Everywhere you look, there’s a romantic spot in Dubai. In fact, you won’t have a shortage of things to do in Dubai as a couple.
However, Dubai is still an Islamic city, which means that it’s stricter than most cities when it comes to how couples act, especially in public.
For many years, unmarried couples were not allowed to live under one roof in Dubai.
But in 2020, a new law in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) already allowed couples to live together in the efforts to attract more foreigners to live in the city and adapt to the modern world.
Still, there are rules in Dubai that couples need to follow relating to:
- Public display of affection
- Cohabitation for unmarried couples
- Indecent acts
- Getting married in Dubai
If you want to find out what these important rules are, read on.
Public Display of Affection
Here’s the truth: public display of affection (PDA) is not entirely illegal in Dubai and the rest of the UAE.
However, it’s not encouraged out of respect for local culture and traditions. Since Dubai is still a Muslim city, locals are not used to seeing or practicing PDA.
Married couples can hold hands in public in Dubai without getting into trouble but unmarried couples are prohibited to engage in any physical contact in public.
If you get caught engaging in PDA and you have no proof of marriage, you could incur a fine, go to jail or experience both.
The UAE Penal Code is also strict in punishing any indecent acts as defined in Section Two Articles 358-359.
You should also know that these rules are strictly implemented. In fact, there are many cases of expats being put to jail because of PDA.
For instance, an Emirati woman once filed a complaint against a British couple named Ayman Najafi and Charlotte Adams for kissing in public.
The couple were sentenced to one month jail time because of their act.
“Holding hands for a married couple is tolerable but kissing and petting are considered an offense to public decency.
Public displays of affection, as well as sexual harassment or randomly addresing women in public places, is liable to be punished by imprisonment or deportation.
The code of behavior basically reflects the Islamic traditions of the country. Public decency and morality laws throughout the UAE are very strict.”
– KK Sarachandra Bose
Lawyer and Partner, Dar Al Adalah Dubai
Same sex couples are also strictly prohibited from engaging in any PDA, whether in a public or private setting since same sex relationships are not allowed in Dubai.
Cohabitation for Unmarried Couples
Thanks to the new Federal Decree signed by the President, unmarried couples can now live together in Dubai as long as they have the approval of their guardians.
In fact, many couples are now investing in properties in the city after a long wait for the law to be amended, so they can be under the same roof.
You should also remember that you could face jail time or deportation if a spouse or custodian files a complaint against you or your partner for living together while you’re unmarried.
Only unmarried couples of the opposite sex are allowed to live together in Dubai.
Unfortunately, homosexual couples may face jail time, fines or deportation if discovered to be living under the same roof.
Dubai doesn’t tolerate any indecent acts from couples, especially when done in public. In fact, these acts are punishable by law and can lead to imprisonment and fines.
As a couple, you should avoid engaging in indecent acts such as:
- Arguing in public
Arguments are inevitable in a relationship, but you should never cause a scene while in public in Dubai.
Arguing can be considered a public scandal in the city, especially when you’re using vulgar language to attack your partner.
Even if you argue in your home loudly and a neighbor files a complaint to the police, you could still be answerable to the law.
- Dressing inappropriately
Whether you’re just visiting Dubai or living in the city as a couple, you must follow the proper dress code to avoid legal consequences.
For instance, women need to avoid wearing revealing clothes, especially those that expose the undergarments.
Men should also avoid walking around without a shirt or wearing something revealing.
It’s also strictly forbidden to strip off your clothes or go naked in public in Dubai.
On the other hand, cross dressing is strictly prohibited in Dubai following Article 358 of the UAE Penal Code that describes any “indecent attire” as an act against public decency.
According to the law, anyone publicly showing their homosexuality by doing acts like crossdressing could go to jail for 10 years, pay fines and get deported from Dubai.
- Dancing in Public
You’re out on a date and your favorite dance song comes up that you want to stand up and dance together as a couple.
But before you do that, remember that dancing in public or even listening to loud music is strictly prohibited in Dubai.
If you really want to dance the night away with your partner, do it at home or in a licensed club in the city.
- Engaging in Intimate Activities
It’s not uncommon for some couples to engage in activities that should be done in the bedroom in public.
But while this behavior is tolerable in some cities, it’s not allowed in Dubai. Engaging in these activities may lead you to jail, as it’s against public decency.
Getting Married in Dubai
Now, if you’ve been an unmarried couple living in Dubai for many years, you can actually get married in the city, whether you’re from the same country or a bi-nation couple.
General Pre-Marital Requirements in Dubai
- Approval of the bride
- At least one of the parties involved in the marriage should be a residence visa holder in the UAE if getting married in Dubai.
- A positive pre-marital screening certificate from a public healthcare facility in the UAE.
In the UAE, the government encourages Emirati men to marry Emirati women, so Emirati couples get to apply for a marriage grant if they decide to tie the knot.
If approved, this grant will give them $19,060.58 from the government to help start their life together.
Now, if you’re an Emirati woman who wants to marry an expatriate man, you need to obtain a consent from your parents and a permit from your employer if you’re working for the Armed Forces.
Your groom should also be a resident of the UAE and must not be stateless. He should also get a certificate of good conduct from the UAE government.
If you’re both non-muslims who want to get married, you can do so at your consulate or embassy or at the church of your choice.
Following the Rules to Live Peacefully in Dubai as a Couple
Although some may find Dubai’s rules for couples too strict, they’re only created to protect the welfare of women and how they’re treated by their partners.
Dubai and the UAE put such a high value on women because of local culture and traditions.
Following these rules is also a sign of respect on your end as a couple. After all, you’re a foreigner in this city.