Dubai is an exciting place on the Persian Gulf, but one should not consider it the cool destination such as Vegas of the Middle East. While Dubai is diverse and is one of the most tolerant, stress-free, multi-ethnic destinations in the region, visitors much watch their behaviour to some point.
All that is considered appropriate in other countries may be unsuitable if not illegal in Dubai. One must know the local rules before visiting Dubai. If caught the consequences may be dire. There have been instances where a foreigner has been put in jail for unknowingly committing an offense.
A few basic guidelines and cultural sensitivities are required to be followed and visitors can have a great time without upsetting anyone or to breach any local laws.
Here are some definite things not to do when in Dubai:
In 2016, the holy month of Ramadan is expected to start on 6 June and finish on 5 July.
It is not permitted to import pork products and pornography into the UAE, it is illegal. Even videos, books, and magazines may be subject to scrutiny and may be censored.
There is zero tolerance for drugs-related offences. The consequences for trafficking, smuggling and possession of drugs (even residual amounts) are very severe. Punishments for drug trafficking can comprise of the death penalty and possession of even the smallest amount of illegal drugs can lead to a minimum 4-year jail sentence. The Emirati authorities check and count the presence of drugs in the blood stream as possession. Some herbal highs, like Spice, are illegal in the UAE.
People who stop off in UAE airports on their way to other destinations must be careful and follow the laws. UAE airports have first-rate technology and security, so transiting passengers carrying even residual amounts of drugs may be arrested.
It is allowed for non-Muslim residents to get a liquor licence to drink alcohol at home. 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 settings.
Alcoholic beverages and drinks are served in licensed hotels and clubs, but it is a illegal 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.
Electronic cigarettes are illegal in the UAE and are likely to be confiscated at the border.
Follow dress code
Women are requested to 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.
The hotels take a photocopy of passport or other ID, it is normal. Visitors can’t stay in a hotel if they are under 18 years old and not accompanied by an adult.
Swearing and making rude gestures (including online) are considered indecent doings and offenders can be jailed or deported. One must take care when dealing with the police and other officials.
Public displays of affection are not acceptable, and there have been many arrests for kissing in public.
Cross-dressing is illegal.
Relationships outside marriage
All sex outside marriage is considered illegal. Same-sex marriages are not recognised and all homosexual sex is illegal. If the UAE authorities come to know of a sexual relationship outside marriage (as recognised by them), people can be prosecuted, imprisoned and/or a fine and deportation can be carried out too. 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.
The UAE is a tolerant society and private life is respected, although sexual activity outside marriage, including homosexual activity, particularly where there is any public element, or the behaviour has caused offence. This rule applies both to expatriate residents and to tourists.
To purchase a property in the UAE, one must take appropriate professional advice from lawyers for Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Any kind of financial crimes, including fraud, bouncing cheques (including post-dated and ‘security cheques’) and the non-payment of bills (including hotel bills) can often result in imprisonment and/or a fine. Bank accounts and other assets can also be frozen.
Bail is generally not available to non-residents of the UAE who are arrested for financial crimes. Those convicted will not generally be released from jail until the debt is paid or waived and they may even remain in jail after a debt has been paid if there is an outstanding sentence to be served.
Photography of certain government buildings and military installations is not permitted. One must not photograph people without their permission. Men have been arrested for photographing women on beaches. It is advised to be careful while clicking pictures – particularly near military sites, government buildings and airports.
Weapons and related equipment
Weapons, ammunition, body protection and related equipment (like cleaning kits, gun belts, etc), however small the quantity and whatever the purpose, all need required permission before entering or transiting the UAE.
Various equipment such as satellite phones, listening or recording devices, radio transmitters, powerful cameras or binoculars, may require a licence for use in the UAE. It is advised to take permission from the embassy.
Photo courtesy: www.english.alarabiya.net