How Nigerian women offer sex for cash in Dubai
God made man; man made Dubai, a glittering city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Dubai with a population of a little over two million (the largest city in the UAE) is one of the seven emirates that make up the country. Compared to many countries in the world, Dubai approximates to heaven’s gate. It glitters both at day and at night. The visa policy is liberal. At the snap of the fingers, you can get visa to Dubai ranging from two weeks to months. Because it is a city that thrives on tourism, it depends far less on revenue from oil, immigration procedure is also relaxed, comparatively. There are few countries in the world that better the profile of Dubai in terms of cosmopolitanity. Dubai is cosmopolitan and it is home to people from every part of the world. It is not the capital of UAE, Abu Dhabi is, but it dwarfs other emirates in popularity and tourism equity.
Because of its liberal visa policy and cosmopolitan nature, men and women from all over the world and with diverse missions, some tending towards lewdness, congregate in Dubai. Walk into any department store or shopping mall, you are likely to accost women from Russia, Britain, all parts of Africa, Asia especially Filipinos and Chinese. They are there for business, a special type of business….yes, for prostitution. You may have heard that the whole of the UAE hold to some values and virtues especially those values that promote chastity and puritanism. It is true. Here in Dubai, you are not permitted to hawk sex, commercial sex workers are abhorred, alcohol is prohibited and banned from the shelves of stores especially in the bars of some hotels. Here in Dubai, pornography is anathema including using the internet to surf through gay, lesbian and lewd sites. Dubai has very strict laws against sex outside marriage. For instance, two persons of opposite sex are not allowed to share a hotel room except they are husband and wife. Sex outside marriage attracts jail sentence if proven. Last year, a 32-year-old Saudi tourist was jailed for one year after he was said to have slept with a 34-year-old Uzbek woman in his hotel room. The woman got three years after admitting to prostitution. Those convicted of having sex outside marriage face a sentence of between one month and three years under Dubai law.
Yet, there is a curious twist of irony to the whole tale. In the midst of this regime of do’s and don’ts, prostitution still flourishes in this enchanting city. And Nigerian women for reasons bordering on hardship at home have found a lucrative trade in the Dubai sex market. These women, some in their twenties and thirties flock to Dubai with tourist visa, operate as commercial sex workers for months and use the money to buy goods for sale in Nigeria.
Recently, this writer slipped into the underworld of the Dubai sex market in the Deira area of the city. Deira is the older part of Dubai with a strong community of Indians, Pakistanis and persons from Bangladesh. It also has a huge sprinkling of Asians and Africans. It is a busy part of the city buzzing with commerce. Everywhere in Deira is a shop, a trading post of sort, where everything, including sex, is sold. Hotels, most of them lowly priced by Dubai high standards, dot the landscape. The hotels have night clubs. Dubai has one of the most active night lives. Pubs and bars begin to fill up in the evening hours when people frolic to escape the intense heat of the day. Deira is the epicentre of downtown Dubai. Its strength is the population density made up of people from all parts of the world. But it is in this mix of humanity that Deira provides a fitting platform for commercial sex workers.
INSIDE ASTRAF HOTEL
Our guide, Emeka, took this writer through the red light district of Deira. Destination: Astraf Hotel. This is a seedy low-grade hotel that has transformed to a brothel. Astraf Hotel sits at 19C Street by Community 118 in the heart of town. The ground floor of the multi-storey building houses several stores from electronics shops to fabrics sales outposts. Entry into the hotel is easy. Nobody queries your reason for visiting. The receptionist, an Indian with a small oval face, merely glanced at you as you walk briskly up the stairwell. Nothing outside the building betrays the harlotry inside the hotel. But as soon as you fly up the staircase unto the first floor, the drama begins. Half-clad Nigerian girls have taken up temporary tenancy in different rooms in the hotel. They stand by their doorways to hunt for clients. Their clients are mainly visiting African men including Nigerians, Asians and Arabs.
Inside the room of one of the girls (names withheld) in her late twenties, a refrigerator stands on one corner of the room by the bedside. The fridge is well-stocked with assorted soft drinks and biscuits which she also sells to her clients. On top of the fridge are different brands of condoms for sale to clients who did not come protected. Alcohol is not sold here but with just a phone call, you can order alcohol from alcohol vendors in other hotels or pubs.
Stacked up at another corner of the room are well wrapped cartons containing goods mostly fabrics. Curiosity drives you to ask, ‘what’s that?’ ‘They are my goods’, intones Chichi, the ebony-hued occupant of the room. ‘I go market today…things acre costly now in Dubai… everybody dey shop for Christmas…’ she said trying to conceal her excitement and obviously desiring that the conversation ends so she can transact her business with you. But the reporter in you is not letting go, so you ask again, ‘what are you doing with too many clothes… abi, you want dash everybody in your village clothes this Christmas?’ ‘Aaah …nooo!… I dey sell them. I get boutique for Onitsha…Na hustle I come hustle… all of us come hustle.’, referring to her colleagues in the other rooms.
That’s the deal. Nigerian women flood Dubai to prostitute. This is no longer news. It is called ‘Dubai Runs’. They fly into Dubai, operate as commercial sex workers for a month or two, use the proceeds from their ‘trade’ to buy goods before returning to the Nigeria. Chichi is just one of them
She does not want the discussion to continue. To her and her colleagues, every minute counts. She entreats you once more to go straight to business, that is, to negotiate the price for a fling. And strangely, she did not mind that there were two males with her in the room. ‘Do you want to take me to your hotel or you just want to do and go?’ she asks with nuanced enthusiasm. You ignore her question and probes further. ‘How do you cope with the security agents… how often do they disturb you?’ ‘We don’t have problems with them.. we have our papers. We came here to do business and we are doing business’, she says, this time with cold face boldness.
A fling in her brothel room, according to her goes for 150 DH (Dirhams). At 3.6DH to a dollar, this comes to about $41 (N6560). But she lies. Our guide explains the price. According to him, a fling with Nigerian girls goes for 50DH. Prices vary with the nationality of the ladies. Many women from different parts of Africa operate as commercial sex workers in Dubai. Moroccan and Ethiopian women cost more. The cheapest, he reveals, are Ugandan girls. They go for as low as 30DH. The ladies have pimps who link them to wealthy Arabs with taste for African women. For their trouble, the pimps get a cut out of their earnings. Our guide says some of the African women prefer to go through pimps who selectively hand them over to their trusted clients. “These trusted clients are usually wealthy men who prefer to keep that aspect of their life discreet; but they are the ones who take very good care of our girls”, he says.
But Nigerian commercial sex workers in Dubai have dealt a deadly blow to the reputation and image of Nigeria, and more eerily to the value of Nigerian women who visit the emirate. Our guide said some Nigerian women who are not in any way connected to prostitution had been harassed by men who perceive every Nigerian woman as a sex hawker. “The whole thing is embarrassing”, he said.
AT RHAMI HOTEL
Rhami Hotel located in the densely packed Deira area is a hotbed of fun. It has a night club manned by boorish and beefy men. Their heavy biceps tells you they are made in the gym. It was Wednesday night and club is at full swing. Some hotels in Dubai offer night club services. There are African night clubs graced mostly by Africans, Arabian night clubs for the Arab communities and Indian night clubs for the teeming Indian population in Dubai. There are also cosmopolitan night clubs in the highbrow Bhurj Dubai area. The Rhami club is an African club and on this night Nigerian music blared loudly and furiously from the woofers. In a long stretch, the disc-jockey migrated from D-Banj to 2Face Idibia and PSquare interspersing them with other Nigerian music flavours. Alcohol is freely served here. Women of easy virtue circulate from table to table in search of ‘clients’. Nigerian girls add to the number. The language here is English and you could tell from the conversations amidst the deafening blasts of music that Nigerians are in the majority here. As it is at Rhami Hotel, so it is at Garage Hotel, another joint of African orientation.
A CITY OF PARADOXES
The UAE practises Islam in its pure form. Friday is a rest day and Sunday is just another working day just like Monday or Tuesday. Alcohol is prohibited. Illicit sex, sex between unmarried couple, is abhorred; indeed an offence punishable under the law. Cases of unmarried couples jailed for illicit sex abound. A man cannot cuddle a woman who is not his wife in public. Yet, in the midst of this, prostitution thrives. A woman could walk up to a man in a shopping mall and offer the man sex for cash. Again, there is the issue of strict immigration laws and security. How do these Nigerian women beat security and escape the eagle eyes of immigration officials? Very simple. In Dubai, there are travel agencies whose briefs extend beyond arranging flight tickets and hotels, they also offer a special service called ‘visa change’. Dubai visas range from two weeks to nine months. Visas running into months are issued to students and persons of proven genuine business interest. These Nigerian women get visa up to one month but as soon as it expires, they approach the travel agency through a syndicate for ‘visa change’. This allows them to relocate to Oman, Kish or any of the neighbouring cities adjoining the UAE and return to Dubai to continue with their ‘business’ as soon as a new visa is procured. The visa change scheme enables them to manoeuvre their way and enjoy extended stay in Dubai.
Dubai, a strict Islamic emirate is a mixed bag of the good, the bad and the ugly. It is here you find bars and pubs that offer drink-all-you-like services. It is here that some couples have been charged with having sex in taxis and in inauspicious places. Though the laws are strictly enforced but these Nigerian women with help from the Dubai sex syndicate have cleverly navigated their way to beat the law and its enforcers. But their dirty trade has sullied the reputation of the country. Whereas they claim they were driven by economic hardship, they are yet other women in the country who would rather stay poor and hungry than sell their body for cheap. It is their choice to prostitute but it is a wrong choice at very grave risk.