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3/10/2017 LivingtogetherinDubai

Living together with boyfriend or girlfriend in Dubai


This information is not intended to encourage anyone to break the law, it is a perception or observation of
life in Dubai from the perspective of couples living together. Nothing in here should be taken as advice. If
you break the law in any country, you are at risk of being arrested and prosecuted.

TLDR version: Yes, there are unmarried couples living together in Dubai. You can live together with your
boyfriend or girlfriend, meaning it is possible, not permitted, just as it is possible to do many things that are
illegal in different countries. Many unmarried couples do live together in Dubai and the UAE without
resulting in problems with the authorities but arrests can and do happen (more often for having sex in Dubai
outside marriage than cohabitating). If couples do get into trouble with the law, it is usually because they
have done something to draw the attention of the police, or offended someone who reports them to the police.
The longer version ...

Many (usually western) couples wonder about living together in Dubai when they're not married. Note that
the following comments apply to Dubai, there are differences in how the rules are applied in other emirates.

In the UAE and Dubai, it is against Sharia law to live together, in the western sense, with someone you
are not married to. You can only live together with a member of the opposite sex if you are married to
them, or they are a family member. So the western expression about "living in sin" is taken more
literally in the UAE.
Dubai police do not spend their time walking through apartment complexes and hotels knocking on
doors and asking for marriage certificates (although in Sharjah they do according to news reports in
April 2010), and there are no morality police as is the case with the Mutawwa in Saudi Arabia.
However, if someone makes a complaint about illegal activity, then the police are obliged to investigate,
and if the complainer has more wasta than the police and/or the alleged criminals, then the police will
naturally investigate the complaint even more thoroughly.
Strictly speaking, it is illegal to be in a private room, or even in a private car, with an unrelated
member of the opposite sex. This applies to rooms in Dubai hotels also. The rule is referred to as the
Tawajed clause. [Not confirmed] With respect to taxis we assume the law doesn't apply to public
transport.
Or another description is the Al Khilwa Al Muharama clause (?) which says two people of opposite
sexes who are unmarried and unrelated, are not allowed to live together.
If you get caught, then you're likely to get punished under Article 356 of the UAE Penal Code which
reportedly says that anyone convicted of engaging in consensual sex gets a minimum 1 year jail
sentence followed by deportation. But it seems that most offenders get 16 months in jail followed by
deportation (this is just a comment on our part based on reading newspaper reports, not a thorough
analysis of court sentences).
Gulf News Express reported 09 June 2011 comments from a lawyer, Haroon Tahlak from Dubai
Advocates and Legal Consultants, who said "It is prohibited for an unmarried man and woman to live
together, or share a close space [apartment or room] under the UAE law. The clause is called Tahseen
Al Ma'asiya. The punishment under the law is a jail term of between one and six months to be followed
by deportation."
In reality, hopefully, the situation is not quite as harsh as it sounds (like many things in Dubai ...
unless you get caught). This is what one official was reported as saying in November 2007 (in a Gulf
News article see Unmarried couples living together in Dubai forum topic for more comments on
Sharia law, culture, customs etc with respect to men and women mingling in the UAE): "Mohammad
Yousuf, Deputy Director of the Dubai Courts Department, said while the Federal punitive law is
implemented in the UAE, the situation is different in Dubai. The Tawajed or Tahseen Al Ma'asiya
clause, he said, is not implemented in Dubai."
And in a Gulf News Express report 09 June 2011, an advocate, Amer Syed from Al Suwaidi &
Company, was quoted saying "In my experience, people are charged with living together unlawfully
only if they've broken another law. Rarely are there cases of people hunted down for living with a
member of the opposite sex, unless a tip or complaint is lodged" (however he did tell a story of a couple
who were arrested, convicted, deported after the police came to their apartment to investigate a
complaint made about theft by a maid).
It is almost unheard of for anyone to get into trouble because they're sharing a car with someone of the
opposite sex that's not related to them. If there is a problem, it's more likely because of another reason,
for example the police think an illegal taxi service is going on, or there's been an accident involving
alcohol.
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Nationality and/or culture can make a difference Asians seem to appear in newspaper reports more
often than western nationalities as getting into strife especially unmarried mothers. A Muslim woman
living with a nonMuslim boyfriend, or 2 unmarried Muslims living together, are more at risk of legal
problems than a Muslim man living with a nonMuslim girlfriend.
Your place of employment can make a difference also, since usually your employer is also your sponsor
and might be held responsible if you step out of line. A conservative employer, or government employer,
is unlikely to view a couple living together very favorably, especially if they're in company provided
accommodation.
Note also that while it is possible for one party to obtain a residence visa for their spouse in the UAE, if
you're not married, that will not be possible. At least not a husband or wife visa. If you employ your
boyfriend/girlfriend, then it might be possible since they're an employee as far as the authorities are
concerned.
If you're living with someone who is married to someone else, then there is a greater risk of problems,
especially if their spouse also lives in the UAE. If they file a complaint with the police about their
husband or wife in an illicit relationship, then the police will almost certainly investigate. If a couple is
separated but not divorced, then legally they are still married.

Couples sharing hotel rooms in Dubai

Hotel rooms are often shared by unmarried couples. We've never heard of a hotel asking for a marriage
certificate, and they usually only want to see one passport.
Even if both passports are shown, eyebrows wouldn't be raised at the different surnames since it is
usual in the UAE for Arab women to keep their own surnames after getting married.
In 2009, there was a case where the Dubai police went to a Dubai hotel and arrested a couple sharing a
hotel room. The woman's husband had complained to the police that she was sharing a hotel room with
her boyfriend who had come to visit her.

Men and women sharing accommodation in Dubai

With respect to sharing apartments and villas, it is quite common for groups of unrelated mixed gender people
to share accommodation (and sometimes even rooms but usually room mates are of the same sex) in Dubai.
Again, if people do run into trouble, it's more likely because they've annoyed neighbours who have complained
to police about noise, alcohol in Dubai, and/or drugs in Dubai. Note that the Dubai Municipality (DM) has
threatened, and evicted, bachelors, single people, and families from what they deem to be overcrowded villas.
Groups of single people sharing a villa in Umm Suqeim or Jumeirah are at risk of this, however, as of 2009
2010 at least, they do not seem to be as high on the DM target list as the 50 bachelors or halfdozen families
sharing a villa in Rashidiya. And classified advertisements for flatmates continue to appear in Dubai
newspapers and on classified ad websites.

Couples wondering about living together in an apartment or villa in Dubai are normally unlikely to have any
problems, unless they draw attention to themselves in a way that the police are prompted to get involved. As
the concept of having a girlfriend / boyfriend is not generally acceptable to many nonWestern cultures, you
may find it more convenient to refer to your partner as your wife / husband when dealing with non
Westerners. That can smooth the path so to speak, in many circumstances, however, you won't get away with
that if you're in a situation where the authorities want to verify your relationship. For example if your
girlfriend gets pregnant in Dubai.

Living together in other emirates

In order of risk of problems from lowest to highest, it looks something like this (in our opinion only):

Dubai (lowest risk)


... moderate gap ...
Abu Dhabi city
Ras Al Khaimah
Al Ain, Ajman, Fujairah, Umm Al Quwain
Abu Dhabi emirate outside Abu Dhabi city (Al Gharbiya, Ruwais, Western Region, etc)
... big gap ...
Sharjah (highest risk)

Police crackdown on unmarried couples living together in Sharjah

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UAE newspapers reported on 22 April 2010 that Sharjah Police had launched a campaign to catch
unmarried couples living together in Sharjah.
The National reported that "Police are knocking on doors and demanding to see evidence that couples
under the same roof are married."
The Khaleej Times reported that when police identified somewhere with illegal residents, they "would
storm the area and seek identification papers and marriage certificates."
Gulf News reported an official with the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) at Sharjah Police as
saying "We are first targeting areas that have a reputation of housing many illegal residents and
infiltrators, as well as couples who are not officially married,"
Living together stories in Dubai and the UAE

09 June 2011 Gulf News Xpress had a report on couples living together in Dubai, with comments from
those that do, and a couple of stories about those that got caught. For example, "Amer Syed, an
advocate from Al Suwaidi & Company, talks about the case of a 34yearold German male who got into
trouble for living with an unrelated woman. "When the man made a complaint against a maid that
stole from him, police investigated his apartment and discovered a woman living with him. Upon being
questioned on his relationship, the German admitted to having consensual sex with her, unaware that
it was against the law. A month of jail later, the couple was deported."
Last update Sunday 08Mar2015. Page development 4L 5C.

Related pages
Apartments in Dubai general information about finding an apartment in Dubai.
Dress code in the UAE
Dubai Code of Conduct the official decency laws for Dubai.
Hotels in Dubai a list of some accommodation.
Kissing in Dubai what not to do and how to behave.
One Villa, One Family the Dubai Municipality overcrowded and unsafe villa solution.
Pregnant and unmarried in Dubai information to try and stay out of jail.
Unmarried couples in UAE forum topic.
Weddings in Dubai just a thought to solve all your legal problems. And her mother might be happy.
Related websites (new window)

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