ABU DHABI Nudity in public is prohibited in the UAE but in the nether regions of gym locker rooms it is another story.
Ask any gym-goer and he/she will tell you that the sight of people walking around stark naked is common in changing rooms.
Most health clubs clearly state that nudity is not allowed while others have notices asking guests not to remove their clothes completely. But few pay heed, much to the chagrin of people who use these facilities.
“I know nudity is expected in a locker room but it gets really annoying and embarrassing when some men carry it for far too long,” said Egyptian expat Ahmad, 45, who frequents a men’s health club on Abu Dhabi’s Electra Street.
Arab housewife Naima Nabhani said at her gym, women routinely roam around the locker room without a stitch of cloth.
Another Abu Dhabi expat Nancy Bello from Philippines said she has seen women using steam rooms and sauna without any clothes on. “Once I had to step out of the sauna because I felt uncomfortable sitting beside a nude woman,” she recalled.
An instructor at a fitness club in Dubai said the practice has progressed rapidly in the past few years. “Until recently we used to get very few nudity-related complaints, but of late, the numbers have increased. The other day I had to request a guest to hurry up as he went about leisurely sorting through his locker, putting on deodorant and then downing his protein shake with nothing at all.
We expect a certain level of modesty from members. You may be proud of your body, but the locker room is certainly not the place to show it off,” he said.
Undressing completely in a public place is punishable under UAE laws and could attract a prison term of up to six months.
Some gym-goers said this is not an issue worth debating.
“I don’t understand why people are so touchy about it. Nudity is accepted in locker rooms all over the world,” said a resident.
A fitness instructor said nudity is inherently present in locker rooms but could be dealt with. “All one needs to do is to use common sense and follow basic gym etiquette. Locker room etiquette demands that the time one should be nude in is when one is changing clothes either in preparation of a workout or after shower. Once dried off, you should quickly throw on a shorts or a towel as you gather your clothes and begin to change. This shouldn’t take more than a few seconds.”
Some gym-goers residents said people should respect the cultural sensitivities of the host country.
“I have grown up seeing nude beaches in Europe. But I have the common sense to understand I cannot go topless in a beach in Abu Dhabi,” said Prescilla Allan, an expat teacher in Abu Dhabi.
YOUSPEAK: What are your thoughts on locker room nudity?