Dubai is the Las Vegas of the Middle East, if Las Vegas wore a burka. It's the party city of the United Arab Emirates, where the pious can taste the underside of their most carnal desires among nightclubs, fake islands, and the tallest and weirdest skyscrapers and seven star hotels. Somewhere in the cross-hairs of this juxtaposition lies the true character of the conflicting Arab spirit: a politic that should be united under the banner of the Ummah, yet finds itself in endless devious contradictions, civil war, and sectarian violence.
I was there a few years back when I realised just how many sex workers were operating out of a single hotel, under the cover of obscure phrasing and disguised propositions. "You can't just ask them to fuck you here bro," I remember one American soldier telling me. "It's old school, you need to go back to their place and work out the prices low-key."
I wanted to dig down to the underbelly of this strange industry, so after a series of phone calls and Skype conversations a Ukrainian pimp living in Dubai agreed to talk about his lucrative career. He was a pale man, dressed in a black suit with an iced-out Rolex and Burberry polo. Here's what Alex* said about running sex workers in a country where sex work is both illegal and unmentionable.
VICE: So you're Ukrainian. How did you get into the sex industry in Dubai?
Alex: I was working as a consultant for an engineering company in Jeddah. As I worked up the corporate ladder, my job became more about spending time with clients as they travelled to Saudi Arabia and taking them away on weekends to Dubai. I established some great contacts and eventually just moved to Dubai to where I was subcontracted by various companies and banks to show their clients a good time.
Like a professional party guy?
You're right, my job is more than just pimping or prostitution. I cater to all the needs of my clients. We are tied to the major hotels and nightclubs. Whenever they receive high profile guests that want to throw a party or treat their guests to something special they call me. Everyone that links us up gets a cut and we have built our reputation on protecting the identity of our clients. We've organised parties for celebrities, politicians, and gangsters. We are all different, not everyone cares about fucking blonde whores with big tits, some rappers come and want to smoke hash in an underwater hotel, businessman sometimes want to fire AKs off a camel or out of a Lamborghini in the desert. I can help them to enjoy life and let go when they're in Dubai. This is bad boy paradise, and they can forget the real world for a bit.
What was the weirdest party you've ever had to organise?
There was an American businessman who wanted 10 whores in burkas to meet him in a tent in the desert. We decked out the tent with sound systems, an outdoor jacuzzi, and huge beds beneath the sky. He strictly did not want the women to take the face part of the burka off when they removed their clothes. He was a very strange man. He would watch the servants have sex with the women. He didn't want alcohol or anything. Just G-Classes full of women in burkas.
What about weird parties for locals?
There was a Sheikh from Yemen who wanted me to organise 30 African women and enough Viagra to kill an elephant, all to be served in an hour's time. He invited me to the orgy. I told him, "No, please enjoy." And then I sat in the lobby and drank cognac until the sun rose and watched as room service kept running towels into the room. When they were finished it was like a bomb had gone off in the hotel. I had to organise steam cleaners. There were all kinds of stains in that fucking room.
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I take it he wasn't a religious man?
The Islamic issue shouldn't interrupt a good time. We are all animals. We have desires. I am like a hunter. I bring together the elements. The sin is on your shoulders. Maybe I work for the devil in their eyes. But these people are not children, and religion sometimes has its time and place and in Dubai, behind the scenes, we all understand that. During the day, in the public eyes, be a religious man, but if you've worked hard you should treat yourself at night. Sinning is very natural.
You don't get scared about the authorities or the religious police?
We have our connections and are smart enough to operate discretely. We can't really talk about this stuff as it's a sensitive issue. We look after the right people. We aren't harming anyone. I know men who have received lashes because they got careless and needed to have their pants pulled up. We try to keep our business away from locals and Saudis. Of course we aim to sell our services to foreigners and big businessman but money talks. For the right price, you can get away with anything here, just like everywhere else in the world. You can control anyone with sex or money. Everything else is bullshit.
How do you feel about treating women this way? Human trafficking is also a problem around the world.
This is all bullshit. Ask any woman in this venue if she is being forced to be here. Where we come from, these women get paid shit—if they get paid at all. They come from broken places I admit, but they are earning their keep. Some women I know came from the poorest villages in my country and now they drive Ferraris and live in high rises. Ask if they're being forced and they will laugh at you. The girl I used to fuck in high school lives in Biarritz in France with a millionaire philanthropist. Sure not every hooker lives like this but we aren't in this business to exploit people.
How much do you charge?
If you want to fuck our women, it's not cheap. We don't need anyone's business and our reputation speaks for itself. It's a referral only service. The girl's prices start at $1000 per hour. The boys start at $500.
Yeah, not really for the Arabs, mainly for foreigners. And it's very strange, we have had some violent incidents and it's always with the male hookers. These foreign businessmen often feel confused about their feelings. They will sleep with the prostitutes then beat them out of shame and embarrassment. Like cowards, they can't face their own sexuality. They think they're tough guys but they like to be fucked in the ass. I don't understand it.
How do you deal with these guys?
I prefer to have thugs beat them the same way. But in business sometimes you have to be civil first. The hookers need the money, they don't benefit from violent revenge so we take a sum for them.
Aside from the money, why do you do this job?
I like to satisfy people. In a way, I'm like a whore. I know the secret desires of my clients and I love to organise and fulfil them. I love to greet them afterwards, and see the look on their faces. I'm human, I like to impress people. I always loved seeing the way gangsters act in American movies, everyone that comes from poor places loves the bad guy image. They love to be a rebel. I can do that, get paid for it, and everyone thanks me. On both sides. I'm not distributing kilos of drugs to poor neighbourhoods. I could have done that and made a lot more money.
Do you think your job is important?
Some immature people think that you can only be good or bad. What makes this desire good? And that one bad? Who decides? But I believe in negotiation. In marriage I negotiate a balance with my wife: some things I like about her, some things I don't, but we make it work because we are adults and we negotiate. Our morals are just a negotiation, as long as they don't fall out of balance in any way we will be healthy. I provide services that some people think are bad but they are natural and need to be experienced every now and again. In Dubai they call these bad things haram, in the west they call it freedom or liberation. Either way they are necessary and I provide a luxury service for those that have the freedom in the Arab world to fulfil these desires. Good or bad.
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*Alex would only speak to us under the condition of anonymity, so Alex isn't his real name.