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Emirates Advises Citizens Not To Wear Traditional Dress While Traveling

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, prime minister of United Arab Emirates, wears traditional dress as he listens to an Emirati employee while visiting al-Maktoum International Airport in Dubai.
Kamran Jebreili
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, prime minister of United Arab Emirates, wears traditional dress as he listens to an Emirati employee while visiting al-Maktoum International Airport in Dubai.

The government of the United Arab Emirates is advising its citizens to avoid wearing the country's traditional dress while traveling abroad.

It came after an Emirati man wearing the country's flowing white robe, called a kandura, a headscarf and a headband was mistaken for a member of ISIS while traveling in the United States. He was handcuffed by the police and later hospitalized in Avon, Ohio, on Wednesday. The incident was widely reported in Emirati media.

The tweet advises UAE citizens to avoid wearing Emirati national dress while traveling abroad, and particularly in public places, "in order to preserve their safety." It came from an official government Twitter account used to provide advice to Emiratis traveling abroad.

A separate statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs "urged women to abide by bans on face veils in parts of Europe," as Reuters reported.

The statements do not explicitly link the new guidance to the Ohio incident.

Cleveland's WEWS reported that the incident began when "the sister of a hotel clerk" at the Fairfield Inn & Suites dialed 911 from the hotel lobby, claiming she heard businessman Ahmed al-Menhali "pledging his allegiance to ISIS over the phone."

The news station released a body camera video from the Avon police department showing what happened next. "There he is! On the ground, do it now!" an officer yelled. The squad rushed towards Menhali, guns pointed. "Grab his hands, cuff him up!"

One officer held Menhali's chest down with his knee as he lay on the ground. Menhali was visibly confused and said, "What is this? I'm a tourist and this is not good," as the police rifled through his pockets. They tossed at least one of his cellphones into the bushes.

Police removed the handcuffs less than 10 minutes later. But shortly after, Menhali collapsed on the ground and EMTs transported him to the hospital in a stretcher.

Menhali had been recovering from a stroke in Ohio since April, according to The National, a UAE news site. He said that he had suffered a panic attack during his ordeal with the police.

"They were brutal with me," Menhali told The National. "They pressed forcefully on my back. I had several injuries and bled from the forceful nature of their arrest.

He had been trying to book a room at the hotel, the news site added. "I always wear my traditional clothes during all my travels and never encountered such a thing," Menhali said.

Avon's police chief and mayor have apologized to Menhali. "No one from the police department wished to disrespect you, that was not the intent of any of the actions of our officers," said Police Chief Richard Bosley in video carried by WEWS. "It is a very regrettable circumstance that occurred for you. You should not have been put in that situation like you were."

The city is now reviewing its policies, WEWS reported. "The woman who made the false claim could still face charges," it added.

The UAE summoned the U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission Ethan Goldrich over the incident, Emirati state news agency WAM reported.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Merrit Kennedy is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She covers a broad range of issues, from the latest developments out of the Middle East to science research news.
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