I had my first run in with the law today.
With half an hour to kill between school drop-off and a session at the dentist, I parked up by the beach as I was feeling a bit dizzy and desperate for a drink (it's been 42C here today and I've had a bad head cold, to say I wasn't feeling great would be an understatement). Of course it's Ramadan so eating, drinking and smoking in public is prohibited, but I took one sip, thinking that as the beach was fairly deserted and I was tucked out of plain sight in my car, it would be OK.
I had just put the can down when a police car appeared out of nowhere, pulled up alongside me and gestured for me to open my window. A police officer emerged and asked for my license, then asked if I had taken a drink. My stomach lurched. Since the evidence was clear to see, in the shape of a mini-can of Diet Coke skulking in my drink holder, I 'fessed up and apologised profusely, explaining that I wasn't feeling very well. He gave me a ticking off and stressed that there was no eating and drinking in public spaces until after 6.09pm, and that I had to follow the rules. Then he told me to go but to make sure to respect Ramadan in future.
Relieved? I'll say. Gossip in the school playground for the past two weeks has centred on fools who disregarded Ramadan and ended up in the slammer. The truth is that the penalty for breaking Ramadan can land you with a one-month prison term or a 2,000 dirham fine, which happened recently to two Arabs and a European. However, arrests are fairly rare with only 24 people jailed for this offence in the past three years.
But to avoid anyone else falling foul of the law, check out Time Out's quick guide to the rules of Ramandan. More detailed information about Ramadan is also available here.
As an aside, the Dubai police are invariably utterly charming, even when they're telling you off - a far cry from the British bobby who tends to suppress all signs of being human upon donning uniform. The Dubai police force also have much cooler uniforms, all khaki and braid trim (so OTM, as Grazia would say). Call me shallow if you like ... but a girl notices that kind of thing.