Lip kissing

I find cases like this one completely baffling.

Aside from the inconsistencies in the woman’s statement and the draconian punishment meted out, no explanation is given as to why the couple were also fined for ‘consuming liquor’ – it’s frustrating that the local press don’t provide more clarity.

I don’t think any expats in Dubai want to upset Emiratis. On the whole, most of us are very happy to be here and appreciate the Western style freedoms we have, but have no intention of upsetting local ladies sitting near us in a restaurant, whatever time of day it might be, whether by kissing in appropriately, or by consuming liquor in an unauthorised fashion.

The alcohol issue really needs some clarification. Alcohol is freely and widely available, but every so often you hear of someone falling foul of the rules, whatever they might be – everyone has a different story on what the rules actually are. The husband of a former colleague of mine was once picked up by the police whilst walking a short distance back to his villa after a night out at a friend’s house, for example. He had been drinking, but had an alcohol licence and was released quite quickly, but was never sure what he had done wrong.

My understanding of the letter of the law, based on the information in the old stlye ‘booklet’ liquor licence I used to have*, along with general comments I have read in the past, is as follows –

– If you are a non-muslim resident and wish to drink alcohol at home, or offer it to guests at your home ‘for hospitality’, you must have what is officially called an ‘Acoholic Drinks Licence’. American readers, not the correct spelling of ‘licence’, please.

– If you are a non-muslim resident and wish to drink alcohol at someone else’s home, you must have an alcohol licence, as should your host.

– If you are a non-muslim resident and wish to drink alcohol in a hotel that sells alcohol, you have to have an alcohol licence.

– If you are a non-muslim resident and wish to purchase alcohol for consumption at your home and transport it from the shop to your home, you need an alcohol licence.

– If you are a non-muslim tourist, visiting on a visit visa, you may drink alcohol in the hotel you are staying in.

What’s not clear is what the letter of the law is regarding transporting alcohol from, say, your home to someone else’s. Equally, what if you are a tourist, but staying at someone’s home? What if you visit another emirate – if you Dubai licence valid?

No places selling alcohol ever ask for an alcohol licence or proof you are staying in the hotel linked to the venue. You don’t need to show a liquor licence to buy alcohol at Duty Free. When I first came here, the cashier would ask if you were a muslim before running your purchases through the till. This question is no longer asked.

I have no doubt that the concerned authorities will clarify the matter shortly.

* The old ‘liquor licence’ was quite cool. It was a little green booklet with ‘Just say Not to Drugs’ printed on the front. You were given a monthly allowance you could spend, which depended on your marital status and salary. My allowance was 1,500Dhs ($410). A colleague’s was 5,000Dhs, if I remember right. He never quite managed to spend that much in one month. Two or three years ago, the booklet was replaced with a credit card sized card with a chip in it. You can apply for a licence at either MMI or African and Eastern, the two ‘off licence’ chains (to use the British term) in Dubai. You need a copy of your passport and residence visa, tenancy contract or proof that you own the place you live in, as well as a no-objection letter from your employer stating your salary. It currently costs 150Dhs, which you usually get back in the form of a voucher to use in the shop.

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