Drinking in the United Arab Emirates

One of the great things about travelling is how no two countries are alike. While you may be coming from a culture where alcohol and drinking are acceptable, this is not the case for everywhere. For example, in the United Arab Emirates things work a whole lot differently when it comes to drinking. Here is a look at what the expectations and rules of drinking are in this corner of the world.

    Antonio Borrillo - Wikimedia

While night life in the United Arab Emirates is becoming more tolerated in some ways, the view on alcohol consumption is still extremely strict. Currently, the legal age to drink and purchase alcohol in the UAE is 21, except for in Abu Dhabi where it is 18. Sharjah is the only completely dry part of UAE where you may only drink at home or at the expat gathering spot, Sharjah Wanderers.

In order to drink, UAE non-Muslim residents and tourists need to acquire an alcohol license which includes needing permission from your employer. Once you have acquired a license, it is only valid in the region it was issued. For example, if you received it in Dubai, it is only valid in Dubai and can’t be used in Ajman or other cities. You can apply for them at bottle shops, online or in Abu Dhabi.

As it is not appropriate to be drunk or physically drink in public, most people will drink in a restaurant or in a 5-star licensed hotel where it is legal to serve alcohol. During the fasting hours of Ramadan and on certain holy days there is absolutely no alcohol served or consumed anywhere and you will be scolded by any local that sees you drinking during this period.

If anyone is caught drinking illegally, the punishment can be anything from a steep fine to imprisonment. Muslims who are caught being intoxicated could very well receive a more severe punishment such as lashings or other forms of corporal punishment. There is also a zero tolerance policy of drinking and driving which will see you sent directly to jail.

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