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Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Imagine if you were told of well-paid work in a new country, far from your impoverished home. Once you arrived, you learned the only way to make the promised money was through prostitution. She sits on a bar stool in a dark basement bar in the old quarter of Dubai, dressed in a short skirt. Her hair is bleached. Tsega's fate is shared with thousands of women in the United Arab Emirates.
The country, and especially Dubai, one of the seven emirates, is known as a centre for prostitution and sex tourism in the Middle East. A rooftop bar at a hotel in the city of Ras al-Khaima.
Women from Arab countries walked in circles or moved slowly on the stage. The customers were mainly Emiratis. Credit: Thessa Lageman. It is one of the many in the emirate where prostitutes offer their services openly, even though prostitution is strictly forbidden in the UAE and sharia courts can impose flogging as punishment. Now she earns about 20, dirhams a month. It's a big secret," she whispers and adds: "This work is really terrible.
At a hotel bar in the city of Ras al-Khaima foreign women work as prostitutes and wait for customers. The living room in the Ewa'a shelter for women and children in Abu Dhabi. The women from Nigeria said they wanted to return home as soon as possible. In a nightclub on the top floor of a hotel in the northern city of Ras al-Khaima, six women in nylon dresses slowly circle on a stage lit by coloured spotlights. Plastic flower garlands hang around their necks. The walls are draped with purple and red velvet.
At the tables in front of the stage, men dressed in the traditional Emirati long white garb known as a dishdasha are drinking strong liquor and smoking water pipes. The keyboard player sings in Iraqi Arabic: "Don't be so cruel, Syrian woman. This man is fed up with waiting. You are so stubborn. Bring your price down. Sex services in the country are also openly advertised on websites and social media. How many women do this work of their own free will and how many are coerced is unknown, says Sara Suhail, director of the Ewa'a shelters for trafficked women and children.