You might even face hefty fines and possible deportation, too
24 July 2017| Last updated on 14 January 2020
When it comes to living here, we are all familiar with the Dubai and UAE etiquette that is expected of us; no public displays of affection, don't insult the country or the ruling family, follow the Dubai dress code and no drinking without a license.
Afterall, the UAE is a Muslim country, so rules are obvious for those living and visiting here. There are, however, some that are not so obvious. And while they may rarely be enforced, it's important that you are aware of them - or else risk facing the wrong side of the law.
So here's an overview of the types of behaviour and actions that could land you in trouble in Dubai, or worse - in jail.
When it comes to fundraising for a good cause in the UAE, there are actually laws and decrees in place that must be followed. Sure, we all love to give back to the communities in which we live - but anyone wishing to raise money need to be clued-up on the laws. Anyone wishing to fundraise in Dubai needs to get prior approval from the Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department (IACAD) through one of its registered charities.
The law states that any fundraising activity, be it for money or items, and the advertising for it should be approved beforehand. This covers any public calls made to donate money to a particular cause or event - even if the site or event is abroad. Failure to gain the approval needed from the IACAD can lan you in jail for up to one year, or a AED 100,000 fine.
2. Swearing in WhatsApp messages
Swearing in public is a criminal offence in the UAE, but not many may know that using abusive language in WhatsApp messages (or any other messaging platform or social media platform) is equally as bad. In fact, if you risk sending the wrong person the wrong message, or the 'middle finger' emoji, under the UAE's cyber laws you could face a fine up to AED 500,000, a prison sentence and possible deportation.
Don't panic just yet though - as the law is enforced only if a recipient compains about receiving the swear word or emoji. One sent between friends in jest would not automatically land you in trouble.
3. Checking your spouse's phone
The UAE's law states that it is illegal to 'use a computer network and/or electronic information system or any information technology for the invasion of privacy of another person', and that includes spying on your spouse. Snooping around their phone or electronic devices could land you in jail for up to three years, alongside a fine that could be anywhere between AED 100,000 up to AED 300,000.
In fact - one woman in Ajman was previously fined AND deported after her husband complained of her breaching his privacy rights. While there's no specific law that specifically incriminates someone for checking someone else's phone, there are several privacy laws in place, which are taken extremely seriously here in Dubai and the UAE.
4. Taking photos of others (without consent)
Speaking of privacy, it is illegal to capture an image or video of any individual without their consent - at any time. And it's even worse if you then go ahead and share that online without their consent, too. There have been many cases in which individuals have fallen on the wrong side of the UAE's cyber crime laws - with some being fined up to AED 500,000 and jailed for up to six months. So to avoid this - it's always better to ask for permission first!
5. Sharing photos of accidents
For a lot of us, the thought of capturing the scene of an accident is abhorrent. However, there are some curious souls out there who may find it so fascinating they're inclined to take a picture of it as they past by.
Rubbernecking is bad enough, but then to capture the scene of a traffic accident is a complete violation of the law... With those found guilty facing up to life imprisonment and/or a fine between AED 50,000 and AED 3million - as well as deportation.
6. Carrying a poppy seed bagel
What seems a relatively harmless snack to some is in fact a serious violation of the law here in Dubai and the UAE. Why? Because poppy seeds are the source of two drugs; opium and heroin. And given the extremely strict laws in the UAE and surrounding Gulf countries, carrying a poppy seed or poppy seed bagel into the UAE will result in your arrest for drug possession. The result? A lengthy jail sentence.
In fact, a Swiss man was jailed for possession of 3 poppy seeds that he had brought with him to Dubai after eating a poppy seed bun at London Heathrow airport.
7. Spreading rumours
Everyone needs to take due care when posting or sharing information on social media, or verbally, because spreading rumours is a criminal offence in the UAE. There are laws in place, especially for cybercrimes, that state anyone that spreads a rumour that 'damages the social peace and public order' and disturbs 'national peace' can be criminally prosecuted, and may face imprisonment and a civil fine not exceeding AED 1million.
Basically, by spreading a rumour both on and offline may ultimately prevent the authorities from doing their job; if there is an issue or piece of news that the public should be made aware of, it should come from the relevant and authorised authorities in Dubai and the UAE.
8. Bouncing a cheque
The banking system in the country remains attached to the traditional forms of Islamic banking. Meaning, if you write a bad cheque there's a chance you may be held accountable if the intended recipient complains. While nowadays banking systems and payment methods are increasingly becoming more modern, there are still some aspects of life here that require written cheques (like rent, and school fees) and the instance of a bouncing cheque hasn't been completely decriminalised. Cheques can be bounced for a number of reasons, with the most common being a written error on it, differences in signatures and lack of funds in the individual's accounts.
Our advice? If you a cheque you wrote happens to be bounced - perhaps innocently so - it's best to act quickly, contact the intended recipient and your bank to rectify the issue before it escalates further.