Dubai holidays attract many British holidaymakers and it’s ideal for families, groups of friends and couples in search of sun. However, there are certain local rules and customs in the UAE that foreigners need to be sure to abide by. Railing against Dubai mores could spell trouble for Britons as what may be acceptable at home is very much frowned upon in the UAE. There’s one thing in particular that couples might like to do while enjoying a romantic break away – but they need to be careful.
It’s inadvisable to hold hands in Dubai if you are not a married couple – no matter what your relationship is with your partner back in the UK.
Relationships outside of marriage are a thorny problem in UAE as the nation is a strict Muslim country.
Public displays of affection are “frowned upon,” cautions the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO).
Married couples holding hands “is tolerated” but the Foreign Office suggests all open displays of affection are “generally not tolerated.”
Kissing is also not allowed. According to the FCO, “there have been several arrests for kissing in public.”
All sex outside marriage is illegal in Dubai. “If the UAE authorities become aware that you’re conducting a sexual relationship outside marriage (as recognised by them), you run the risk of prosecution, imprisonment and/or a fine and deportation,” said the FCO.
“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.”
Dubai’s neighbour Saudi Arabia has long been considered a less tolerant country than the UAE.
However, Saudi Arabia is now opening up to foreign visitors as it makes tourist visas available for the first time – described as a “historic moment” for Saudi Arabia by Tourism Minister Ahmad al-Khateeb.
Part of this drive to boost tourism has seen the strict kingdom permitting unmarried foreign couples to rent hotel rooms together.
Couples previously had to prove they were married before they could stay in a hotel room together.
“All Saudi nationals are asked to show family ID or proof of relationship on checking into hotels,” the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage said in a statement.
“This is not required of foreign tourists. All women, including Saudis, can book and stay in hotels alone, providing ID on check-in.”
Alcohol remains banned in Saudi, though, whereas Dubai is slightly more relaxed when it comes to booze – although rules are still in place.
It’s illegal in Dubai to drink or be drunk in public and is a “punishable offence under UAE law,” cautioned the UK Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO).
This law can be very confusing for British tourists as drinking alcohol itself is permitted, but only in licensed venues.
“It is possible for tourists and visitors to buy and drink alcohol in licensed venues, such as hotels, restaurants and clubs,” explained the FCO.