Islam is the official religion of Dubai and the United Arab Emirates. It is one of the most liberal places in the Middle East and followers of other religions (except Judaism) are tolerated. Visitors should respect Islam and Arabic culture and laws.


Like most other countries, taking and buying/selling drugs is a criminal offence. The penalties in Dubai though, are very severe. Even possession of a minute amount of cannabis (and we do mean very, very small) can result in a lengthy prison sentence. In 2007 customs officers at Dubai International Airport discovered 0.003g of cannabis in the in tread of a Briton’s shoe. Keith Brown, who was actually only flying through Dubai, received a 4 year jail sentence.

Public Displays of Affection – Kissing In Dubai

According to the ‘Dubai Code of Conduct’ published in 2009 by the Executive Council of the Government of Dubai:

Displays of affection among couples — whether married or not — in public places does not fit the local customs and culture. Holding hands for a married couple is tolerated but kissing and petting are considered an offence to public decency.

Public displays of affection, as well as sexual harassment or randomly addressing women in public places, are liable to be punished by imprisonment or deportation.

In practice, kissing in public may just be frowned on. However, if a complaint is made to the police the situation can change dramatically. In 2009 a local woman was offended by a British couple kissing in a restaurant at the Jumeirah Beach Residence. The couple were arrested and received a one month prison sentence. They were subsequently deported.


Arab men wearing traditional Arabic clothes sat on a wall in Bur Dubai

In public places dress modestly. In public places such as shopping malls and restaurants, women should not wear low-cut tops or short skirts. Swimwear should only be worn at the beach.


Non-Muslims are allowed to drink alcohol at licensed premises (hotel bars and restaurants) and at home (with an alcohol license). Being drunk outside these areas in an offence and can result in a fine or prison sentence.

Loud Music and Dancing

Dancing and loud music is not allowed in public places such as beaches and parks.


Dubai has a zero-tolerance policy with respect to driving under the influence of alcohol. Incidents of road rage can lead to fines and imprisonment. In 2009 an Australian nurse was jailed and deported for showing his finger to an Emirati diver on the Sheikh Zayed Road.


Do not take photos of people in public places, especially women and children, without obtaining their permission. Do not take pictures of mosques or military installations.


Visitors should also be aware of the special rules that come into effect during the holy month of Ramadan.

Comments and Additional Information

  1. Proud Expat says

    Hi Everyone,

    Whoever feels sidelined or is not welcomed you can simply leave. Nobody is forcing you to stay here. A person cannot blame their problems and personal failures on a country or its people. Islam is the religion of peace. If you can’t respect other people religions and cultures again I will repeat you are free to leave. This country had given expats a lot of opportunities. I respect this country a lot and for the ungrateful people out there, there is no place like the UAE.

  2. Kit Ripley says

    Qantas Emirates now stop in Dubai from Australia on the way to Europe. So yeah, we are being forced to visit Dubai.
    I will never visit Dubai, so I will never fly with Emirates Qantas.

  3. Moaza AK says

    I’m an Emirati citizen. I’m proud that I’m Muslim and I’m proud of the rules that our city has made. God bless her. I feel safe here because the place is full of security and I’m really happy to see foreigners (Europeans especially) to accept our laws and to respect our rules instead of disobeying it. Some Arabs (not locals) such as Lebanese, Syrians, Moroccans disobey the rules which really bugs me.

  4. Sammy says

    I am a british business traveller and tourist to Dubai many many times. The place is sound. Its safe & tolerant. Obviously running around naked and having sex on the streets and running around in a drunken rage is not permitted; all that is for private pleasure.
    So many nationalities living and doing business with each other in harmony. The dress code is very cosmopolitan. Walking around in shorts is not a problem. Some locals do have a attitude and others are sound. Just like any other place. No problems at all if you don’t behave like a western idiot.

  5. Victum says

    Having unfortunately lived in Dubai for 25 years and since i was a child i have been repeatedly sexually harassed had my private parts groped several times by Middle Eastern and Asian men as well as had long perverted stares. I have post traumatic stress as a result and become agoraphobic in Dubai. I now live in a predominately ‘white’ part in the UK and guess what haven’t been groped nor sexually harassed. Though i am still on my guard around Asian men in UK. For all the women on this site saying it’s safe, you’re deluded. Wait till it happens to you, the Arab police will blame you, whether it’s your fault or not. Yes, crimes happen everywhere but at least in the western world criminals are treated as such and are prosecuted not rewarded like they do the sex perverts here in Dubai.

  6. Zubair says

    I’m an Indian Muslim from I really feel sidelined here in Dubai. The locals are like total morons. In general it is a very uncomfortable place to work and live, at least for an Indian.

  7. black cat says

    Backward and racist customs, cultural void and pinnacle of useless consumerist dream, the perfect holidays for contemporary morons. Dubai is a disgrace.

  8. Matt says

    I was offered a job position in Dubai for Emirates Airlines, for 3 years, but after reading the posts here I am a little scared! I am a gay man and I know that Islamic culture has a very strong "policy" against it. Don’t get me wrong, I am not going to kiss with a guy in the middle of the street (I don’t even do it in my own country were gay marriage is allowed) but I am afraid I will do something wrong just because I don’t know the "rules".

    • rocio alonso says

      Then read the rules and don’t worry. Dubai is safe for everybody if you follow the rules.

  9. rude and arrogant in UAE says

    I was introduced to a Dubai businessman who expressed an interest to invest in my business. A conference call was arranged. An hour after the call was due to start, the Dubai person still was unavailable. An email arrived the next day "let’s do the call tomorrow at the same time". It happened again and finally it happened a third time. I asked my friends and colleagues what to make of this incredibly rude behavior and apparently this arrogance and disrespect by Dubai businessmen is "normal". In Europe, Dubai women will enter a super expensive boutique. They pick up every item of clothing, look at it and then drop the item of clothing on the floor. Half an hour later, the entire shop’s contents are on the floor. Families from Dubai who stay in a European hotel, and completely trash the room. The children write with crayons on the walls, food is thrown around the room and basically they act like pigs to such an extent the room has to be repaired and redecorated after they leave. I am a westerner who is fine with respecting other traditions. I do business very successfully in Japan, Russia, Brazil, Mexico and South Korea. UAE stands out for the incredibly arrogant, rude and disrespectful behavior of its people, which I do not find in any other country to which I travel. If you want to be respected, try respecting others and in the meantime, stay away from UAE. Take your business and your time elsewhere. UAE tourism is a joke. Become adults in UAE and feel free to join the rest of the world.

  10. season says

    I fully respect a country the right to enforce their laws in their own country and decide for themselves what is acceptable and what is not. My only negative though is that whilst they enforce these laws against visitor/foreigners they don’t always uphold them themselves. In particular the photographing of children. With a blond daughter we are constantly pestered by people wanting to take her photo when we visit Dubai and when we say no, they surreptitiously do so anyway, plus they feel they have the right to stroke her hair which she hates!
    I have to say I wish the UK had laws about heavy petting (or worse) in public places, it really can put you off your dinner watching someone being ‘eaten’ at the next table!

  11. Alex says

    So called liberal Dubai is still a conservative Islamic state that is to be avoided at all costs. Paying respect to custom and culture when traveling is always important but when the country you are traveling to does not respect the values and culture that you bring then that place is definitely somewhere to avoid.
    The treatment of gay men in Dubai is simply disgusting. Police entrapment, beatings and flogging, hormonal and psychological ‘therapy’ to straighten you out. Simply not worth it.
    The sad truth is that in a place where there are three men to every woman, homosexuality is rampant. Polygamy is but a dream for the men of Dubai. I have visited Dubai on many occasions and have found no shortage of Muslim men, local or expat, who are more than eager for gay sex and more often than not like to be passive.
    So why the homophobia? It was explained to me that the most vociferous homophobes are actually homosexual themselves and on so many occasions I have found this to be completely true.

  12. Frederick says

    Spanish girl, why are the police not protecting the rights of the sex slaves or the other "indentured servants" of Dubai? You are privileged and therefore BLIND! I also doubt your Spanish identity.

  13. Frederick says

    I am so glad we are having this conversation about respecting the customs of the countries we visit, and I would like to expand it to include Muslims visiting non-Muslim countries. Right, Dubai has a right to enforce its "moral standards" and laws. By the same token, my country has a right to ban behaviors and practices of Muslims which offend its citizens. France finds the Burka offensive and has banned it. Muslims are protesting this ban. I don’t think it is their business to do so. If they don’t like it, let them go to Dubai. As Jane pointed out, Dubai could use the people to fill all of those empty apartments, condos, hotel rooms, and offices. If Dubai is so wonderful, why is it empty?

  14. Jane says

    Arab hypocrites. Do you really want the rest of the world to be just like you?

  15. Jane says

    Well, if Dubai didn’t let unmarried couples share a room, where would all the rich Arabs take their prostitutes?

  16. Jane says

    It’s a little hypocritical that a nation that is notorious for its human trafficking and sex trade would arrest a married British couple for kissing! Typical Arab hypocrisy. Dubai spends billions trying to impress the world with its big buildings and as a "mecca" of world culture, while its poorest citizens suffer from malnutrition and poverty. I have traveled to many Muslim countries, and it is true that men walk several feet ahead of their wives on the street. The women are covered from head to toe, but the men dress however they choose–in Malaysia I have seen male Arab tourists in shorts well above the knee and short sleeves and sandals, while their wives trail behind in heavy woolen burkas. In many Western countries, however, it is a new thing for Muslim couples to make a show of walking side by side, holding hands, with the woman slightly in front or many paces in front of their husbands. And they smile and put on a show of how happy they are. And that is just what it is–a show to give the West a false sense of security. FYI: Dubai has to turn a blind eye to unmarried couples sharing a room so that rich Arabs can take their Russian prostitutes somewhere to abuse them. It’s all smoke and mirrors. The top two industries in Dubai are: OIL and SEX SLAVES. If they emancipated the sex slaves the city would be even emptier than it is now!!!

    • Nicole says

      I feel the exact same way. It is so unfair.

  17. Zelle says

    Polygamy in Islam is usually practiced by very rich men. I mean, very very rich Muslim men. I have a Muslim friend and he told me polygamy is not that common at all. He prefers sticking to one wife only, which is really nice in my opinion. It’s good to know that some Muslim men still prefer to be monogamous even if they are allowed to marry more than once.

  18. davina12324 says

    I have been to Dubai and it is really good and intersting. Everyone was polite and very nice.

  19. Samantha says

    Ha! I find this really amusing.
    Forget polygamy and everything else the rulers do. what about the flourishing sex industry in Dubai? Customers are partly Muslims themselves. Their media are fake and controlled. The newspapers don’t even print out the names of Muslims if arrested. Plain to see ,the so called "Rules" are for the expatriates.

    • LESLEY DEAN says


    • mahdiya says

      Hi Samantha

      Just to let you know newspapers do print names of Muslim people, just those people are all expats.

  20. khanyo says

    I have been in Dubai more times than I can think. Most people are polite and welcoming. Islam is a religion and deserves respect. The same applies to Muslims when they visit us in Europe.

  21. Amina says

    I actually like the laws in Dubai. You don’t have to worry about perverts etc. I want the laws to stay this way and if you don’t like it then tough. Islam should stay the religion of Dubai. I wish I could live there.

    • LESLEY DEAN says

      Then move.

  22. ella says

    In response to Melissa: a woman is never a man’s property, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

  23. Jim says

    I’ve been living in Dubai a little over a month now and I don’t like it at all. It’s shocking how badly the local people treat other races, especially the many Indians and Filipinos who eke out a living here. I’ve also had the displeasure of dealing with locals in a business environment: They make all sorts of promises and then don’t keep them. Finally, I find the overall atmosphere repressive as I am constantly on my toes trying not to offend anyone. This place is definitely not for me. I guess I’m just too Western. I will leave soon and I don’t plan to come back.

  24. alee says

    If too much skin is allowed, then you civilized westerners loose it and become headlines for newspapers around the world. Check out the article of British couple caught having sex on a public/family beach in Dubai in 2008.

  25. Bex says

    As a tourist to any country you should expect to adhere to the local laws and religious restraints. I think much of the ‘anti’ feeling is the British doing what we do best, ‘No one tells me what to do’. However, it would be nice to think that Muslims visiting/coming to live in this country would do the same.

  26. HaFz says

    Cautious, your statement shows how educated you are. First, I advise you to learn more about the word "terrorism". Islam teaches to respect all other religions, tradition and cultures. Linking Islam (or any other religion) with terrorism or terrorists is simply stupid. When visiting a country of different culture or religion than yours, it is always wise to respect local rules, laws, etc. and it is not the religion that makes people decide what is wrong, right, bad or good.
    Marriage is not only sleeping with a partner legally, it is lot more. So lots of Europeans (not only Europeans) marry once, but keep sleeping with or loving others than their husband/wives. Marrying another woman when you already have a wife in Islam is not that simple, you have to get a permission from your wife to marry another woman. Show me a religion in which being jealous is good. Human does not belong to anybody.
    Religion is NOT the thing to be discussed. But respect is. Somebody could go to metro station in Islamic city any blow up himself crying he is Buddhist or Christian or Muslim or any body else, so what. Respecting, learning, visiting different cultures can teach people love each other, no matter what he believes in.

  27. shana says

    I was there 2 years ago and people are so nice and I was able to dress a little less conservative than maybe I should have but no one arrested me! I feel like people are not fair when it comes to the fact that this is a different culture than US and we need to respect that. I will be so much more covered up this time because I do not want to offend anyone. I think the people on here that have nasty things to say are just ignorant and disrespectful. Go visit somewhere else that has beliefs that match yours and quit hating on the countries who simply want respect from you. Dubai is a great place to visit and I look forward to going back! Thank you to Dubai for being such a pure and safe place to be.

  28. firesword says

    I was in Dubai with my boyfriend in February 2010. We were asked at the hotel front desk for our marriage certificate. I told them that we live in different countries and we don’t carry it around and that if we knew we needed it, we would have brought it. They still wanted to see it but the man was Indian and not a practising Muslim so he let me go to our room. Although holding hands is a no-no there, I saw several men holding each others hands. I thought at first they were gay so I asked my boyfriend that don’t Muslims not go for the gay thing? He said that it was normal for them to hold hands and didn’t mean they were gay, just friends. He wouldn’t even hold my hand! He was nervous about that. As far as the kissing, man, don’t do it! They just put a married couple from the UK in jail for it! Since you don’t know who is going to decide to be mad that day, just save yourself for the bedroom! We are going back as a married couple soon. We don’t want to take any chances. We would not have broken their laws but we could not get another room on such short notice.

  29. Hallsy says

    I respect other cultures and their laws. I will be going to Dubai for the first time soon but I have to admit I fear that my ignorance could work against me as it has others! It would be nice for airlines and and travel agents to issue you information about the main differences in the laws and religion that we would normally take for granted in western countries to allow us to be respectful. I think, especially in the tourist areas, that a stern warning, for example holding hands, would suffice. If I had not come on to this website I would of held my long term girlfriends hand without hesitation not knowing that it was offensive.

  30. danie says

    This is all very stupid. It depends where about in the country you visit. I went Dubai city and RAK last year with my boyfriend. We had absolutely no problems. We wore shorts, held hands and drank alcohol and there was no problem at all. I think some places may be more strict than others but as long as you are not being disrespectful then you will be fine. I am going again this year and cannot wait.

  31. The GH says

    Wow a country that has the death penalty for loving somebody of the same sex sounds like the definition of tolerance to me.

  32. Luc says

    They created a huge entertainment centre to attract tourists and then they want people to respect their religion by enforcing strict laws. This is a very thin line. Tourists consist of many different people and to expect all of them to know how to behave is just plain stupid. So the severe penalties stay intact. Police just randomly pick up people that are not obviously drunk in front of nightclubs etc. You call yourself a holiday destination. Dream on. You can’t have the best of both worlds. Until you change your laws it is impossible to grow in the long term. In my opinion the only thing that will be busy in Dubai eventually will be the airport, because people will use it to fly somewhere else as a hub. Dubai itself will become a dream that never could be realised due to strict laws and large debts.

  33. AHassan says

    Just becuase Islam practices their religion like this then why is it so wrong? Jewish men and women are covered in Israel, Indians wear saris and cover their head, and if you go to an Amish town you should be expected to adhere to their cultures and rules. Why should you or anybody have any problems with covering your head and legs? If you do, don’t come. Spend your money elsewhere.

  34. AHassan says

    This is in response to Bernie’s post. The history of marrying up to four wives came during Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) era. This came about because with all the wars, men (husbands) dead and left women without husbands and anyone to take care of them and/or their children. It was then a man assumed the reponsibility to aid those women with financial and emotional needs, not just to marry up to four women. There are certain criterias a man must adhere to prior to marrying more than one woman, e.g. can he support another wife, he must take care of his first wife first if not he cannot marry more than one. So there are certain criterias before marrying other women. And excuse me if I am wrong but isn’t Oregon a polygamy state? Let’s not be narrow minded and blast Islamic nations with false accusations.

  35. Muhammad says

    Stop ridiculing and lying about Islam. I am from the UAE and have been to Dubai many times. The place is a conservative Islamic state, if you have problems with that, then don’t come.

  36. connor says

    I have been to Dubai and my family and I had a fantastic time (and even stayed in the Burj Al Arab for 1 night). ANNE: people were holding hands and had shorts on all over the place. People just say these things because they don’t really know what they are talking about. In Dubai everyone is so kind and welcoming. It’s an amazing place. I highly recommend.

  37. Lisa says

    I have just returned from Dubai, and it’s the best country I have visited. I was also worried about visiting, and what clothes to wear, but most people wear what they like. At our hotel and water parks, ladies were wearing skimpy bikini’s with thong bottoms, which really surprised me. Even though I am married, I never wore my rings but was never questioned when my husband held my hand or kissed me. The people in Dubai are wonderful and respect everyone. They can’t do enough for you. I would happily move there tomorrow. As long as you are sensible you have nothing to worry about. I did go to the mall wearing a sleeveless top and shorts, and it wasn’t until I got there I read a sign saying shoulders and knees should be kept covered. But I had no problems and was glad it wasn’t just me. Go and enjoy Dubai. It’s a wonderful experience.

  38. Spanish girl says

    Dear All,
    I have been living in Dubai for 1.5 years now and to be quite honest, I am quite shocked to read the postings I have seen on this website about Dubai and Islam as a religion.
    I am a 25 year old woman, with a successful career, and am single! All I can say is that all I have encountered in Dubai as a woman is respect (especially from Muslim men), many more benefits as a woman (police will protect you in case of a man bothering you in any way) and equal opportunities career wise as men. I must say that I feel safer living in Dubai than in any European city as the crime level has been maintained to a minimum.
    Also,I have lived in a large variety of countries around the world and I must say that when it comes to nightlife, Dubai definitely offers more than any other city I have visited! You are free to drink alcohol should you wish to do so and wear what you want (all to a certain extent). Also, I have had relationships while being in Dubai and as long as you don’t over express yourself in public towards each other, I have never encountered any problems when staying at hotels or walking on the streets, malls, beach, etc.
    Obviously, I think it is important to remember that if you wish to visit/live in a Muslim country, you should be prepared to accept their culture, laws and religion out of respect for the country and the people living in it.
    Yes it is true that Muslim men do have the option to marry 4 wives (if they treat them equally), but I must say most Muslim men I have met are married to 1 wife and intend to stay this way (they don’t believe in marrying more than one woman).
    Please do not comment negatively on Dubai, especially if you haven’t visited it, as it is a beautiful city in an amazing country that has only shown welcoming signs and respect to all who have visited or, as me, have chosen to build a life here.
    Thank you.

  39. Jim says

    Anne. You’ll be fine. The unmarried regulations in hotels aren’t strictly enforced. They don’t ask. Shorts and t-shirts are fine on the beach and wandering around. Just don’t wear your bikini in the malls etc.

  40. Anne says

    Dubai seems a very frightening place to visit and I’m considering cancelling my holiday. I am not married, but intend visiting with my partner. If this is not allowed then I don’t understand the reason. We hold hands and enjoy sightseeing, and would expect to wear shorts and T-shirts when in a hot "holiday" destination. Am I totally wrong to think this is all unacceptable in Dubai?

  41. Nana says

    For everybody: Nobody is forced to visit a place that doesn’t want. As well as also, one to decide to visit a place, you should know its habits and laws and to respect them. If you decided to go for a place of rigid traditions, you should have in mind that to avoid to constrain yourself and the other ones you need to respect the local traditions . That means at least that you have some education and good sense, that I believe they have never done badly to anybody. Now if you don’t like the traditions and habits of a place, then choose another to visit. Diversity doesn’t lack in that world.

  42. EU says

    Hope: if that will be true Dubai would have no guests. Westerners do not jump into marriage when they meet the love of their life.

  43. Hope says

    JT, I can’t believe that any hotel in the UAE will turn a blind eye. It’s the law and even when I go with my husband they insist to see the proof.
    Tedra, I think what you are encouraging to is the most stupid thing.. think about it.
    Cautious, if so, don’t you ever think to visit our country. It’s much better for us.

  44. Melissa says

    In answer to the comment about legs showing. Personally I think it is better to cover. It avoids sun rays getting to you that could possibly cause cancer! Also I wouldn’t want my husband looking at some other woman’s legs! He can look at mine indoors. women are not there for other men to look at, apart from their husband. We have brains too and we are not all about skin. Islam teaches us that women are strong and beautiful and trust me there are way many more benefits of covering and being different than being subjected to "worldly fashion" judgements. Women you carry on covering. There is a beneficial reason why we were permitted to.

  45. cautious says

    Watch the movie Obsession before visiting this city. Your dollars will go to terrorists.

  46. Tedra says

    I think that it is stupid for someone to two people in love to have to sleep in different beds, not only that but to have to keep your legs covered at all times. If you are beautiful let it show!

  47. Henna says

    People don’t fully realise what is stated in Islam for polygomy- it is stated a man may only practice it "if they can treat each wife equally." The reason this is stated is because it is quite impossible to do!- it is meant for putting a true Muslim man off!

  48. Ali says

    Islam should remain the main religion in Dubai.

  49. JT says

    Muslim law actually says that unmarried couples can’t share the same room. However in practice Dubai’s hotels turn a blind eye to this.

  50. Bernie says

    Polygomy is still practiced in Dubai. Under Islam a man is allowed to have up to 4 wives. If they want another, they must divorce one. It’s not so common nowadays and generally practiced by older men.

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