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Smelly Feet and an Alleged Murder in Dubai

March 13th, 2017 · No Comments · Dubai, UAE

If you lack context, this will seem like a bizarre story.

This story in The National describes an alleged murder in Dubai that stemmed from the victim being accused of having smelly feet.

The word “disproportionate” springs to mind. If smelly feet were a capital crime, most adult males would risk assassination on a regular basis.

But the episode in Dubai makes a bit more sense to me after having spent more than six years living in the United Arab Emirates.


–The men at the center of the episode seem to fit the generic UAE descriptor — “laborers” — for expatriate men who are living and working in the country, often in low-skill jobs. Both the victim and the accused are from Pakistan, we are told, and the alleged killer is 22 years old.

–Laborers usually make far more money in the UAE than they would in their home countries. That is why they put up with a difficult life away from family and friends.

They work at least eight hours a day — and sometimes more — often in demanding and dangerous conditions pertaining to infrastructure and hotel construction.

–In this case, we are told they were taking a summer midday break, which is mandated by law. The period from 12:30 to 3 p.m.

–Crucially, we see that the date of the argument and the subsequent death of one man happened on July 26 of last year. July is one of the hottest months in a very hot country, with average highs of 106 degrees Fahrenheit, and to look only at the time of publication (March 8) leaves the reader without a sense of the extreme physical demands of being outside during dangerously hot weather. The heat can put a person on edge.

–The description of the area — cramped — where the men went to rest during the 12:30-3 p.m. break gives an idea of close quarters among young men who have very little personal privacy at any time. They usually share a room with several other laborers, travel on crowded buses and work six days a week. It is a hard life.

–That someone’s feet might smell badly after working all morning in July heat, and that someone else would find that offensive … well, you can see how things could go badly wrong. Leading to an escalation in anger and insults (the accused says his family was insulted) and, allegedly, a fatal slash with a bladed weapon.

Looking back, perhaps the biggest takeaway from this story is how rarely extreme acts of violence occur, among expat laborers.

Given the crowding and the heat and minimal free time … perhaps those in the UAE should expect more incidents like this one, not fewer.

The trial continues on March 29.

The expected high in Dubai today is 92 degrees. And this is one of the cool months.


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