Laws and customs in Dubai: All you need to know

Dubai laws and customs

These are the laws and customs you need to know about ahead of your trip to Dubai.

A UK tourist allegedly gang raped in Dubai is reportedly facing jail for ‘having sex outside of marriage’ – while two suspects were allowed to fly back to Birmingham Airport.

The 25-year-old woman reportedly told police she was attacked by two British men in the United Arab Emirates city last month.

But instead of being treated as a victim, the woman was reportedly locked up on suspicion of ‘extra-marital sex’.

UAE laws and customs are very different to those in the UK.

Holidaymakers are being warned to ensure that they don’t offend, especially during the holy month of Ramadan or if they intend to visit religious areas.

You are strongly advised to familiarise yourself with, and respect local laws and customs.

Here are just a few of them:

Importing goods

Importing pork products and pornography into the UAE is illegal.

Videos, books, and magazines may be subject to scrutiny and may be censored.

Drugs

There is zero tolerance for drugs-related offences.

The penalties for trafficking, smuggling and possession of drugs (even residual amounts) are severe.

Sentences for drug trafficking can include the death penalty and possession of even the smallest amount of illegal drugs can lead to a minimum four-year jail sentence.

The Emirati authorities count the presence of drugs in the blood stream as possession.

Some herbal highs, like Spice, are illegal in the UAE.

Many people stop off in UAE airports on their way to other destinations.

UAE airports have excellent technology and security, so transiting passengers carrying even residual amounts of drugs may be arrested.
Burj Al Arab in Dubai

Alcohol

Non-Muslim residents can get a liquor licence to drink alcohol at home and in licensed venues.

These licences are valid only in the Emirate that issued the licence. Residents must also get a permit to be able to drink in licensed venues.

Alcoholic drinks are served in licensed hotels and clubs, but it is a punishable offence to drink, or to be under the influence of alcohol, in public.

The legal age for drinking alcohol is 18 in Abu Dhabi (although a Ministry of Tourism by-law allows hotels to serve alcohol only to those over 21), and 21 in Dubai and the Northern Emirates (except Sharjah, where drinking alcohol is illegal).

Passengers in transit through the UAE under the influence of alcohol may also be arrested.

Illegal items

Weapons, ammunition, body protection and related equipment (like cleaning kits, gun belts, etc), however small the quantity and whatever the purpose, all require permission before entering or transiting the UAE.

Equipment like satellite phones, listening or recording devices, radio transmitters, powerful cameras or binoculars, may require a licence for use in the UAE.

Electronic cigarettes are illegal in the UAE and are likely to be confiscated at the border.

Seek advice from the UAE Embassy in London.
Dubai

Dress code

Women should dress modestly when in public areas like shopping malls.

Clothes should cover the tops of the arms and legs, and underwear should not be visible. Swimming attire should be worn only on beaches or at swimming pools.

Cross-dressing is illegal.

Offensive behaviour

Swearing and making rude gestures (including online) are considered obscene acts and offenders can be jailed or deported.

Take particular care when dealing with the police and other officials.

Public displays of affection are frowned upon, and there have been several arrests for kissing in public.

Relationships outside marriage

All sex outside marriage is illegal, irrespective of any relationship you may have with your partner in the UK.

Same-sex marriages are not recognised and all homosexual sex is illegal.

If the UAE authorities become aware that you’re conducting a sexual relationship outside marriage (as recognised by them), you run the risk of prosecution, imprisonment and/or a fine and deportation.

It’s against the law to live together, or to share the same hotel room, with someone of the opposite sex to whom you aren’t married or closely related.

Due to the laws on sex outside marriage, if you become pregnant outside marriage, both you and your partner could face imprisonment and/or deportation.

An unmarried woman who gives birth in the UAE may also encounter problems when registering the birth of the child in the UAE, and could be arrested, imprisoned or deported.

To get a birth certificate from the UAE authorities, you must provide a marriage certificate and the authorities may compare the date of the marriage against the estimated date of conception.
Fireworks explode from the Burj Khalifa, world's tallest building in Dubai, at midnight to celebrate the New Year

Photography/social media

Photography of certain government buildings and military installations isn’t allowed
Don’t photograph people without their permission.
Men have been arrested for photographing women on beaches.
Posting material (including videos and photographs) online that are critical of companies or individuals, or related to incidents in the UAE, or appearing to abuse/ridicule the country or its authorities may be considered a crime punishable under UAE law.

Leave a Reply