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The UAE legal system is largely determined by Sharia law, and Sharia law prohibits alcohol. So, can you get a drink while visiting the UAE and Dubai?
The rules in Dubai and Abu Dhabi have relaxed somewhat with alcohol served in some hotels and nightclubs.
In September 2020, Abu Dhabi ended its system which previously required residents who consume or possess alcohol to have a Ministry of Interior liquor permit or face arrest, fines and possible imprisonment. To buy alcohol, Abu Dhabi residents must be at least 21 and be buying for personal use and not for resale. Alcohol must only be consumed in private homes or licensed areas.
Alcohol served in most major hotel bars is no longer only for guests of the hotel.
in neighboring Dubai, however, liquor licenses are still required for residents who want to buy alcohol in shops, and tourists need a temporary license.
However, what may happen in Dubai isn't always applicable in other states in the UAE.
Just about any public activity that you can think of that involves alcohol is illegal. Drinking or being drunk in public is illegal, and believe it or not, the police are actually fairly good at spotting a drunk tourist and the defense of "But I've only had a few!" isn't considered a valid legal defense in the UAE and you may face immediate arrest and imprisonment simply for being drunk or drinking in public.
Driving with any amount of alcohol in your system is illegal and the penalties can be very draconian, so it really is something to avoid.
Travelers arrested for any form of alcohol-related incident are typically jailed for many days while awaiting a court hearing. The penalties for any form of alcohol-related offense tend to be quite severe and increase in severity where driving and injury are concerned. Penalties include lengthy imprisonment (think years not months), fines and for Muslim travelers, even those not from the UAE, lashings.
Note that the liquor licenses are Emirate specific, and a liquor license issued for Dubai only allows you to drink in Dubai. A separate liquor license is required for each Emirate.
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