Jul 25, 2018 at 15:04

16 Things You Should Avoid Doing When You’re In Dubai

by Ankit Subarno

There are a lot of things you do out of habit which may clash with the local law and as a result can end you in prison. From dancing in public to flipping the bird, there are a lot of things that can put an untimely halt to that perfect holiday trip.  

1. Cross-dressing can land you in jail with heavy fines levied.

Dubai, being a conservative community, is hostile towards homosexuality. Dressing up as opposite to your sex is viewed in the same light as being gay. In 2008, police detained 40 cross-dressing tourists. Comic-Con? Anyone?


2. It is illegal for unmarried couples to stay together in a hotel.

Cohabitation can result in a fine, imprisonment and deportation. 

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3. Drinking in public is not allowed and neither is being drunk in public.

Drinking out in public or even being drunk can attract penalties which can be in form of fines, imprisonment, or even deportation. Drink only at home or at a bar.


4. Possession of drugs can land you in jail for the entire life or even put to death.

Even a tiny amount of illicit drugs in your blood or urine is considered as possession in Dubai.

In 2008, a British tourist was sentenced to four years in jail after the customs officers found a tiny speck of cannabis stuck to his shoe. 

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5. Don't carry pork or... Wait, what are you even thinking?

Make sure that you lock that piece of meat inside your refrigerator before you set foot in Dubai. 

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6. Public display of affection or even hugging in public is not acceptable. 

While holding hands is okay for married couples, kissing or hugging in public is not.

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7. Hurling obscenities will get you fined or worse.

Dubai is very conservative when it comes to bad language. In 2016, a court ordered the retrial of a man who was convicted of swearing at a colleague in a WhatsApp message.


8. Dancing in public is forbidden and classified as indecent and provocative.

Dancing is allowed only in the privacy of licensed clubs or at home. Listening to loud music is also prohibited in Dubai.

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9. Using the left hand to eat or to accept refreshments is considered as unclean. 

The left hand is considered unclean in all Arab cultures as the left hand is used for cleaning oneself after going to the bathroom. If you are a left-handed person, you might want to awaken your ambidextrous self.


10. Eating in public during Ramadan can land you in jail for up to a month.

Article 313 of the Penal Code of UAE considers it a crime for anyone to consume food or even drink in public during Ramadan. This applies to tourists as well. All restaurants remain closed anyway during the fasting period.

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11. Criticizing Islam or the ruling families is punishable by law.

Thou shalt not criticize the religion of a land thou art visiting, 'cuz that is insensitive and foolish at the same time. 

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12. Pointing the sole of your shoe in the direction of an Arab is viewed as an insult.

The shoe is considered dirty because it is on the ground and associated with the foot, the lowest part of the body. So make sure that when you sit with your legs crossed, your soles do not point towards an Arab.

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13. Thumbs up is the Western equivalent of the middle finger.

What you think you're saying: "Eyyy good job!"

What you're actually saying: "Eyyy I'm going to jam my thumb up your anus!"

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14. Showing the OK sign is considered offensive as it denotes the evil eye.

You may want to show the 'OK sign' to the chef after he feeds you the best kebabs of your life, but don't. Licking the plate clean, literally, would be a better option. Okay?

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15. Obscene hand gestures can attract jail time or a heavy fine.

If someone overtakes you in the highway just breathe in and out and keep that bird locked up in a pocket.

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16. Taking photos of other people without their consent is illegal and you can be fined for doing so.

According to Article 378 of UAE Penal Code, taking photos and videos of people without their consent is invading their privacy. The camera in such circumstance will be confiscated and the recordings destroyed, but the photographer may have to pay a fine and be imprisoned.


While some of these points may seem weird to you, you must realize that every community has its own traditions which do not always align with your sense of normativity.

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