Two weeks ago I mentioned about being more careful when taking photos in the UAE and I think that I’m being too careful that I did forego my opportunity to visit the International Defense Exhibit the other day (showcasing all sorts of weapons and intimidating security tools), fearing that I won’t be able to control myself and take a photo of something which will probably be detrimental to me. (Yes, I underestimated my risk appetite.) It’s most challenging when we do things which we never thought (or tried to ignore) will harm us. In the UAE, there were a number of cases when the person who filed for rape case gets punished, too, i.e. because of illegal sex (outside marriage) if the person raped is single and illegal drinking (outside licensed premises) if that was a contributory reason that a person was raped.
This post does not intend to demean anyone, but most of the expats who were caught in the I-should-not-be-punished-if-I-did-it-in-my home-country situations in the UAE are British nationals (or the others are more careful?). Hence, it’s not surprising that the British Embassy has recently issued a booklet titled “UAE Advice for British Nationals” to spread the advice to the British travelers. That’s a commendable initiative and its circulation, even to non-British, will be helpful. In a nutshell, here are the dos and don’ts:
- Alcohol consumption is allowed only by non-Muslims in licensed restaurants, pubs, clubs, private venues and at home (for residents who have acquired an alcohol license).
- Drugs are strictly forbidden, even a residual amount.
- Sexual relationships outside of marriage are illegal, irrespective of any relationship you may have with your partner in the UK [I’d like to add: any nationality]. Cohabiting, including in hotels, is also illegal.
- The UAE has a zero-tolerance policy towards drinking and driving.
- Bouncing a cheque is illegal in the UAE.
- Dancing is allowed in the privacy of your home or at licensed clubs.
- Sexual harassment or randomly addressing women in public or taking their photos without permission is strictly frowned upon.
- Offensive language, spitting (remember Tiger Woods’ spitting controversy in Dubai?) and aggressive behaviour (including hand gestures) are viewed very seriously and can result in imprisonment and deportation.
- Holding hands for married couples is tolerated but kissing and hugging are considered offences against public decency.
- Smoking is forbidden in government areas, offices and shopping malls.
- Working without the proper visa is illegal. You cannot partake in any kind of paid employment without first obtaining a work visa.
Most of the pointers are actually generic facts and must be observed even in other countries. Hence, it should not be an excuse if the other embassies do not issue a booklet like this for their nationals. However, for the grey areas and/or extremely surprising disallowed acts in the UAE, that’s where the information campaign must be strengthened. I opine that the awareness must start from one’s self and should not solely depend on the embassy. When I first came here three years ago, I initially felt that there were so many restrictions. But soon enough I realized that there are laws which are there for the longest time, so no one should be extremely surprised and as we stand by the respect for one’s culture (the best strategy is to put ourselves in the shoes of UAE nationals), to abide became a natural thing just like a habit. When one’s back to his home country, he may want to party all he wants or stay as the “new” him.
Discouraged to come here? Don’t be. I can vouch that it’s indeed nice being here. 🙂