Travellers across the Middle East expressed frustration Wednesday at a ban on large electronic devices for flights to the United States and Britain that has sparked confusion and speculation.
From Saturday, passengers on flights to the United States and Britain from major hubs in Turkey and the Arab world will have to check in any device larger than a smartphone, including laptops and tablets.
The United States and Britain have cited intelligence indicating passenger jets could be targeted via explosives planted in electronic devices.
Caught in the middle of the ban are thousands of travellers growing increasingly frustrated with what they see as an absurd measure.
“Is there anything else I should know before flying back home? Navy blue boxers not allowed? Should I shave?” asked an American expat living in Abu Dhabi with a direct flight to the United States next week.
As the March 25 enforcement deadline looms, passengers are growing increasingly wary of restrictions on living in and travelling from the Middle East.
“They took my laptop and my camera,” said Mustafa, who did not give his second name, as he boarded a plane out of Dubai to the United States.
The US ban affects nine airlines from eight countries: Turkey, Morocco, Jordan, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
The British ban, meanwhile, targets flights out of Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Lebanon.
Canada and France have also said they are looking into similar regulations.
– ‘Why?’ –
At the Tunis airport, a passenger flying to Canada via London said he was confused by the new measure.
“I mind because I need my laptop or my iPad. It’s a personal thing. Why do I have to put them in hold?” said Riadh, 33, adding he now feared they would be damaged or stolen.
Many were quick to flag a lack of logic behind justifications of the ban.
“Every criminal in the Middle East: ‘Oh no! We can’t take the direct flight to the US! I hate connecting flights! *Cancels criminal plans*,” Egyptian analyst Mohamed El Dahshan wrote on Twitter.
Ankara has said it plans on requesting that the US repeal the measure.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu criticised the ban as a unilateral, temporary move better replaced by “permanent” measures.
The British ban has sparked concern in tourism-dependant Tunisia, which is trying to recover from 2015 jihadist attacks that killed holidaymakers.
“It will have a negative impact on tourism,” said Mohamed Ali Toumi, the head of a Tunisian travel agents federation.
American officials have publicly cited security concerns.
“From what we know, the ban is linked to intelligence on Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula gathered by the US military,” said Mustafa Alani, a security analyst at the Dubai-based Gulf Research Center.