Business cards sporting images of buxom beauties and contact numbers offering "room service" are slipped under apartment doors almost daily. Image Credit: Pankaj Sharma/Xpress

Dubai: In her skimpy red suit, the Asian-looking girl is a familiar face in Dubai's International City. Not without reason. There's hardly any apartment door her business card has not been slipped under. But she's not alone. Dozens of similar cards sporting images of buxom beauties are doing the rounds here brazenly offering "room service" massage. Or so their shady operators would have us believe.

Shady massage services

Understandably, the residents are not amused, with many alleging that the unnamed "massage centres" are just fronts for a thriving door-to-door sex trade.

"Until now we used to get business cards dropped by pest control agents and packers and movers. But this is something new. I suspect these massage centres are just a cover up for something else," said Rawat, who lives in the England cluster.

Art, an American engineer however, dismisses the business cards as a pesky garbage issue. "I just ignore them and throw them straight away into the bin. You'll never know what they are up to," he said.

Dubai has more than 100 registered massage centres offering everything from Thai, Chinese and Swedish massage to siatsu and ayurvedic therapy. Most hotels also have spas offering massage therapy of one kind or the other.

International City has three licensed massage centres, but in recent times they seem to have been dwarfed by door-to-door freelance masseuses.

Pandit, another Indian resident said the mobile masseuses try to upstage each other by giving the fanciest visiting cards. "These girls, they don't have anything to do with massage services," said the father of two.

The cards purport to come from "massage centres", but when XPRESS phoned some of these ‘centres', the voice at the other end invariably made a counter-offer: home service.

Ali, manager of a Perfect Line Massage Centre in the China cluster of International City, said they follow strict guidelines and have separate massage centres for men and women. He said, roaming masseuses are "unusual" and are spoiling the business and image of legitimate ones.

"The freelancers who give away their business cards offering room service, they are not licensed - and people are taking a risk with them," said Ali.

By law, massage centre workers must be licensed and must follow Dubai Municipality Public Health Department's hygiene and decency guidelines. They are also periodically inspected.

Dubai Police have in the past advised those who want to get massage treatment to go to licensed massage centres and warned the public not to allow strangers to enter their homes, as some may be undocumented or have criminal intent.

In November 2009, a clash among rival Asian gangs suspected of operating brothels in International City left one gangster dead and another seriously injured. A samurai-wielding gang member resisting arrest even injured a police officer.