Abu Dhabi is the capital of the UAE as well as the emirate of
the same name. It is a beautiful city with amazing modern and
traditional architecture from the various mosques in the city
through to the very modern Louvre in Abu Dhabi and the striking and
easily identified Etihad Towers.
While Dubai may be the most well-known city in the United Arab
Emirates, Abu Dhabi is quickly becoming equally as popular. This
includes an increasing amount of tourism to the city and the
emirate, as well as the movement of international businesses into
the Abu Dhabi free zones.
In addition, since 2004 and the new vision of Sheikh Khalifa for
a more modern city, several large projects have been undertaken to
increase tourism. This includes the development of Yas Island,
which is a racing facility that includes a Formula 1 track and a
Ferrari theme park.
In addition, Saadiyat Island has been developed into a cultural
area, including a Guggenheim museum, the Zayed National Museum, the
Louvre Abu Dhabi, a maritime museum and a maritime museum and
marina district. These attractions, as well as the traditional and
iconic attractions in the city, are bringing in greater numbers of
tourists every year.
To increase international tourism, the leadership in Abu Dhabi
has made some changes to this traditional city. While seen as much
more conservative and more strict in following Islamic law, there
have been changes in the laws to accommodate tourism, including a
loosening of alcohol laws in specific areas of the city.
While there have been changes in the law, it is still common for
tourists to assume that they do not have to follow local laws,
which can result in violations of the law. Other crimes that may be
relatively minor in some western countries may be significant legal
issues in Abu Dhabi, and hiring a criminal lawyer for
representation is highly recommended to avoid any misunderstanding
of the options and the significance of the alleged offense.
Court Appointed Lawyers
There are now court-appointed lawyers available to individuals
in the UAE charged with specific types of crimes. These are the
crimes that include the possibility of the death sentence or life
imprisonment, which means they are serious felony types of crimes.
Crimes included in this category are murder and attempted murder,
drug convictions, arson with death so well as inciting suicide.
These are also common death penalty crimes in many other
However, in the UAE, there are a variety of other crimes which
also fall under the capital punishment category of crimes. Although
the death sentence is rarely carried out in these crimes, long
prison sentences are possible with a conviction. These types of
crimes include rape, blasphemy, adultery, apostasy (renunciation of
the Muslim faith or adoption of other religions), perjury,
homosexuality, and aggravated robbery.
For all other crimes, a court-appointed lawyer is not an option.
This means the individual accused of the crime is responsible for
hiring his or her attorney. Choosing an international lawyer at a
top international law firm provides the resources, legal expertise
and the experience in the UAE court system to provide the legal
representation required in both significant as well as lesser types
While most tourists will not face capital punishment types of
cases, there are other legal issues that can result in jail time or
significant fines. Working with an experienced criminal lawyer
familiar with the courts and working with prosecutors can be
instrumental in getting these cases reduced or even dismissed
without the need for jail time or significant fines.
In Abu Dhabi, most hotels and their restaurants, nightclubs, and
bars serve alcohol. However, it is important to avoid being
intoxicated in public, which means staying inside the hotel and off
public streets and areas when consuming alcohol. Drinking in
public, even if not intoxicated, is also forbidden. Visitors should
always check with the hotel staff before assuming it is acceptable
to drink outside of the venue.
Visitors to the area cannot buy alcohol legally from stores, but
it is possible for residents with a license to make these
purchases. Visitors attempting to buy alcohol or making a purchase
illegally can be fined and even jailed for this offense. For those
staying in the area for work or business as residents, obtaining a
license is possible. This license stipulates the amount of alcohol
you can purchase.
Drinking and driving in Abu Dhabi is a serious offense, as it is
in most countries around the world. It is highly recommended for
any alcohol-related offense to contact a criminal lawyer to help
reduce the fine or even to have the charge dismissed. Often other
charges, such as disorderly conduct or similar charges may also be
included, which can make the potential of longer jail time or more
significant fines a reality without legal representation.
Public Displays of Affection
In Abu Dhabi, as well as the rest of the UAE, tourist areas are
typically not monitored for public displays of affection. If there
is a complaint, however, this can become an issue that tourists
have to face. It is also not allowed in the country to have a
sexual relationship out of marriage, which means common-law
relationships and partners are not recognised as such in Abu Dhabi.
Having these relationships, including sharing a hotel room if not
married, can result in deportation, fines or going to jail.
In any public location, including parks, beaches, and cultural
settings, couples should be aware that anything more than holding
hands can be considered a crime. For same-sex couples, there should
be absolutely no public displays of affection of any sort. As
homosexuality is a significant charge under Sharia Law, same-sex
couples need to be extremely careful in their presentation of their
relationship throughout the country, even in tourist areas.
Behaviours That Offend
Swearing or using offensive terms or gestures in public, or even
online, can result in a criminal charge. Individuals need to be
careful to avoid using derogatory terms, religious themes or words
or in making any type of gesture that may be interpreted as
While these may seem like typical daily events in many Western
countries, in the UAE they can result in jail time or even
deportation. A criminal lawyer can often intervene in these cases
and have the case dismissed or a fine rather than jail time or
Most tourists to Abu Dhabi want to have photos of their visit.
However, it is a crime to take photos of government buildings,
military facilities or to take pictures of other individuals
without their permission. Taking pictures in mosques and other
important buildings and areas of the city can also be illegal, so
always ask and confirm before taking any pictures to avoid possible
Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence and, if posted online
and in any way determined to be critical or derogatory, this can
include significant prosecution. Some types of photography
equipment, binoculars and other types of electronics may also
require special licenses to be considered legal.
Reading in advance and respecting cultural rules is a simple way
to avoid these types of legal issues. If there is a charge, working
with a criminal lawyer to address the issue is the best option for
anyone holidaying or visiting the emirate. Click here for more
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.