The United Arab Emirates is a conservative Muslim country with very strict laws about public decency and morality. When visiting Dubai on holiday, couples should be aware of specific laws regarding public displays of affection. In Emirati culture, it is frowned upon for couples, married or unmarried, to kiss, hug, or hold hands in public spaces.
In Dubai, kissing your partner in public is not only considered inappropriate behavior, but it is illegal. If you are seen kissing in public, and it is reported to the police, you can be jailed for a month and deported. This law is stringent during the holy month of Ramadan.
Of course, Dubai is an extremely popular tourist destination, and there are many reported instances of couples kissing in public and not being caught. However, when visiting Dubai, it is essential to be conscious and respectful of its culture and customs. The law is the law – it is better to abide by it than have your holiday come to an unpleasant and abrupt end!
Do Not Kiss in Public in Dubai!
The Government of Dubai has an official code of conduct that prohibits all forms of public displays of affection. It does not matter if you and your partner are dating, engaged to be wed, or married, it is prohibited to kiss each other in public.
In 2009, a British couple made headlines when they were arrested, detained for a month, and then deported after a local Emirati woman saw them kissing in public and reported them to the police.
They were eating dinner at a restaurant in the Jumeirah Beach Residence. The couple maintain that the kiss was merely a peck on the cheek, but in Dubai, even public displays of affection as innocuous as this are enough to get you in trouble.
In 2017, a couple (a Moroccan woman and an Egyptian man) were arrested for kissing in a public restroom at a gas station. The manager of the gas station reported them to the police after a gas station attendant saw the couple enter the restroom together.
The couple claimed that the woman was feeling ill and that the man had gone into the women’s restroom to check on her. The Dubai Misdemeanors court sentenced the couple to a month in jail and issued them a deportation order after their release.
Regardless of your personal feelings and opinions about these public decency and morality laws, it is better for couples just to tow the line while visiting Dubai. If you and your partner doubt you can resist one another, perhaps it is time to consider a holiday in Paris instead.
What Else is Forbidden in Dubai?
Besides a ban on smooching in public, there are several other laws that couples must be aware of before going on holiday to Dubai:
- Holding hands in public is considered acceptable for married couples, but for unmarried couples, it is a punishable offense at worst and an insult to the locals at best. People have been arrested for public handholding!
- Hugging in public is also against the public decency laws of Dubai.
- Unmarried couples may not live together and may not even share a hotel room in Dubai. Some hotels are not as strict about enforcing this co-habitation law upon tourists. Still, others may ask couples for a marriage certificate before they are allowed to book a single room together. Hotels that cater mainly to Western tourists do not generally enquire about marital status or alert the police to any transgressions.
- Drinking alcohol in public or at unlicensed premises is illegal in Dubai. Islamic law considers alcohol haraam (or ḥarām), so in Dubai, it is forbidden to consume it in public spaces other than licensed bars, restaurants, and nightclubs.
- The United Arab Emirates is, unfortunately, still one of the many countries in the world where homosexuality is illegal. It is a capital offense under Sharia Law, but foreigners are seldom given the death penalty. In most cases, LGBTQ tourists who are arrested are detained for a year to 3 years. The maximum prison sentence is ten years!
- Wearing revealing clothing or clothing with offensive logos or phrases is considered highly offensive in Dubai and the rest of the UAE. It is important not to wear outfits that show too much skin. Tattoos, piercings, and other body modifications should be covered so as not to offend locals or draw police attention. It is advisable that women cover their hair with a headscarf, as the local Emirati women do.
- Taking photographs in public spaces, especially sacred places, should be avoided, as it is illegal to take a picture of someone without their permission. Even if a person is in the background of your selfie, they may report you to the police. Avoid taking any photographs near palaces, courts, embassies, and military places.
Public Decency Laws are Stricter During Ramadan!
During the holy month of Ramadan, police are much stricter about enforcing public decency and morality laws. There are also additional rules for how one can behave in public.
Muslims observe Ramadan by fasting from sunrise until sunset. Eating and drinking in public places are not allowed during Ramadan unless in a screened-off restaurant.
Strictly avoid all public displays of affection, as the police are far less likely to turn a blind eye to foreign tourists who break the law, and locals are more inclined to report transgressions.
If you are visiting Dubai during this month, it is even more important to be respectful of the laws and customs of this Islamic country. Note that Ramadan does not happen at the same time every year. Before you book a trip for you and your partner to Dubai, check the dates that Ramadan is being observed that year.
Dubai truly is a wonderful city to visit and explore, and one should not be put off by these laws. Just be respectful of the Islamic culture and customs by avoiding public displays of affection, especially kissing, hugging, and cuddling!