Ixnay on the PDA in Dubai

You might want to rethink that romantic getaway to Dubai. That’s unless you make a concerted effort to table all lovey-doviness in public.

“Wait. You mean to tell me that a kiss on the lips might land me in the clink? You cannot be serious,” you may say. It's as serious as a heart attack; as certain as day giving way to night; and as sure that the Dow won’t be climbing over 10,000 any time soon. Clear enough for you?

This all came to a head in October when two Britons were sentenced to three months in jail and fined $300 each for engaging in lewd behavior (insert imagination here) on Jumeirah Beach, which runs adjacent to three Jumeirah properties, including the Burj Al Arab, in July.

In response to this, hotels, like the Madinat Jumeirah, are issuing “etiquette guides,” leaving them on restaurant tables and other places in guests’ purview. The guides remind guests that the possibility of arrest for inappropriate public displays is real. The hotel is quoted as saying that anything more than a peck on the cheek could result in detainment. Further, the guide makes it clear that drinking is not part of Muslim culture and that any drunken behavior is a serious offense.

Anyone else see a budding problem here? Not to make light, but this is like someone hosting a barbeque, but frowning upon carnivorism. Dubai has been marketing itself of late as an oasis in the middle of the desert, the place to come for leisure fun. They aren’t marketing to other Emirates or even others in the Arab world. No, they are looking to entice the West, a crowd that is certainly more hedonistic than Muslim nations. Westerners, by nature, like having a good time— even if that means planting a fat one on their significant other (or significant other at that moment) in public. Oh, and drinking alcohol? Westerners, particularly on vacation, like to hit the sauce, which, invariably, can lead to a bit of raucity. 

I am the first to respect a country’s code of conduct or behavior. As world travelers, this is important. When I was in London— years back, when I was a young immature lad— I used poor judgment and started in with Sinn Féin over a pint of Guinness at a local pub. The barkeep quickly admonished me, putting me in my place. Point taken: When in London stick to talk about darts and the Queen.

This is different. Dubai has been doing everything it can to make itself, if not a reprint, a beacon for Western lifestyle. If you are looking to entice as many foreigners as possible, it’s going to prove difficult to force your rules on them; particularly a no kissing in public clause. If guests to Dubai are going to feel like every one of their moves is being watched, well, pretty soon it’s going to catch on that Dubai might not be the best place to vacation.

I hope it doesn’t come to that: Dubai has a lot to offer, from impressive hotels/resorts with incomparable amenities, to rich green golf courses, exquisite cuisine and lovely white sand beaches. But, if it’s going to open itself to an influx of foreign visitors, be prepared to deal with a culture that is different. What you see as decorum rooted in years of history and religion, others may see as Draconian.

So, the next time you find yourself in Dubai, on a moonlit beach, under the stars—think twice before you move in for a kiss. A hand slap might not be the only thing that gets slapped on you!