Rock star Michael Jackson has stirred a small controversy in the United Arab Emirates by entering the ladies room in a shopping mall. His publicist said Jackson, who arrived in Dubai this week as the guest of a champion rally driver, did not understand the Arabic sign on the door and left the bathroom as soon as he realized his mistake. But local newspapers reported that the 47-year-old performer was spotted applying make-up in the woman's toilets in a Dubai mall.
Jackson's host, Mohammed bin Sulayem, dismissed the story as rumor. "People are always interested in gossip and in portraying a negative image of (Jackson)," bin Sulayem told The Associated Press on Tuesday. The reality is that he's an easy person to be with, not demanding and not difficult."
Jackson attended an award ceremony for a regional rally championship on Monday at bin Sulayem's behest. "I invited him and he graciously accepted," bin Sulayem said.
Bin Sulayem said Jackson was considering buying property in Dubai. This week's visit is his second after a stay in August.
Several sports stars and high-profile artists have acquired property in the Emirates, including David Beckham and Julio Iglesias. However, what excited the Dubai press was Jackson's entry to a woman's bathroom. In a statement late Tuesday, Jackson's publicist, Washington-based Bain and Associates, said: "Mr. Jackson mistakenly entered a ladies room in Dubai, labeled in Arabic, during an outing with friends. Upon realizing his mistake, he quickly exited."
Toilets in Dubai's malls usually bear a sign of a man or woman. Bin Suleyman said he did not know where Jackson would be going next. The press has reported that Jackson had bought property in Bahrain, a tiny Gulf island 500 kilometers (300 miles) west of Dubai, but Bahrainis close to the star and his publicist denied this. A.M.