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July 18, 2008

No Shirt, No Shoes...Problem? Sunbathing in the Middle East

Not coming to a Dubai boardwalk anytime soon.
AP Photo

by Beata Loyfman

A few weeks ago, we did round-ups of our picks for clothing-optional hotel zones in the U.S. Check them out here and here. This week we delve into the Middle East, where wandering around in a bikini (let alone in the buff) might incur a penalty far worse than unsightly tan lines, as these 79 people can attest.

But since more and more travelers are heading to the Middle East--the region welcomed a record 46 million international visitors in 2007, according to the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer--it would help to know where it's safe to disrobe and enjoy that burning sun without worrying about going to prison.

The trick is to show skin only at Western-friendly resorts:

The name of Shangri-La's Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa in Oman doesn't lie. The three-hotel resort on Al Jissah Bay is truly heavenly. Private beaches and a sprawling infinity pool shelter guests from the eyes of the law (and propriety), so you can wear your skimpiest without being arrested. In addition, the Chi spa has single-sex rhassuls and hammams for optimal (i.e. naked) pore expansion.

Similarly, Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai, that mecca of self-aggrandizing opulence, has several hotels and even a faux Arabian souk in one monster resort. A private beach connects it to the neighboring Burj Al Arab (the one that looks like a sail). Because of their popularity among bling-enamored Russian millionaires, Dubai's resorts are desensitized to displays of skin (unless you strip completely, which is not advised). By the way, if you see a pasty middle-aged British couple, it's probably Mr. and Mrs. Adams, David Beckham's in-laws, who now reside in his Dubai mansion.

Perhaps the most clothing-relaxed place in the Middle East is Israel, where it's not necessary to confine your semi-nakedness to a private beach. Here, you have the option of strutting your stuff on two seas, Red and Dead. Just watch that you don't have any cuts--that sea salt burns!


All this talk about hot (weather, that is) nakedness makes me wonder about the opposite. Aside from the Polar Bears Club, which is really centered around the specific activity of swimming, are there resorts for people who would enjoy the occasional cold naked lounging experience? Inquiring and currently clothed minds want to know.

I suspect that the real option in Oman is to have a mobile base to be really exclusive

True. And since inquiring minds are inquiring, we're happy to oblige. Check back next week for details on how to organize your own seafaring expedition (naturism is optional).
- Beata Loyfman

Um... In Israel that would Red, Dead and the Med (surely the better option!)

Check out what they're offering in NYC: naked yoga and naked dining.

Downward facing dog anyone?
-- Beata Loyfman

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