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Can You Drink Alcohol In Dubai?
This is a question that I am asked by many people when I say that I live in Dubai. Although the traditional law of an Islamic country (Sharia Law) prevails in Dubai, there are some relaxations for non-Muslims.
But firstly, the answer, if you are a Muslim, is a strict 'no'. Sharia law forbids Muslims from drinking so they are not allowed to buy or drink alcohol in Dubai or the UAE.
However, if you are not a Muslim, then there are laws for Christians and other religions which do permit you to drink alcohol.
Where Can I Drink Alcohol?
As a visitor to Dubai or a resident of Dubai you are allowed to drink alcohol in places that have a licence to serve it. This generally means places where there is accommodation attached to the bar or restaurant i.e. mostly the hotels. Most hotels in Dubai will have a licence to sell alcohol so if you want to have a drink then go to a hotel!
There are other places that also have licences for instance the Meydan racetrack (although I believe this may now have a hotel on the premises so that may well be the reason). Also at specific events like pop concerts and the like, an alcohol licence may be granted to the organisers.
Also, you can drink alcohol in a private home or at a private party as long as the person holding the party has a personal liquor licence. An alcohol licence for an individual can be obtained through the company that the person works for and allows them to buy a limited amount of alcohol (somewhat dependent on the level of their salary) per month. As long as you are not a Muslim it is just a question of filling out the relevant forms and paying the fee.
A liquor licence holder can then go and buy alcohol in the designated shops that are dotted around Dubai. There are a few companies who are allowed to sell alcohol but you cannot buy it in supermarkets.
Buying Alcohol in Duty Free
You can buy alcohol when you travel in to Dubai at the Duty Free shops that are in the arrival terminals. The limits on what you can buy are reasonably generous so if you are travelling to Dubai you can buy alcohol there.
However, as the laws on drinking alcohol are quite strict you just need to be careful where you drink it and not to appear drunk in public.
Don't Be Drunk On The Street Though!
Dubai is not as strict as some of the neighbouring Middle Eastern countries but you must be sure not to abuse the rules. If you are caught being drunk in a public place then you will be arrested by the police and possibly charged with a likely one month prison spell.
Also, the policy on drink driving in Dubai is zero tolerance. Again if you are caught driving with alcohol on your breath then that is an automatic one month prison sentence with a possible deportation order afterwards.
Many foreigners have been caught out with these kind of rules so you really need to be careful. Also don't forget that there are no public displays of affection allowed in Dubai!
Post Script - Court Cases
Since I wrote this article more information has come to light that frankly I am surprised at, having lived in Dubai for over 6 years! This court case came up and a NON-MUSLIM tourist was charged with illegal drinking because basically you can only legally drink alcohol in Dubai if you have a licence - whether you are a resident or a tourist! This is however not strictly enforced so you need to make sure that you don't get in trouble for anything else or otherwise it will not be overlooked...
There was also another arrest of Brit Sean Emmett for drinking alcohol in a hotel - after he went to the police station to sign papers for the release of his wife's body (who had died when they were on honeymoon there). See the story here.