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German hotel implements shari'a for Saudi Arabian sports team stay

April 20, 2006

Hotel cleans up for Saudis

The pictures of naked women are being removed from the hotel's health spa, the hard-core porn channels switched off and all the alcohol will be removed from the mini bars before Saudi Arabia arrives.

Germany is rolling out the red carpets for the 31 foreign teams and a million overseas visitors heading its way for the World Cup but the small resort town of Bad Nauheim north of Frankfurt is busy taking away temptation for its Muslim guests.

Few places in the world are as liberal as Germany when it comes to public nudity and access to alcohol, where even fast-food restaurants sell beer with burgers and teenagers are able to buy drinks before they can drive cars.

Prostitution is legal in Germany and the government is not too prude to collect tax on it.

Yet the luxurious Hotel Dolce Bad Nauheim is doing all it can to shield the Saudi Arabia team from all those western ways when they take up 59 of its 159 rooms on May 27 for the finals. The Saudis play Spain, Ukraine and Tunisia in the opening group stage.

"We do have a photo exhibition in the pool area which shows a lot of skin and it goes without saying that it will be removed by then," Michel Prokop, the hotel's general manager, told Reuters."

"There are 20 tasteful portrait photos, but out of courtesy there will be no skin and no breasts," he added.

There are also five art nouveau paintings hanging in a theatre in the park that belongs to the hotel. The paintings by Wilhelm Kleukens feature naked boys wearing wings - and will come down.

"We're following some basic 'do's and don'ts'. The whole staff is taking cross cultural training sessions to make them aware of the differences of Germany and Saudi Arabia."

Prokop, who lived in Egypt for two years said all 123 hotel staff members have been taking eight-hour courses in sensitivity training and on top of that are learning some basic Arabic phrases such as "Hello", "Welcome" and "Have a nice day".

"Among the things they're learning is about dress codes, that skirts should not be too short," he said, using words last heard in Germany in the 1960s.

"To avoid all problems, all women staffers are going to wear trousers instead of dresses."

The Dolce is also planning to make some adjustments to the Pay-TV channels and contents of the small room refrigerators.

"We will leave the Pay-TV on in their rooms but the porn movie channels will of course be turned off," said Prokop, 47.

"All the alcohol will be removed from the mini bars and replaced with soft drinks," he added.

"They will be able to watch 35 Arabic language TV channels in their rooms so they can see all the (World Cup) games in their own language."

With the help of the local Islamic community, the hotel will set up a separate prayer room and will also remove bibles from Saudi rooms.

Yet despite all efforts to make the Saudis feel at home, dangers seem to lurk around every corner at the hotel with the address "Elvis Presley Square 1" - in honour of the American singer who lived here from 1958 to 1960 while he was in the US army.

Bad Nauheim, a pleasant town of 31,000 which is 30km north of Frankfurt, won the bidding from among 110 rivals to host one of the 31 foreign teams and Prokop says Saudi Arabia had been their first choice.

"It's a kind of dream team for us and the town," he said. "They were our preferred team. We have a long history of ties to Saudi Arabia."

In 1959, King Saud bin Abdul-Aziz spent four weeks in Bad Nauheim with a 70-member delegation that the town still talks about. They're hoping the Saudi team's stay may spark a rejuvenation of commercial ties with the kingdom.

"We're very excited to be hosting Saudi Arabia," said Prokop. Saudi Arabia flags will be hoisted atop about 30 public buildings in the town in honour of the visitors.

Despite Bad Nauheim's meticulous preparations for their visitors, this is still Germany where nudists sometimes frolic in corners of public parks on hot summer days.

There is always the possibility of running into naked men and women.

"No, I don't expect any complications like that," said Prokop. "I don't think there will be any nude sunbathing here in Bad Nauheim. We're a decent town."

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