A Blog from Amman, Jordan, Online Since 2004.

Dubai Censorship Nox

Hello Dubai, the Bangkok of the Middle East, where Arabs go to sin. Google it, the menu comes in an assortment of colors; blondie chicks from Russia (apparently, the most common), black beauties from Ethiopia (second most found variety), Asian babes from the Philippines and India, among other varieties. I have never been to Dubai, and yet stories of friends who got approached in the city and the tales of bars filled to the brim with girls waiting to get picked up are always told. Here’s a documentary about prostitution in Dubai. A website I found claims, “An economist recently informed me that vice, directly and indirectly, accounts for over 30% of Dubai’s money-go-round.”

Not that I care. Live and let live, eh?

What I do care about though is the hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil but stomp-on-what-might-be-naughty policy they have adopted.

Ok, we have one of the biggest prostitution industries in the world, but oh, we must shield the eyes of our people from the evil that is picture-sharing site flickr (which states in its terms of use, clearly, that pornography or anything indecent is not allowed on the site).

What I care more about is censorship practiced on locally produced things while eyes are kept closed and teeth are kept shiny when it comes to imports. Esquire has naked pinup chicks? Alright, who cares, stack the racks with the magazine anyway.

But God forbid, a regional magazine decides to print half-naked chics in Dubai? Oh, my, the Lords of Censorship (in this case Dubai’s Ministry of Culture) must put their foot down and forbid printing images of chicks in bathing suits in the local printing agencies.

Seriously, what difference does it make where the material is printed when similar (and much more explicit) material is being sold locally anyway?! Not only that, but as far as I know, its perfectly ok in Dubai to swim on the beach in a bikini right? So what’s wrong with printing reality? I’ve also seen tons of pictures of drunk girls half naked in bars and clubs in Dubai itself, like here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Oh, well. Feast your eyes on what Dubai’s Ministry of Culture wouldn’t let us print– a chick in a bikini, a Brazilian dancer during the World Cup, and another chick in a swimsuit (that’s not a bikini).

Arab hypocrisy grinning at us again. I can see its shiny teeth. Come on, wave everyone!




Dancing atop of Amman


  1. one word …. typical!

  2. Did you hear about the blind skunk who tried to rape a fart.

  3. nzm

    Hi Roba

    It’s hypocritical alright, and it’s not just the soft porn industry (magazines like Nox) where the double standards exist. In fact, most of us who live in Dubai would be happy if they would concentrate on censoring this industry and leave the others alone!

    As well as blocking sites like FHM, Playboy, Bikini Modelz etc, our noble telecom providor, Etisalat, has undertaken to protect us all from the evils of the world, and has so far blocked, among others:
    – Skype
    – Flickr
    – YouTube
    – MySpace
    – BoingBoing
    – Metacafe
    – Vonage

    Of course, any website URL ending in .il cannot be accessed, as well as gay and lesbian info sites, and sites that question Islam or seek to discuss it.

    They also block websites that are derogatory towards the UAE – such as

    The searches for site to block are often irrational, such as blocking the site for the girl group Pussycat Dolls, because the url has the word “pussy” in it!

    It’s truly pathetic that a country that promotes itself to the outside world as free and progressive does not practice what it preaches.


  4. Nick

    Yes, you’re right. Some very wooly thinking on the part of Dubai’s policymakers!

  5. Welcome to Dubai, please believe the hype.

  6. Azza

    I hardly consider it a test of free speech weather a country permits the media to show naked women or not. Not even most US states would allow a magazine like time to show a naked women on its cover without the plethora of restrictions in terms of placement on shelvs and types of warnings. please spare us childish interpertations of free speech. Want to show commitment to free speech? here is one test for you…stand before the royal palace and speak your mind. when you do that, you have earned your right to champion free speech and criticise others. drinking and having sex and walking naked are hardly a priority in places when one does not have more fundemental freedoms and no real safeguards from torture and loss of equality of opportunity.

  7. Nox is a stupid magazine and it is better to ban it altogether. What does the term “magazine for men” mean? The only magazine that should be enloyed by men and not women are Playboy and Popular Mechanics. However, it seems this Nox thing is the closest Arab culture can get to Playboy but I am a man who is offended by the phrase “magazine for men” featuring bikini style..chicks as Roba, another member of the female species describe them. Sorry Roba but I really would love to stop referring to girls as “chicks”!!
    Hmm, do I sound to be to ideal? is there another man out there who can agree with me..Hello??

  8. So Roba, what do you think the ideal solution to this would be? Prostitution is a problem around the world, not just Dubai. The majority of people living in Dubai, are conservative Muslims, and they do not frequent the beaches or clubs that you speak of, and if a minority of males do, then I can assure that no Emariti girl would be seen in either of these places, except for a few very unique exceptions. The people that frequent these clubs, the majority of girls that frequent these clubs and beaches are foreigners and expats. This conservative Muslim majority that I speak of find it outrageous that a local magazine would print such pictures. It is not, ‘hypocrisy’, that they allow foreign magazines with the same pictures on their news stands, the expats demand such magazines, but to start publishing publicly just because they are too expensive for the working expat is a bit much. These conservative Muslims that are against the publication of such magazines do not want the expats to completely demolish all traces of traditions as is slowly happening to the emirates, it is becoming an identity less country that lacks culture. They have a right to feel that way, and become defensive about their country. I find it very surprising that you are so outraged at the banning of this magazine, especially when you live in Jordan. Imagine such a local magazine in Jordan, what do u thinks the public’s reaction would be? Keeping in mind that Jordan is a lot more conservative than Dubai. You don’t even have freedom of speech in Jordan; a problem that I think is equal to the prostitution problem. As for the banning of flikr, I have no idea what that is about. I do not like it when people start attacking other countries without understanding the complexities that occur in the country, have you ever been to Dubai? Prostitution is a big No in any country, not just Dubai. Have people been fighting it all around the world for generations? They have. Has anything changed? Not much. Well there’s a lot about Jordan that you can bash before you move onto other countries.

  9. I wish people would understand that you don’t have to be pro-western everything to appear civilized, you know as a women, as a female, putting Islam, and Arabs behind me, I would want such pictures to be banned, if anybody is a hypocrite, I think you should reconsider a few of your previous posts in which you show outrage against women being portrayed as objects rather than human beings. The pictures that have been all over the internet, as an outcry for them being banned from this magazine or that, are really ridiculous, I don’t know why waste anyone time discussing y a couple of pics of naked ladies have been banned.

  10. Sorry to hear so Roba, but I think that the really stupid part, is that all of those UAE residents can easily access Nox’s website, and check out the pics. Or they can just easily go to the beach, and even expierence that in real life, so they didn’t really save anybody from the “evils” of the world. What’s the whole point of this censorship? One way or another, people will find a way to go around it, it won’t change anything basically.

    What’s depressing, is that just when you think that something good is happening, some idiot decides to take it away, and bring us back to square one.

    Azza, so what if some American states don’t allow such magazines? That’s their problem, not ours, I just hate people keep on comparing us to other cultures, it’s pointless really.

    Standing infront of the royal palace and speaking whatever you want is just stupid: Nobody will actually notice you if you do so, the most that would happen is that the guards of the royal palace will have a pretty good laugh.

  11. sorry i triple posted but my comments werent appearing on your site the first couple of times.

  12. Batir, if you did bother to read the magazine, or at least check out their website, you would realize that there’s more to the magazine than just CHICKS in bikinis. A men’s magazine doesnt need to incorporate porn only, Playboy and Penthouse are not men’s magazines, they can be considered as porn magazines, women can even buy them. As for Nox, they have an interview with Mahmoud Massad and they’ve featured rising Arab stars and lots of smart and intelligent tid bits, varying from technology, cars and health to facts about coffee!

    It’s a shame that you actually degraded men’s magazine and made it sound as if it only promotes porn, it’s like saying that a women’s magazine would only contain images of men’s penises and images of naked male models. Isobelle, the majority of people living in Dubai, are not Muslims, surprise, they’re expats, expats include Arabs and people from other nationalities, Arabs do not essentially imply religious Muslims.

    I don’t think that images of beautiful women posing for the camera half naked is condesending, it’s their choice in life, and nobody forced them to pose for the cameras, they decided to do that on their own, I don’t think that you have any right to interfere with that. Beauty is beauty, since when was it degrading to not flaunt it?

  13. NZM, thank you for clarifying this. I hate censorship!

    Azza, yes I agree that it isn’t about free speech, I never said anything about free speech, it’s about censorship, and free speech and censorship are different topics. Second, the women are not naked and they weren’t going to be printed on the cover. So before you go on a disparaging attack on a topic not mentioned, read the post properly.

    Batir, lol, you’re not the target audience :P But seriously, first of all, will you clarify whether you looked at the content of the magazine? On a side note, why should Popular Mechanics not be enjoyed by women? I enjoy Popular Mechanics. I also enjoy Nox, I enjoy the photo stories, the features, and some of the interviews. 3adi. As for chicks, I was the one who used that word, just like I would refer to a good looking man as hotstuff.

    Isabelle, like I clearly said, I have never been to Dubai, but I am speaking with facts so I don’t know how it affects anything whether I’ve been there or not. I do see where you’re coming from when you say that the locals may find it obscene to have such material printed in the country but I personally don’t see how it would make a difference where the material is printed. How is it not hypocrisy when the magazine may have been printed in Jordan with the pictures that were banned, and it would have been sold on their shelves nonetheless? Coming to the topic of Jordan, have you ever been to Jordan? Have you ever paged through our magazines? No one will ban women in bikinis being printed in magazines. Take a look at our local magazines, especially the ones that came early on in the summer. They were filled to the brim with models wearing swimsuits. So what? What’s the big deal? No one had a cow. The children of society weren’t forever scarred by that.
    Yes, we do have a lot of issues in Jordan (but they’re not half as bad as you’re making them sound), of which I discuss when I’m in the mood, but that won’t stop me from talking about issues in other countries as well. That’s freedom of speech.
    Finally, these women posed in their bikinis because they wanted to pose. Live and let live. It’s no ones concern what an adult female does out of her own free will.

    Pheras, thanks, you’ve made some good points.

  14. Roba, Yes i have lived in Jordan and i think that you are not being completley honest here about Jordan, there are some really bad issues over there that should be critisized which are of more importance than banning the pics of bikini clad chicks, no local magazines in jordan have models in bikinis and g-strings in them, i would like you to show me one example… as for the rest of my points, thanks for ignoring them.
    One local magazine in Jordan was banned from publishing an article about Gays and Lesbians in amman, what do u have to say about that? if you want specific details, you can always e-mail me. i think that is a much more serious issue that needs the same attention. BUT! the difference is that in Amman they kept it all hush hush, so unlike dubai, this was not open for public discussion. Take a moment and think about what i just said.

  15. also i want to add that this same article that was banned from publication in amman was actually published in the dubai issue of the same magazine! cheers

  16. Excuse me Roba, whats the difference between censorship and freedom of speech? you cannot be serios saying they are not the same! Thats the most ignorant thing that i’ve heard someone say in awhile.

    “Censorship is the control of speech and other forms of human expression.”

    “Freedom of speech is the concept of being able to speak freely without censorship. ”

  17. LOL Isabelle, I did write about that, and I even linked to it in this post!

    Like I said, I don’t care WHERE the issue is. I speak about whatever I want.

  18. As for bikinis in local magazines, I’ll send you some when I get any new magazines.

  19. yes please do send me some pictures because i read these magazine and i assure you there are non.

  20. You’re going in circles Isabelle. Yes, in its literary meaning, freedom of speech is speaking without censorship- they are not one and the same, they are related. But I didn’t say anything about freedom of speech, I was merely talking about censorship.

  21. Lowfields


    I thinking you are talking at completely crossed purposes, if not actually inventing an argument out of thin air. The issue of Roba’s post is not a comparison between Dubai and Jordan – although Jordan would stack up pretty darn well if it were – but the hypocrisy of Dubai’s governmental censors banning a publication’s content on the sole basis of where it was printed.

    In other words, for the regional capital of prostitution and expat excess, it is fine to import any product as long as it can be described as “imported” (no doubt syphillis too), but somehow they can still claim cultural sensibilities when it comes to material with “Made in Dubai” stamped on it…. Hypocrisy? Absoluetly. And that was Roba’s clearly made point.

    As for NOX, there’s not a naked girl in the entire first two magazines – not even close. In fact the picture count of women is easily outnumbered by men and cars. Soft porn????? Give me a break.

  22. Ha. You have just proved that you do not read them. I don’t buy magazines often, so I only have a few issues of different local magazines lying around the house that i bought for certain articles, and I thought I’d check them out. In the few issues that I have, here are only some of the bikini shots in 3 different Jordanian magazines:

    hmm 085

    hmm 084

    hmm 083

    hmm 082

    hmm 087

    hmm 081

    hmm 079

    hmm 086

    hmm 089

    hmm 088

    (and I’m quite sure I saw a lottt more in other issues that I unfortunately don’t have)

    Sorry for shitty quality. I don’t have a scanner.

  23. Roba, check Skin mag first issue, there is a photo for a girl where she is almost naked in it …

  24. I do not think that I’m going around in circles, you clearly stated, “Azza, yes I agree that it isn’t about free speech, I never said anything about free speech, it’s about censorship, and free speech and censorship are different topics.” And I then clarified that this is an ignorant statement because they are not different topics.

    During the time I lived in Amman, local magazines did not publish pictures of girls in bikinis, now that they do, as you have pointed out to me, I would like you to understand that these pictures appear like fashion photo shoots that are marketing clothes under the fashion section of the magazine. As for this magazine Nox, from what I have seen of the published pictures on the internet, that is not the case.

    My argument is, you stated that the Dubai’s Ministry of Culture are hypocrites because they allow such magazines to be imported and then refuse to print locally. I pointed out to you that the locals in the emirates are the ones that have mixed feelings about such local publications because the target market for these magazines is the expats. As you know imported magazines are expensive and this local publication is to supply a market demand. In Dubai, this happens a lot with many different things and the locals are beginning to feel that Dubai is losing its culture and identity, and so I think Roba was too harsh in dubbing them Hypocrites, when it is obviously a classic case of confusion and squabbles between the different cultures in Dubai. It was a bit much for Roba to then say that these pictures are reflecting the reality of Dubai, but they are not because the women in bar and beaches are the expats and foreigners, and so they reflect the REALITY of expats and foreigners in Dubai. So why not have the foreigners produce their magazine in their own countries rather than Dubai just so that they accommodate to their needs? Who runds Nox? Locals or Expats? You should respect the country that you are working in; you cannot tell them how to run the country. The pictures of women that Roba linked to us are all expats and foreigners and not local women, local women swim in private beaches for females only.

    As for me, I am against these pictures because they degrade and objectify women. I do not understand what Roba’s definition of hypocrisy is, because in one of her previous posts she states, “You’d think that when people rebrand they’ll skip sexist and stereotypical notions that are becoming taboo in this day and age, but I suppose not in the Arab world, where we keep insisting on sexist, stereotypical branding of women-related products.” You didn’t find these pictures to be sexist? Or are we just pro anything that appears western by default? I think this is a better example of hypocrisy.

    I think when defending our right not to be censored, we should chose something that is a little less insulting, to women at least, who have been fighting for respect and their rights for a very long time, especially in the middle east, i for one, would not feel more liberated when i open a magazine and see a half naked women with their g-stringed ass in my face, but i don’t know about the rest of you.

  25. Lowfields

    Ahhhhh, the old canard of “objectifying women…”

    When losing an argument about one topic, introduce an utterly irrelevant red herring to try and salvage some pride.

    So, following your slightly convoluted reasoning to date, if the pictures that were banned from appearing in NOX then appeared in a fashion magazine, that would be fine? That’s NOT objectification to parade unrealistically slim or beautiful women to sell a product or an ideal??? Or is objectfication of the female body okay if its women doing the objectifying?

    I really, really hope you’ll remember that when it’s time to tell your teenage daughters about the importance of body image….

    Also, since when did Dubai have a culture and identity to preserve???? The whole place is an utter invention of the oil and gas business anyway… I wholeheartedly approve of the place; I know how to avoid all the region’s idiots for one.

    Again, returning to NOX, I know people who work there, and they’re mainly Arabs… so I’m not sure where that leaves your Orientalist reasoning.

  26. lowfields, i think you should read my comments from the beggining because i said that from the beginning, i wasnt trying to salvage some pride…. i think my comment pretty much spoke for itself and the discerning of readers know it. *pulled a galloway*

  27. whether u approve of dubai or not is not the point here, and by the way if you are an non emarati arab, you are still considered an expats. and this is NOT my orientalist reasoning, i’m telling you how locals feel about this in dubai.

  28. Lowfields

    How can I be considered an expat in Dubai if I don’t actually live there? NOX, moreover, is produced out of Amman, Jordan, with Jordanain staff, and distributed in Lebanon, Jordan, and the Gulf – it is merely printed in Dubai.

    So not only is your intra-Arab nit-picking about expats utterly meaningless in this context, so is your argument about conservative Jordanian social mores versus those of the Mall By The Sea.

  29. nzm


    Spare me the “innocent locals” diatribe because the last time I looked, the local Emiratis were still in control of the UAE.

    Now – if you make the distinction between the Emiratis not in control (no wasta and poor) and those in control (lots of wasta and rich), you’ll have a wide bridge of acceptance between what should be and what should not.

    If prostitution and girly magazines profits weren’t contributing to the wasta and wallets of some powerful Emiratis, I doubt that they would be tolerated, and in fact, they’d be driven out.

    A few months ago, we had the Dubai Chief of Police in the newspaper stating that there was a move to stamp out prostitution to stop the spread of aids. What??? Why not get rid of prostitution because it’s just simply ILLEGAL? Oh, and by the way, there has been no drop in the prostitution levels to support his statements, regardless of his motivation.

    As for magazines publishing bikini-clad girls – that’s tame to what you see passing for “dress” on some of these women in the shopping malls in Dubai nowadays. It makes me cringe that there can actually be some people stupid, ignorant and crass enough to come (un)dressed as they do into a Middle Eastern country, with no respect for the local customs or traditions. I’ve seen it change in my years here, and I’m ashamed that people would behave like this.

    So is it hypocritical? Yes – it is. Until all Emiratis can have an equal say in how this country is run, there is an unjust imbalance between what is acceptable and what is not.

    Alongside some of the Emirati population, there are lots of expats in the UAE who would gladly see the UAE values return to what they were before this “boomtime” begain to spiral out of control. Sadly, we expats (whom you purport to be the target market for the girly mags), don’t have a say in what happens in this country. If we did, we would be most vocal in attempting to bring back some of the old values which existed in earlier years. After all, these values are part of the reason why we chose to come to Dubai in the first place. Not all of us like what is happening here.

    Even more hypocritical is when Etisalat blocks innocent websites for apparently no reason, and yet “vices” such as prostitution and girly mags are ignored. And I have witnessed for myself the type of channels that can be seen on satellite TV (and the receiving dishes are everywhere in the UAE, including Emirati houses) in this country, and let me tell you, the Italian and French channels are not reading from the Qu’ran and broadcasting from Mecca!

    Until those in control start to clamp down on what is illegal and actively start to drive it out of their country, the UAE will remain in conflict with its Islamic values and heritage.

    As long as the UAE tolerates behaviour such as the Saudis who have an apartment next to ours, and who come from SA once every month, to drink, party, bring home girls, stand screaming and shouting on the verandah until 4 or 5am and show no respect for their own culture, religion, or the people around them, what chance is there?

    Somewhere along the line, some rules and regulations have to be set in place, but this piecemeal approach that is happening now is only doing more harm than good, and is only cementing the double standards that exist in this country, and which Roba is highlighting in her post.

  30. Excellent report Ruba. It is just stupid to keep on trying this kind of censorship when everything is all out in the open.

    And yes, your point is very valid, why does it matter where those bikini pictures are printed?!! If they wants to censor anything, at least be fair, and stop what is happening in your own streets on a daily basis.

    Beside, who doesn’t want to see women in bikini posing, then don’t buy such magazines!

  31. yes.. roba it’s pathetic.. in asian stores they sell playboy magazine legally in dubai, no one gives a shit.. they’re like dual-faced or whatever u call it.. pathetic losers!

  32. Lizzy

    Help me de-creep. A friend recently moved to the U.A.E. and she never answered my questions regarding Dubai. “How is Dubai?” The life there? She never answered only started sending me some really haunting music with .

    What is up with that? I think this is weird.

    I am crrrrraaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrhhhhhhhhhheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeped. I hope she is ok, and that the weather is not too hot. How HOT is it, really? I am to believe that it is quite a steam tanker.

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