A trip to Dubai can offer any number of wonders to the average holidaymaker, but make a mistake and you could end up in one of the world’s worst prisons.
London-born musician Karl Williams found that out the hard way, after he was arrested along with two friends and locked up for a year in Port Rashid Prison.
The three men were arrested for possession of Spice, the synthetic cannabis, which they all furiously deny.
Williams soon learned that life behind bars was far removed from the way the movies depicted. Here, Williams talks Loaded through an average day inside one of the world’s most notorious lock-ups.
Being in prison was a weird experience. People have these preconceptions or fears about what jails like this will be like but nothing can ever prepare you for the reality.
Port Rashid was lawless. It’s a jail run by the prisoners, who exist by their own set of laws. It’s also home to the craziest mix of characters you could ever imagine.
On any average day, you will find Russia Mafia guys next to Arabic gangsters. Mumbai mafia sit alongside African gangs and there are even criminals from as far away as North Korea. Yet, somehow, these people get on with each other. Most of the time at least.
For me, most days started the same way. I would wake up in my cell and smoke Dokha – a type of tobacco that gives you a little head rush.
From there, my next thought would be food, so I would head to the canteen.
The food was not exactly nice – believe me, you would not give your dog some of the stuff we got on a daily basis – but some meals were better than others.
So if it was a good breakfast, I would usually stand by one of the doors to the canteen and offer to buy things like cheese or jam from the other prisoners.
Many of these guys didn’t have any money and, because I traded tobacco I was able to buy a bit of extra food of them for five dirham or something – which is something like £2.50 in English money.
But these days would be few and far between – getting cheese or jam at breakfast was like Christmas to me.
From there I spent a lot of my time floating about. Some of the prisoners liked to play poker so cards were a nice distraction.
I also got on well with a lot of the African gangs that were in there, so was happy to chill with them for a while.
By the time it got to lunch, you would be hoping for another decent meal. On a good day this would be something like a bit of fried chicken – not exactly KFC standard but good enough that I would buy some off other inmates again.
On a bad day though, you would be presented with some kind of unspecified meat in gravy. There were always rumours floating around too that the meat was soaked in a special gravy that was full of chemicals designed to stop the prisoners from getting erections.
From there I would go to see more of my friends inside the jail. I remember there was one guy, who was an ex American Special Forces operative. He used to tell me the most incredible stories from his time in the military. I could just sit there and listen for hours.
From there I would head off to see my Arabic gangster friends. They loved to play board games and we would regularly get into it over a game of Monopoly.
After dinner, in the evenings, my time would be spent on the phone.
Calling my missus was a priority and something that helped me get through a lot of it but I would also call my friends back home to catch up. Things like that made a difference.
Eventually you would head back to your cell for the night. Those were on the good days but I saw plenty of bad ones too.
I saw people hang themselves in that place and the kind of prison fights that rank as some of the worst things I have ever seen in my life. It was like something you would see on YouTube except right in front of my very eyes.
You can purchase or download Williams’ extraordinary account of life behind bars Killing Time here.
Loaded staff writer Jack Beresford has produced content for Lad Bible, Axonn Media and a variety of online sports and news media outlets.