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Sex on the Beach? Not in Dubai

Carol Sottili

Having sex on the beach, especially when there's a possibility of getting caught, is a definite no-no, even in destinations where just about anything goes. But a British couple recently discovered that behaving badly on the wrong beach can get you in very deep trouble.

The 36-year-old woman and 34-year-old man were allegedly caught on a beach in Dubai, a a popular tourist destination in the United Arab Emirates. Authorities in the conservative Arab nation were not amused. The two are now on trial, facing the possibility of several years in prison. The woman, who worked in Dubai, was fired. The man, who was visiting, has been stuck there since the July 5 arrest.

Dubai is an up-and-coming destination for tourists, especially Europeans. Millions visit the beachfront city each year. The Department of Tourism describes the city's welcoming environment, stating that women can move about unaccompanied, alcohol is served in licensed establishments and all religions are allowed to worship. But it's no Amsterdam.

Those who are caught with drugs are also subject to harsh penalties: A British national recently served nine months after a speck of marijuana was found on the bottom of his shoe, and a British DJ was recently sentenced to four years in prison when a loose joint was found in his bag at the airport.

Most of us aren't having sex on the beach or smoking dope, but it's still good to know the laws of any country that you're visiting. The U.S. State Department warns against possessing illegal drugs in Dubai, but also adds: "Some drugs normally taken under a doctor's supervision in the United States, and even some over-the-counter U.S. drugs and medications, are classified as narcotics in the UAE and are illegal to possess. A doctor's prescription should be carried along with any medication that is brought into the country. A person may be subject to arrest and prosecution if possession of prescribed medicines (especially those containing codeine and similar narcotic-like ingredients) comes to the attention of local authorities."

Our advice: Check out a country's laws before you go. And if you're thinking of sex on the beach, get a room.

By Carol Sottili |  September 5, 2008; 7:52 AM ET  | Category:  Carol Sottili
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I think the better question is: With these draconian laws, would you visit Dubai?

Posted by: Liz | September 5, 2008 11:06 AM

So no sex on the beach is a draconian law?

No drugs allowed is a draconian law?

Sure, it may seem harsh that certain prescription meds not being allowed is a bit harsh but have you considered the cultural implications of such things?

The problem with Americans is that they expect to go to another country and be able to behave as they do in their own country.

Guess what? When you go to the UAE, you need to follow their laws, just as they have to follow ours when they come to our country.

If you do not understand the culture of a people or a country, don't make assumptions they are 'draconian.' Maybe do a little research and see why they have these laws.

Posted by: Ugly Westerners | September 5, 2008 12:58 PM

Maybe not as bald as Ugly Westerners, but I'm going to have to agree with him/her.

Arab cultures - UAE included - tend to be somewhat conservative and/or traditional in many respects. A low tolerance for illegal drugs or public sex is hardly surprising.

If you are going to travel to any foreign country you need to read up on their rules and regs. It's just how it works. Being a citizen of a Western-style democracy is not actually a get-out-of-jail-free card.

The State Department pretty clearly tells you about the strictness of their laws in their Travel section:

Posted by: Chasmosaur | September 5, 2008 4:22 PM

9 months in jail for marijuana on your shoe is draconian.

Posted by: Liz | September 5, 2008 9:00 PM

"If you are going to travel to any foreign country you need to read up on their rules and regs."

"The problem with [***] is that they expect to go to another country and be able to behave as they do in their own ounntry."

This is the problem with many travellers, and immigrants as well. Many of us have been saying this about illegal immigrants in this country over and over again. Learn English if you come here to live (not just visit), and obbserve and practice the habits of our culture. I do the same when I travel/live overseas.

Posted by: No hegemony | September 8, 2008 11:15 AM

I have to agree with and stand up for Liz.
She posted a hypothetical question was attacked by a person who calls him/herself 'Ugly Westerners' who then goes on a tirade about "the problem with Americans".

Yeah, those silly American women and their undeniable right to pose hypothetical questions.

Draconian is a VERY appropriate term for the harsh punishment of putting two consenting adults who got caught having consensual sex in jail for possibly years. And draconian is also an appropriate term for sending someone to jail for 9 months due to a spec of marijuana or 4 years for a joint.

But I'll go even further to say that the UAE's stance toward woman and the law is PERVERSE and out & out 'messed up' to be put lightly. Take for instance, the case of Ms Tiouli, a french national who was raped by three Dubai men and upon reporting the incident was in turn charged with "adulterous sexual relations". (

Tell me 'Ugly Westerns', can you do a little research and tell us all why this is common practice in the UAE?

Posted by: Jessica | September 10, 2008 1:32 PM

Also, I find it interesting that 'Ugly Westerns' takes the opportunity to go off on "the problem with Americans", when every person mentioned in the article was British. Hmmm, did you read the article, or perhaps do you just hate Americans?

Posted by: Jessica | September 10, 2008 1:50 PM

why even go to a country like this? with all the wonderful places in the world to visit, why bother going to some kind of fascist, fundamentalist nation where you can get in trouble like this for something like that? just avoid these places and their draconian laws.

Posted by: colorado kool aid | September 10, 2008 4:30 PM

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