It’s alarming: out of a population of nearly eight million only a small handful understand the laws in the UAE.
Drinking in licensed establishments is permitted under UAE law for non-Muslims. However, being an Islamic country drinking in excess or irresponsibly is frowned upon. “Muslims are not allowed to drink alcohol,” says Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants Senior Partner Hassan Moshen Elhais. “Non-Muslims have the right to go to Dubai’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and apply for permission to drink, but this permission is limited – only quantity for personal use is allowed and it must not be consumed in a public place.”
Application forms for alcohol licences are available in UAE liqour stores. You’ll need a minimum monthly salary of Dhs2,000 and your purchases will be limited depending on the money you earn, so that you cannot buy in bulk. Having a licence means you can consume alcohol in your own home.
It’s vital to remember that, despite the fact that no-one will be hunting down unlicensed drinkers in hotels, restaurants and bars, it is still illegal to drink at those establishments without a licence. Step outside the venue, or get into a taxi that is subsequently involved in an incident that alerts the police, and more often than not the passenger will be checked for alcohol consumption. Expect a short stay in jail and fines of up to Dhs20,000 if you are caught.
Driving under the influence of alcohol is a very serious crime. Sometimes drink-driving will land you immediately in jail, followed by deportation if you’re an expat. It can also cost you Dhs20,000 in fines. Any drink-driving offence will leave you with 24 ‘black points’ on your licence, which means an immediate three-month suspension of your UAE driving licence. If drink-driving leads to a fatality your insurance will not cover you: blood money will likely be around Dhs200,000 and paid to the family of the deceased. You will not leave jail until the amount is paid to the bereaved family in full.
A final thing worth noting is that, while alcohol can be bought in Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah is a ‘dry’ emirate, meaning that it is illegal to make the trip through it from Ras Al Khaimah to Dubai with alcohol.