You have seen pictures of the lavish new luxury resorts; private islands in the shape of palms and Continents of the world. You’ve heard about the recreation parks for indoor skiing and man made beaches for surfing. You have probably imagined the all out partying that goes on inside all those glitzy skyscrapers. Am I right? Well, you had better think again!
Once again Dubai has shocked Western cultures by jailing visitors for minuscule quantities of banned substances, and sentenced these unsuspecting travelers to four years (YES, FOUR YEARS!) in jail. A growing number of Western tourists who are unaware of the strict, no tolerance policy in the United Arab Emirates, for possession of banned substances, end up in jail when highly sophisticated screening equipment finds traces of drugs on their clothes, bags or shoes. A British man was sentenced last week to 4 years of imprisonment after screening agents found a speck of marijuana in the tread of his sneaker (so small it would be virtually invisible to the naked eye, less than one grain of sugar). And you do not need to enter the country to be targeted for search. Several unsuspecting travelers were merely transiting through Dubai with a change of plane on their way to another destination.
As reported by the Times Online, “A mere speck of a drug forgotten in a trouser pocket can bring a four-year jail term. Since January 2006, possession of even trace amounts of illegal drugs has resulted in four-year jail terms for foreigners in transit through Dubai.The presence of drugs in the body is counted as possession, the Foreign Office cautions. In other words,Travelers can be jailed even if they have no drugs on them: a trace in the blood-stream of a drug consumed before entering the UAE is enough to secure a jail term. Painkillers that are available with a doctors prescription or are even available over the counter in Europe or the United States can be illegal in Dubai.”
Even more shocking is the classification of poppy seeds as a prohibited drug. One very unfortunate fellow hastily ate a roll at Heathrow Airport before boarding his plane. You guessed it, three poppy seeds fell into his clothing, and that was enough to get him arrested at the airport in Dubai. Apparently poppy seed possession can bring a jail term of 15 years. Are you kidding me!!! The Daily Mail reports, “Meanwhile a Big Brother TV executive has so far been held without charge for five days after being arrested for possessing the health supplement melatonin.” Melatonin is an over-the-counter remedy used by thousands of Westerners to help relieve the symptoms of jet lag. Travelers should also be aware that many common prescription drugs are banned in the UAE whether you have a doctors prescription with you or not.
To be on the safe side, take a look at the US State Department’s travel advisory site for the United Arab Emirates. You have no idea just how restrictive it is over there! Individuals are required to possess a personal liquor license, even in their own homes, to enjoy a beer or glass of wine. Tourist hotels certainly serve alcohol in their restaurants and bars, but the consumption of alcohol anywhere else is strictly prohibited.
And you had better not find fault with your hotel bill or restaurant tab either. You guessed right, your passport will be confiscated and you will be detained until the matter is resolved to their satisfaction.
So the next time you see one of those glitzy television specials about how wonderful it is in Dubai, think again, and spend your money in a country with a reasonable judicial system.