Things You Can't Do In Dubai

Dubai is Under Shariah Law

Dubai is part of the United Arab Emirates, which is a Muslim country and hence is under Shariah Law. Although Dubai is not as strict as some other Muslim countries in the Middle East, there are still strict rules, laws and protocols that must be followed. Some rules are unwritten and just expected of people, some are in fact law and others are law but are subject to the discretion of the police.

You may have read various court cases that have been reported where someone has been the victim of a crime and has then gone on to be prosecuted themselves. For example the lady who was raped but then was charged with unlawful sex. A British couple who were attacked and also charged with sex outside of marriage. Another case of a lost passport which when reported was led to a prosecution of a completely different matter. A man was arrested and jailed for a month, then deported for giving the finger to a policeman.

So really the lesson in this is, if you do anything wrong however small, or if anything happens to you that you need to report to the police, think carefully before you do so to make sure you have not inadvertently broken any laws yourself as you will be called to account for these.

Stop and think what you are doing in case you might be breaking the law.
Stop and think what you are doing in case you might be breaking the law.

Some Illegal Things In Dubai

So, some of the things that you cannot do are as follows:

  • Be abusive to anyone, particularly a local, including words, signs or gestures. In particular do not use any kind of hand gestures whatever the situation as you can be arrested and jailed for this.
  • Drink alcohol – well this is a bit of a grey area (see my previous article) but the long and short of it is, if you do not have a licence then you cannot drink alcohol full stop. If you do have a licence and drink then a) don’t drive and b) don’t get drunk and abusive.
  • Take or carry any sort of illegal drugs – More drugs are illegal in Dubai than you might think. For example codeine is an illegal drug that is commonly available over the counter in other countries. Poppy seeds are also counted as a drug so don’t have any excess on you when travelling to Dubai perhaps even after eating a poppy seed bun.
  • Cover Up – this is not a law (I believe) but you should dress respectfully so that you do not offend the locals. Cover shoulders and knees in particular. Offending someone can lead to other things being investigated.
  • Have sex without being married – There are no exceptions for this, if you are not married then it is illegal to have sex. Many western expats live together without being married but this could cause complications if you were to subsequently want to report any crime.


A lot of what you can and can't do in Dubai is common sense but there are also other aspects that you are not necessarily told before you get there. Just be sensible and ask a few questions of locals and residents if needs be. Otherwise if you are visiting, get a good tourist guide book. If you are in the UK, try the Dubai Lonely Planet Guide, otherwise for Amazon US see below.

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Comments 9 comments

RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

Interesting! Thanks for sharing this info.

Paul 4 years ago

If one cannot have sex outside marriage, how come so many prostitutes are thriving in Dubai. Does the police know everything and still turn a blind eye?

Azure11 profile image

Azure11 4 years ago from UK Author

Hi Paul, like you say there are lots of prostitutes in Dubai and many frequent some high class hotels. I would say that there is no way that the police do not know about them, all you need to do is to walk into many a hotel and even I can spot them. I understand that many of those that use the prostitutes are very wealthy. That is all I will say on the matter!

saudia profile image

saudia 4 years ago

I visited Dubai I liked it very much as it is organized and attractive

Malak 4 years ago

Good thing that they are strict so we don't have silly drunk people.

susan 4 years ago

hi iam on morphine for my pain will i have to get a dr letter so i can take them with me

Azure11 profile image

Azure11 4 years ago from UK Author

Hi Susan, I would definitely recommend taking a copy of your prescription with you just in case.

Fiona Jean Mckay profile image

Fiona Jean Mckay 2 years ago from South Africa

Hi, I think acting respectfully and covering up is important. My sister in law lived in Dubai and complained about how rude the locals were. I got there and found them actually very polite - the difference? She wore short skirts and shorts most of the time. I always made sure that my knees and shoulders were covered.

Azure11 profile image

Azure11 2 years ago from UK Author

Totally agree Fiona!

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