates to ‘redefining the life of a modern day hijabi & inspiring girls along the way,’ her bio reads.
There is no UAE law that prohibits a person wearing a hijab from sitting in a restaurant that serves alcohol, Zayed Al Shamsi, founder of Zayed Al Shamsi Advocates & Legal Consultants, tells us.
If the restaurant asked her to leave, then it is because of their policy, not the law, he explains.
An Abu Dhabi resident whose colleague faced a similar situation to Nimer’s tells Frankly on condition of anonymity that her friend was asked to leave a lounge because of her hijab.
“We went to a lounge in Abu Dhabi at lunch time, and it was empty. There was no music, no DJ. But we wanted to sit there. So they asked my colleague to leave, and told her she can sit in the shisha area instead,” she says.
Another Dubai resident was told she could sit in the restaurant area of a Dubai venue in DIFC, but not in the lounge area, which is located away from the bar. She did not want to be named in the article.
In the name of the law
While PR executive Yara Nimer says her personal incidents used to leave her upset in the past, they no longer have the same effect on her. She knows the law is on her side: “At first, I was upset [about being asked to leave], but now I enjoy it when it happens, because I know that they don’t have the right to ask me to leave, according to the law. And I like educating people about what my hijab is called,” she says.
When contacted for the purpose of this article, several restaurants in Dubai told Frankly they would allow customers wearing a hijab to dine in the restaurant, but not in the lounge or bar area. They said it was part of their “internal policy,” but did not want to comment as to the reasoning behind the policy.
A 2011 report by local newspaper 7Days quoted a director from Dubai Tourism as saying access to night clubs is forbidden to those wearing GCC national dress. The article did not mention restaurants.