First with Financial Comment from Arabia

Dubai tightens up on public morality with no alcohol in food

with 3 comments

Dubai restaurants have been banned from using alcohol in cooking, even when the existence of alcohol is warned on the menu, in the latest minor tightening up of public morality in what remains a Muslim society despite the overwhelming numbers of non-Muslim expatriates and tourists.

On the same day that this story surfaced, The National also reported that no new licenses are to be issued to massage parlours until further notice after ‘dozens were found engaging in illegal activities’. In Dubai it is already illegal for women to massage men – something quite normal in Doha and Abu Dhabi which might be seen as stricter cities for public morality.

Revolting chefs

The chefs of Dubai are up in arms at the restrictions on the use of alcohol in cooking which is common for many popular European and Asian dishes. They hope the ban might be relaxed in return for better labeling.

It is hard to say whether sterner public morality is some kind of condition for financial support from more conservative neighbors, or just a normal reaction to deteriorating moral standards. It could be just a reflection of a harsher economic climate and less tolerance for others.

The notorious Cyclone Club was closed several years ago, for example, when its lewd reputation became an intolerable embarrassment. Then again the opening of a new mosque in the Meadows and Springs this month is just a normal part of city life, not the start of a shift to militant Islam.

Delicate balance

However, in a multi-cultural society the harmony of the local community requires a delicate balancing of moral standards. There is no question of imposing one religion on all citizens and the rights and beliefs of everybody have to be taken into account.

The rules on behavior in public places have been in focus recently with a non-married couple jailed for one month for kissing in a restaurant at 2am in the morning. It is always difficult to draw a line on public morality but many Westerners thought the penalty inappropriate. They wondered about the woman who reported the incident, out with her young children way past their bedtime.

That Dubai appears to be undergoing a slight reversion to conservatism might be welcomed by many appalled by some of the excesses of the economic boom. But the city has made its wealth from tolerance and diversity and nothing should be allowed to threaten this legacy. Getting chefs to change their menus is a step backwards.


Written by Peter Cooper

March 22, 2010 at 10:49 am

3 Responses

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  1. Its going to be difficult now in the future for Dubai to become a regional hub of fine dining, as many michelin star chefs will think twice before accepting an offer here.


    March 22, 2010 at 8:58 pm

  2. Begs many questions:
    Why ban only the use of alcohol in cooking?
    Why has the government not banned alcohol completely, called it the end of the Dubai alcohol story and made a decided shift towards a more conservative image?
    Or is banning use of alcohol in cooking simply one small step towards this image?
    If that is indeed the case, then statements like Tom’s can be taken more seriously.
    If it’s not then it’s really difficult to see what the point of this move is.
    In any case, it is indeed a step backwards.

    dxb kola

    March 22, 2010 at 7:22 pm

  3. This is clearly a response to the fact that dubai is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Abu Dhabi.


    March 22, 2010 at 4:20 pm

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