We take a look at the laws surrounding tattoos in Dubai, if there are tattoo shops and whether tattooing in the UAE is allowed
27 August 2018| Last updated on 21 March 2019
When it comes to getting a tattoo in Dubai, there’s a grey area surrounding what people believe is and isn’t illegal…
Many believe that tattoos as a whole are illegal in Dubai, others think getting a tattoo done in the UAE is illegal but having them isn’t. Honestly, both statements are wrong – which is why there’s some uncertainty about having a tattoo in the UAE.
For a lot of expats moving to and living in Dubai, tattoos aren’t a taboo subject. In fact, we’re sure getting a tattoo is easily done in your home country.
Because of this, it’s not uncommon to see expats now living here adorned with tattoos while out and about in the city.
But between all of the butterflies, dolphins and tribal designs, there’s some confusion over tattoo laws in Dubai and exactly what the laws state about having/getting tattoos in the UAE.
Are tattoos legal in Dubai?
When it comes to rules on tattoos in Dubai, it can be a tad confusing.
Simply put: both having and getting a tattoo is not legally penalised in the UAE.
Therefore, a tattoo does not constitute a crime in itself.
However, they are forbidden in Islam by virtue of a Fatwa issued by the Official Fatwa Centre at the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments (GAIAE), and considered a form of self-injury.
This is why it’s rare to see or meet an Emirati or Muslim with tattoos in Dubai and the UAE, as they are considered socially unacceptable. And as the UAE is a Muslim country, it’s understandable that there are no tattoo parlours in Dubai as we understand them.
Of course, this then leads many expatriates to ask are tattoos allowed in Dubai and the UAE.
Having tattoos is perfectly fine and legal. And if you’re asking can you show tattoos in Dubai? Yes you can. Saying that, however, if you have a tattoo that is considered offensive and against the values of the UAE, you may face trouble.
Are there tattoo parlours in Dubai?
Getting a tattoo in Dubai in an actual tattoo shop is not possible. There are no places to get tattoos in Dubai, and there are no licensed body art tattooists in the city.
There are underground artists and locations where you can get a tattoo, however doing so is highly discouraged by officials. In fact, it is illegal to have a tattoo done by an unlicensed tattoo artists, due to the health risks this poses to public health. Especially if they incorrectly sanitise tools, which may cause severe health problems including Hepatitis C and infection.
These laws apply to medical and cosmetic tattooists in Dubai, also.
Are cosmetic and semi-permanent tattoos legal in Dubai and UAE?
The only licensed tattoo providers are people like doctors or dermatological doctors in clinics, who offer tattooing services as part of medical treatments.
Tattoos for medical purposes in Dubai are permitted, and are governed under the jurisdiction of the Dubai Health Authority (DHA).
These laws and regulations in this instance, therefore, apply to treatments like semi-permanent make-up artists, like brow tattooing or similar.
In terms of body art however, there are no official tattoo parlours or artists that are regulated by the UAE’s authorities. Thus, getting a tattoo done by an underground tattoo artist in Dubai – who doesn’t have the correct licencing – can land you, and them, in hot water.
Why are tattoos not allowed in Islam?
As with many aspects of life, you may find differing opinions among Muslims on the topic of tattoos.
The majority of Muslims consider permanent tattoos to be ’haram’, meaning forbidden, based on the oral traditions of the Prophet Mohammed. Various arguments against tattoos follow the beliefs that:
- Tattooing is considered a mutilation of the body, and thus changing Allah’s creation
- The process of getting a tattoo inflicts unnecessary pain and introduces the possibility of infection
- Tattoos cover the natural body and are, therefore, a form of deception
Does Islam ban henna or stick-on tattoos?
Both henna tattoos (and stains), and stick-on tattoos, are generally permitted in Islam, and thus in the UAE. Provided they do not contain inappropriate images that contradict the cultural values of the country.
In fact, henna tattoos are very popular between Muslims and women residing in Dubai, and a popular tourist activity to do for those visiting.
Can you work in Dubai if you have a tattoo?
It would depend on the company’s values that you are applying to work for, but as with any professional environment, care should be taken to cover any tattoos that are on display.
Many expats may be surprised to find some companies are more relaxed about tattoos in Dubai and the UAE, than what they may experience at home.
But again, it depends on the industry also – creative and media industries may be more relaxed than say, medical professionals or even sales roles.
So if you’re wondering if you can get a job in Dubai if you have a tattoo on your body? Yes, you most certainly can.
Can tourists in Dubai get tattoos?
Residents and tourists are urged not to seek the services of unlicensed tattoo artists who operate underground, as there are health risks associated with unhygienic tattooing practices that can transmit diseases.
In Dubai and the UAE, there are no governing bodies for body art tattooists, and thus there are no checks or certifications for sanitation. Unlike approved medical centres, Dubai’s underground artists may not maintain the proper levels of hygiene, sanitation and keeping instruments sterile.
As a result, tourists are strongly urged not to consider having a tattoo in Dubai or UAE.
Many argue that full checks and audits are required to clean up the underground tattooing industry in Dubai and UAE – but this is something still yet to be realised, and may not ever be.
Our only other piece of advice for tourists visiting Dubai is to take care if you have a tattoo that may be deemed offensive with images or slogans – if in doubt, cover up.
Can a tattoo result in me being banned from Dubai and UAE?
Your tattoo may be socially acceptable in your home country, but in the UAE there are some that can be considered disrespectful… Swear words, nudity and profane images for example may fall into this category.
As per the regulations in place by The General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowment, tourists can be banned for life from Dubai and the UAE if their tattoo is considered offensive under UAE federal law.
This is of course, an extreme circumstance and not one that happens often in UAE. If you need to cover up, read our complete guide on Dubai’s dress code for an idea on how you can do that.