25 November, 2006

Know your rights @ Time Out Dubai


By Matt Slater, November 2006

It seems everyone in Dubai has a nightmare story about how a friend of a friend has been sent to jail for doing very little wrong. With the vast majority of people having little or no knowledge of UAE law it is easy to believe these tales and they soon become part of city folklore. With that in mind, Time Out presents Know Your Rights – a guide to the laws that affect our everyday lives.

Alcohol

When people first move to Dubai one of the major questions they’re likely to ask regards the law about drinking and purchasing alcohol. A raft of new laws are set to make the way alcohol is consumed and purchased clearer, but for now, the golden rule remains that an individual must have a valid liquor license if they ever want to buy, transport or consume alcohol in the UAE. Dubai Police CID – who are in charge of controlling the situation – told Time Out they operate a zero tolerance policy. Any individual without a license caught with alcohol in their car or at home will have it confiscated and, depending on the amount they have, could face a prison sentence of up to five years. Drinking alcohol in an unlicensed place, such as in a public park or a beach, is a criminal offence whether someone has a liquor license or not. Attempting to sell beer, wine or spirits in the city is a serious offence which carries with it automatic deportation after a spell behind bars.

In the last six months getting a liquor license has become simpler as application forms – available at registered traders MMI and African and Eastern – are now also processed by the two firms rather than the individual having to take it to the police themselves. Once an individual has a license they must have it with them if they are travelling with alcohol in their vehicle and they also need the receipt of purchase. Failure to do so is, technically, a criminal matter. ‘Having the license and the receipt is essential,’ says MMI general manager Clive Rogerson. ‘At present the written rules on the license are not all in both English and Arabic but this will change. It will take away a lot of the confusion. It will also mean people cannot have excuses for being in the wrong.’

At present it is an offence for tourists to buy alcohol at Dubai Duty Free and take it to where they are staying – although it has to be said prosecutions are virtually non-existent. The same applies for expats who have just arrived and have yet to get a liquor license. ‘There are plans for people to be able to get temporary licenses which would make the situation a lot more practical,’ adds Rogerson.

When legally buying alcohol in other emirates, such as Umm Al Quwaim, a Dubai liquor license only offers protection from prosecution once a person’s vehicle is back in the city. It is a very serious offence to be carrying any amount of alcohol in Sharjah and last year more than 20 Dubai residents were jailed there after being prosecuted. Dubai Police would also like Time Out to point out alcohol-related offences are treated more harshly than equivalent offences which are not fuelled by alcohol. Also, many foreign embassies refuse to help people caught drink driving.

Public decency & living together

Non-married expatriate couples that live together are very unlikely to end up in court facing charges. But it is still an offence in Dubai and is something that is handled in co-operation between the municipality and the police. In practice it is only when the behaviour of an unmarried couple living together causes offence to a neighbour that eviction and criminal proceedings become likely. ‘The way it works is that if people are not upset or offended by something then there is no need to take strong action,’ said an officer at Bur Dubai police station. It is not an offence for groups of single men or women to live together so long as they are not doing so in an area designated for families only. The behaviour of couples – either married or unmarried – outside of the home is more of a concern to the police. Physical contact, such as holding hands, in public is not tolerated and is deemed to be insensitive. A stern warning from the police is the punishment. Anything more than holding hands crosses the threshold into a criminal matter and jail terms are handed out to people who break the boundaries of public decency. Anyone – whether you are married or unmarried – caught having sex in a public place or in a car can expect to be put in jail with deportation to follow. Homosexual acts are illegal in the UAE.

The way women dress in Dubai hit the headlines during Ramadan with wild claims expatriates were offending Muslims by wearing next to nothing. However, according to the police the number of complaints was minimal. Police say the only real problem they have during the peak tourist season is both men and women wearing trunks and bikinis when they are not at the beach or by the pool. Females going topless are not tolerated anywhere in the city and property firms such as Emaar say they have had to issue warnings about the problem as some women think it is acceptable to take off their tops if by private pools.

The remaining

26 comments:

pEtals said...

I guess these laws should be printed in EACH AND EVERY HOTEL brochure, emirates airline and any receiving port, NOT ONLY TIMES OUT, and it should be printed in Arabic and English... Some Good Examples: Oman and Singapore........

HL&H said...

"ccording to the police the number of complaints was minimal" I don't believe thats true, we complain, they don't do anything about it.

Rejected said...

Reading all that, I have no clue how UAE is the center of attraction to many different nationalities. Again, I really do not get how this contradiction of UAE is serving it?

samuraisam said...

Interesting find... but please as per the recent posting guidelines please cut down on the amount you've quoted by a fair amount.

Thanks.

trailingspouse said...

One thing that I did not know was Physical contact, such as holding hands, in public is not tolerated and is deemed to be insensitive. As someone who likes to stroll through the park holding hands with my DH (even after 33 years) I never knew this was offensive. Certainly I will stop doing so now that I have read this, but I'd like to ask our Emirati members, given the various states of western (un)dress commonly seen in Dubai these days, are you personally offended by the sight of a man & woman holding hands? (No offense intended, I'm just genuinely curious)

HL&H said...

No, holding hand is ok, its the kissing and groping and the barely there outfits that bothers us.

Anonymous said...

How ignorant are these people that enjoy drinking ?

If tobaccoa companies write down smoking symptoms, then why don't alcohol companies do the same thing ?

The pinheads never learn from their old friends that get deported.

Al Ain Taxi said...

Why is it OK for men to hold hands in public and not married couples?

Moona said...

guys it is not your country therefore you must get used to this :)

DXBluey said...

Moona - fair comment, but give us a sporting chance... just tell us the rules in a simple and clear way, for we are but simple folk after all! :)

Proud Emirati said...

@ DXBluey & petals

I agree that those laws need to be published and distributed all over the country.

Ive called the police tourism department and Ive told them over, over and over that they should publish those rules to inform tourist about the laws.

It seems that they'd prefer arresting indviduals than awaring the public about it.

Maybe they think it would give the UAE a conservative reputation than the liberal picture all of us are used to?

@Al Ain Taxi

I could explain why but does it matter?

To answer it simply married couple CAN hold hand.

gazablanca said...

..and (to add to petals comment) these laws must be printed in ALL LANGUAGES of people seeking work in the UAE, noted clearly by their embassies, and attached to their job contracts. You can't bring people to the country based on the image of open and liberal, etc. etc. only to find later (or too late) that they're actually living under a completely different and mostly conservative leagl system.

Al Sinjab said...

I'm surprised (and glad) that topless sunbathing isn't allowed at resorts in Dubai when it's so common in conservative Ras Al Khaimah. But then, many RAK tourists are only here for the beaches and sunshine whereas there are more attractions available to Dubai tourists.

fellow atheist said...

I always found it amusing how a group of locals think they can speak for the entire country's citizens.

You are offended because you want to be.

Anonymous said...

^^ exactly and u have to start obeying.

I find it also amusing that most of the people like u arent only ignorant about the basic features of the Emirati culture but also decitate their way of thinking upon the Emiraits.

Stop being an ar$e and start learning and understanding.

HL&H said...

"Why is it OK for men to hold hands in public and not married couples?" cause men hold hand in this culture as friends.

"these laws must be printed in ALL LANGUAGES of people seeking work in the UAE, noted clearly by their embassies,", sounds good, the embassies should translate them for their people sake.

Anonymous said...

Why do expatriates drink and act like an animal ?

Anonymous said...

I must say I do get embarrassed by the behaviour of many Westerners, who seem to drink more than they ever did back home.

I'm also embarrassed by the behaviour of men in general (of all nationalities), who seem to think it is ok to leer at and harrass women 24/7.

Anonymous said...

I think the problem is that the advice given in Matt Slater's article (which in the first two paragraphs I noticed had an inaccuracy - you haven't had to go to the police for nigh on two years not six months) is different to the advice given in other media who have picked up on the story.

Inconsistency doesn't help the situation.

yours truly said...

"Non-married expatriate couples that live together are very unlikely to end up in court facing charges."

If they are Western. If they are Asians, change that to "very likely".

kjtin said...

can anyone answer this? if yes, then it would be very helpful...
say someone was deported from abu dhabi...few months ago...the reason being that person was too young to be a businessman...he had a visit visa but had businessman in the profession...it wasnt his fault...they deported him back to his country india...now the main question is...can he re enter abu dhabi or dubai or any place in the UAE? is there any ban or security restriction ? please answer...would be appreciated!

Dubai property said...

You know each country is diferent. And we must respect their traditional. But anyway Dubai property is very popular among investors and tourists.

broadbandido said...

Is it ok to run in shorts and sleeveless shirt, say, around the Khaled Lagoon in Sharjah, or any public park with a running track?

Just want to know if I am offending the local's sensitivities.

Asma said...

Holding hands in public is not tolerated? says who? I have lived in Abu Dhabi for two years and I see couples of all nationalities (including Emaratis) holding hands and they do not stares or any expressions of discomfort from anyone. This particular statement in the article makes little sense, and as a Muslim I understand how in some very conservative Muslim societies this would be true, but certainly not in the UAE.

Anonymous said...

Western society, especially in the UK, respects all cultures and their cultural dress. Why can't this mutual respect be reciprocated in popular western tourist spots in the world such as the UAE?

Middle Eastern customs and religion is respected here. Why can't simply a peck on the lips or holding hands be accepted in Dubai. I admit, having sex in public is crude and a line should be drawn but not to this extent!

Anonymous said...

Imagine if the english said no stpid gowns and post boxes because it offends us aswell as your personal hygiene

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