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Take care with selfies and photo-bombing in UAE

December 22, 2016 Headline News No Comments Email Email

The United Arab Emirates (UAE), which includes Abu Dhabi and Dubai, is not a place to go wildly posting selfies on Facebook, according to advice to travellers circulated yesterday by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

While DFAT’s advice level remains “exercise normal safety precautions”, in an update circulated yesterday, the department adds:

“Travellers are reminded the UAE has strict laws regulating social behaviour.

“Comments made in person, or on social media, that could be seen to offend or ridicule another person, the UAE, the government or the royal family are illegal.

“It is also illegal to take photographs of people without their consent. Posting photos on social media with people in the background of the photos, can violate this law.

“We strongly advise travellers and residents in the UAE to take particular care not to cause offence, including on social media.”

The UAE is a federation of seven emirates: Abu Dhabi (which serves as the capital), Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al-Quwain. Each emirate is governed by an absolute monarch. Islam is the official religion and Arabic is the official language, although English is widely spoken and is the language of business and education, especially in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

DFAT also advises that legal and administrative processes are significantly different from those in Australia.

“If you are arrested, you may face a significant period of detention before your case goes to trial. You could have your passport held by UAE authorities and be prevented from leaving the country. The resolution of even simple legal issues can be prolonged and complex.

“Having a cheque bounce, not paying a bill or fine or not repaying a loan are considered fraudulent acts and may result in imprisonment.

“Sex outside of marriage, and homosexual acts, are illegal in the UAE. It is possible that victims of sexual assault may face criminal prosecution rather than being considered the victim of a crime. There have been cases in the UAE where sexual assault victims have been imprisoned after reporting an incident to local police or upon seeking medical assistance.

“The UAE has a zero tolerance policy on the trafficking and possession of illegal drugs. Penalties can include a death sentence or life imprisonment, even for small amounts. Some medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia are illegal in the UAE.”

Apart from that, have a nice trip!

Written by Peter Needham

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