Monday, April 29, 2024

14 Ways How to Avoid Trouble When You’re in UAE

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No matter how weird or politically incorrect they appear according to our personal views, laws exist to be implemented and it is our obligation to abide by them.

Such is a gentle but stern reminder that in places like the United Arab Emirates, some of its rules — like the following — can be considered out of the ordinary.

1. Do not take photos of certain political and military buildings.
For security’s sake, it’s prohibited to take photos of military installations and areas that are seen as sensitive to national security and interest. While the ‘no photography’ signs indicate a landmark as off-limits for picture taking, taking photographs of people can be a little more complicated situation. It is not outright banned to take photos of people, who are among the interesting objects of photography, but without prior permission to take snaps at them, the photographer is inviting trouble.

Photo credit: Zayed University

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2. Do not hold hands, kiss or display affection in public.
While the UAE’s penal code is not based strictly on Islamic Sharia, it derives elements from it. Shariah law exists in specific situations such as the arrangement for blood money between convicts and families of the victim. Even though the UAE enforces a rather relaxed laws compared to its neighbors in the Middle East, it is still identified as a Muslim society so interaction between men and women are not exactly the same as in the West.

3. Do not wear revealing clothing in public.
The UAE has varying degrees of enforcing dress code. For instance, in Abu Dhabi, Riad Al Kerdashi, lawyer and Court Advisor siad “there is no law concerning dress code in the UAE, or penalty guidelines for being dressed indecently.” But it gets interesting for Dubai, at least according to a spokesperson of the Dubai Police Criminal Investigation Department, “If a person’s outfit or lack of clothing amounts to public indecency, such as when a person goes to a mall wearing no more than a swimming suit, for example, police will take action against that person.”


But the same spokesperson also said about fully-clothed folks in beaches: “People in swimming areas should not be wearing their full clothes and just watch others, because there are rules for going to the beach, and while undressing is not encouraged, so is staying fully dressed and watching or harassing other beachgoers.” In Sharjah, an unnamed police official said “Women are prohibited from wearing clothes that expose their stomachs and their backs, short skirts above the knee, and also tight and transparent clothing that reveals the body.”

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4. Do not send swear messages on Whatsapp.
Swearing at someone using Whatsapp can lead to heavy fines and deportation. Prosecutors called for a retrial on a man convicted for swearing at his colleague on Whatsapp after the fine of AED 3,000 was deemed too lenient. Using the middle finger emoji could land an offender three years in prison and a hefty fine of AED500,000.

5. Do not play loud music in public.
It can be plain annoyance to many other societies, but an untolerable noise in the neighborhood can be reported to the police after a more corteous approach directed at the offender fails to resolve the issue. Residents can file a police report and the necessary legal action will be taken against the accused, which could lead to the person being prosecuted for creating a deliberate nuisance.

6. Do not intrude one’s privacy like checking content of someone else’s phone.
Any wife or husband caught intruding a partner’s phone can be subjected to jail and fines of from AED3,000 to AED5,000 based on Federal Penal Code No 380 which protects the privacy and freedom of both spouses. Of course, if you allow your spouse to inspect your phone, this law does not apply.

7. Do not steal — like stealing wifi connections
An Islamic scholar frowns on the idea of using other people’s wifi connectio without their permission. The scholar added that while the act is technically not illegal, it is not right. An exception is connecting inside shopping malls or establishments that invite wifi connections for the convenience of customers and guests. If the so-called wifi theft is proven, the offender is usually sentenced to a AED1,000 fine or so, says legal adviser Yazan Al Rawashdeh.

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But when it comes to hacking a secured wifi account, that’s another story as it is already covered by UAE’s cybercrime law.

8. Do not drink liquor in places other than those defined for this purpose.
In other places liquor selling is bound by issued licenses. In the UAE, non-Muslim residents also need to get a liquor license to drink alcohol at home and in licensed venues. These licenses are valid only in the Emirate where it was issued. Residents must also get a permit to be able to drink in licensed venues.

Photo credit:

Licensed hotels and clubs sell alcoholic drinks but minimum age restrictions vary. Legal age for drinking alcohol is 18 in Abu Dhabi, 21 in Dubai. Drinking alcohol is illegal in Sharjah.

9. Do not allow bachelors to live inside home intended for a family.
Residential buildings intended for families are not supposed to be meant for bachelors. This means renting bed space under a family dwelling is banned.

Although this is a cost-effective way for lower-paid workers unaccompanied by families to live in an expensive city like Dubai or Abu Dhabi, these blue-collared workers are supposed tolive in labor accommodations.

As a result, residences found violating the rule could find their electricity and water supply shut off and fines to offending bachelors can range from AED 1,000 to AED 50,000.

Likewise, sharing an apartment with someone of the opposite sex is considered a crime.  You can only live together with a member of the opposite sex if you are married to them, or if they are your family member.

10. Do not take prohibited drugs.
Sounds silly to include this in the list but a quick urine test enforced by Abu Dhabi police using a test kit can identify 12 types of drugs in just five minutes.

Also, drugs containing codeine are not allowed to be brought into the country so be aware of the composition of your medications.

11. Seek license for use of certain devices.
In the UAE, equipment such as satellite phones, surveillance devices or binoculars may require license to use them. So before arriving in the UAE, make sure to consult your embassy or consulate regarding this matter.

12. Pay your bills.
Like in any other country, non-settlement of outstanding bills can lead to legal trouble. In the UAE, such financial crimes which include fiscal fraud, issuance of bouncing cheques or non payment of hotel or telephone bill can often result in jail or fine or both.

It is also possible for bank accounts to be frozen and non-residents barred from leaving the country.

13. Do not raise funds without permission.
Any charitable activity — fund raising or generating favors from the public — should pass through an authorized government body.

Anyone wishing to fundraise in the emirate needs to get prior approval from the Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department through one of its registered charities.

Failure to do so can result in a jail sentence of up to one year in prison or a fine of up to AED 100,000.

14. Do not use unlicensed satellite TV connections
In a country that protects its legitimate businesses, use of illegal satellite connections to avail of cheaper entertainment channels and, in the process, bypass legal ways is subject to penalties.

If caught using illegal TV channels, the Department of Economic Development will issue a legal notice which reads similar to the following:

“Dish TV/Tata Sky/Sun Direct/Airtel Digital TV are not authorized in the UAE, and the sale/use of their dishes, receivers and/or smart cards (or those of any other unauthorized operator) violates intellectual property rights and related laws of the UAE.

“Any person and/or business selling, using and/or promising the aforementioned illegitimate TV services will be contributing and fostering criminal activities, such as organised crime and is liable to fines and/or jail terms.”

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