Abu Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates, UAE, and follows Sharia law, which is a set of religious principles that form part of the Islamic culture. The Sharia law deems cohabitation among people of opposite genders who are not married or blood-related to be illegal.
Can unmarried couples stay in hotels in Abu Dhabi? Unmarried couples can stay in a hotel but in separate rooms. It is illegal to stay in the same room as a member of the opposite sex if you are not married. However, hotels do not ask if you are married.
So oftentimes, people will go on as if they were married without a problem – as long as no one suspects anything and reports them. Here is what you need to know about staying in Abu Dhabi, unmarried.
UAE Law For Unmarried Couples
Under Sharia law, it is illegal to live with someone of the opposite sex if you are not married or if they are not a blood relative. Not only is it illegal to live with someone unmarried, but it is also illegal to be alone in a private room or car with someone of the opposite sex.
This law also applies to people staying at hotels in Abu Dhabi. Couples can stay in the same hotel, but they cannot share the same hotel room.
The Gray Area
Although it is deemed illegal for cohabitation with the opposite gender, people still do it. It is actually common to see unmarried couples living together or staying in the same hotel room.
Hotels will not ask for proof of marriage when checking into the hotel, and law enforcement will not randomly go door to door to homes checking for unmarried couples.
Unmarried couples get in trouble when neighbors suspect something or if something suspicious is going on. If someone suspects and reports, it will cause law enforcement to arrive and assess the situation.
The UAE penal code states that if an unmarried couple is convicted of engaging in consensual sex outside of marriage or cohabitation is taking place, that couple will most likely be punished with one year of jail time and deportation.
A lot of hotels in Abu Dhabi turn a blind-eye to unmarried couples checking into the same room, but if there were to be a problem that causes the police to get involved, that penal code would be applied, and they can become convicted and deported.
Etiquette For Unmarried Couples In Hotels
If an unmarried couple decides to stay together at a hotel, it is a good idea for them to take precautions and follow proper hotel etiquette in Abu Dhabi.
A few tips include:
- Don’t tell anyone you are not married.
- Don’t kiss in front of people.
- Don’t hug in front of people.
- Don’t draw attention to yourselves.
- Don’t cause a commotion.
As long as you are there together, the people at the hotel will assume you are married, so just go on as if you are married.
While not all cultures use rings as a symbol of marriage, sporting matching rings on the “wedding finger” couldn’t hurt anything. The custom is widely recognized enough to help deter most suspicion.
Etiquette For Couples In Abu Dhabi
In Abu Dhabi, it is forbidden to show public displays of affection; this extends to even minor displays such as hugging in public and sometimes holding hands is frowned upon.
Along with avoiding PDA, people should also dress moderately, and not participate in public nudity. No going topless, and no nude sunbathing on beaches.
Sex on a beach is also illegal.
It is illegal to be alone in a car with a member of the opposite sex if not married, so if someone is in Abu Dhabi with their significant other, they should not disclose that they are not married.
Hotels In Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi takes up 80% of the UAE with natural islands, luxury resorts, shifting sand dunes, and is a great place to travel.
Here are the top 10 hotels suitable for couples, according to reviews on Expedia:
- Jumeirah At Etihad Towers – 4.8/5 stars
- Grand Millennium Al Wahda – 4.3/5 stars
- Sofitel Abu Dhabi Corniche – 4.4/5 stars
- Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi – 4.7/5 stars
- The St. Regis Abu Dhabi – 4.8/5 stars
- The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal – 4.5/5 stars
- Anantara Eastern Mangroves Abu Dhabi Hotel – 4.5/5 stars
- Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel & Villas – 4.7/5 stars
- Al Raha Beach Hotel – 4.5/5 stars
- Anantara Qasr al Sarab Desert Resort – 4.8/5 stars
Things To Refrain From In Abu Dhabi
Offensive or insulting behaviors are illegal in the United Arab Emirates, and it is easy for tourists to not be aware of the law of the UAE or understand the penalties that are handed out for these behaviors.
Things that are illegal in Abu Dhabi may come as a shock because they may be legal somewhere else. Things like:
- Sleeping with your partner – Unless married, sex or co-sleeping outside of marriage is illegal.
- Electronic cigarettes – It is illegal to smoke electronic cigarettes, and it is likely they would be confiscated at the airport or border.
- Cross-dressing – Wearing clothes that are typical for the opposite sex is frowned upon and illegal.
- Writing a cheque that bounces – Not having the funds to honor a cheque is a crime in Abu Dhabi that can land you jail time.
- Staying in a hotel under the age of 18 – It is illegal to stay in a hotel alone under the age of 18. Anyone under the age of 18 needs to be accompanied by an adult.
- Public intoxication – Alcohol is available at licensed venues, but one must not be drunk in public or consume alcohol in the streets or outside a venue. Non-Muslim residents are able to get a liquor license that permits them to drink alcohol in their homes. Even people passing through the UAE intoxicated can be arrested.
- Taking drugs – The laws are so severe in the UAE for drug use, trafficking, or dealing drugs that the penalty can end up being the death penalty.
Attire In Abu Dhabi
There are minimum standards for how tourists should dress when visiting Abu Dhabi, and the dress code changes depending on what situation you are in. Cut off shorts, crop tops, tank tops, and too much cleavage is frowned upon.
Women are able to wear leggings under dresses, but these should not be tight or revealing. Women are expected to be covered from the shoulders down to their knees and should avoid revealing or clingy fabrics.
When entering a religious or government building, women are required to be dressed in a full-length abaya and have their heads covered.
Men in Abu Dhabi are seen wearing full-length trousers or shorts that are knee-length.
When leaving a hotel and you are not sure if you are dressed modestly enough for the public, the hotel concierge may be able to give you guidance. This blog post also gives a lot of ideas for cute women’s clothing in conservative countries.
Dressing For The Pool Or Beach
When visiting the resort pool or a beach, it is best to dress between comfort and modesty. Going topless is illegal, and thong bikinis are frowned upon. As soon as you leave the pool or beach area, you should make sure to properly cover up again.
Some areas will state the specific standards of how you should dress. If a security officer asks you to cover up, you should oblige as they are able to contact the police if you do not cooperate with clothing rules.
While there are definitely some precautions that must be taken in Abu Dhabi, it is still a great place to visit! If you are respectful of the culture you will be fine!
P.S. If you have time, check out some of these date ideas in Dubai! It’s only an hour drive from Abu Dhabi.