The Independent, a newspaper in London, published these helpful tips in response to a number of their citizens getting caught up in the culture clash here. Just thought I’d share:

Dubai might boast lush beaches, dozens of nightclubs and attract the excruciatingly rich – along with the downright tacky – but don’t let that deceive you into thinking it’s Ibiza-on-the-Persian-Gulf. The City of Gold is a strict Muslim society, where Ramadan is observed by locals. Drunkenness is banned, as are Public Displays of Affection (kissing and cuddling). In October 2008, the British expatriate couple Michelle Palmer, then 36, and Vince Acors, then 34, were jailed for three months for having sex on a local beach. Now a Dubai-based marketing executive Ayman Najafi, 24, from Palmers Green, and a British tourist Charlotte Lewis, 25, face up to a month in the slammer for allegedly kissing while drunk in a restaurant. It looks like this Middle Eastern tourist trap is a manners minefield – one accidental beach-side slip of the towel and you could face a hefty fine. As a former expat who braved the mores of Dubai’s cash-rich, but religiously strict society, here are some tips on how to avoid a jail sentence while soaking up the tax-free lifestyle.


If you’re getting physical with a love interest or partner you can be fined for kissing in public, in the back of a cab, at night, in the day, in a restaurant, bar, nightclub or outside. It’s illegal to be drunk in public, so inebriation isn’t an excuse – it’s an extended jail term.


If you’re a tourist, and you’re ill before you fly out to Dubai, limit your intake of medicine, or at least carry a prescription. Dubai’s government has banned a long list of common medicinal drugs – including codeine and morphine – which if discovered in your bloodstream can lead to up to four years in prison. Needless to say, recreational drugs prohibited by the British Government are hugely frowned upon.


Ladies shouldn’t wear a bikini at the shopping mall, or low-cut or revealing tops, certainly not near places of religious significance. It’s also best to avoid any potentially intrusive photography – for example around mosques. Swearing and rude gestures could lead to grief from the authorities.


Even if it’s easy to get a loan, you should mind your money. Some estimates put 40 per cent of those currently in Dubai’s Central Jail as being there for not having paid off their bank debts. If a cheque bounces, it can also land you a short spell at Sheikh Mohammed’s Pleasure.


It’s a seriously unwise idea to get into a fight with an Emirati (the local men wearing dishdasha – white traditional robes). Court rulings are decided by a single judge, rather than a jury, and connections can be every bit as important as evidence. If you do get into a fight (and we really, really advise against it), try not to do it when drunk. Or while wearing a bikini.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s