Alcohol in the Persian Gulf

The monarchies of the Persian Gulf are strictly Muslim countries, but take very different views on alcohol. Trying to figure out the alcohol policies of the GCC, I drew up this map, using the information that I believe is correct — comments on the specifics are most welcome.

The borders of the United Arab Emirates are not authoritative — see my previous post for more carefully defined borders.

These policies are constantly in flux. Ajman only requires a liquor license for drinkers only as of 2008, and MPs in Bahrain recently voted to ban alcohol, although how that bill will progress is by no means clear. And despite what you may read, Kuwait is in no position to change its laws.

About Curzon

Lord George Nathaniel Curzon (1859 - 1925) entered the British House of Commons as a Conservative MP in 1886, where he served as undersecretary of India and Foreign Affairs. He was appointed Viceroy of India at the turn of the 20th century where he delineated the North West Frontier Province, ordered a military expedition to Tibet, and unsuccessfully tried to partition the province of Bengal during his six-year tenure. Curzon served as Leader of the House of Lords in Prime Minister Lloyd George's War Cabinet and became Foreign Secretary in January 1919, where his most famous act was the drawing of the Curzon Line between a new Polish state and Russia. His publications include Russia in Central Asia (1889) and Persia and the Persian Question (1892). In real life, "Curzon" is a US citizen from the East Coast who has been a financial analyst, freelance translator, and university professor; he is currently on assignment in Tokyo.
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8 Responses to Alcohol in the Persian Gulf

  1. Hi.

    Interesting.

    I’d just add that residents can buy alcohol in Qatar with the right documentation.

  2. Pingback: Map of alcohol in the G.C.C « The Gulf blog

  3. MamaHuhu says:

    Curz, just for clarification’s sake: while Abu Dhabi does tell you that a liquor license is required for buying booze outside of hotel bars, the reality is very different. Most expats I know that live here have never gotten a license, and almost never have trouble buying in most liquor stores.

  4. John Goodman says:

    I have also seen Arab Muslims drinking openly in hotel bars in both Dubai and Oman. However they have strict non-photography rules to prevent embarrassment and blackmail!

  5. sheikha_leg says:

    You can buy alcohol duty free at Doha airport. Not sure if you can take it out as I’ve never actually been into Shitar, but you can buy it during transit

  6. Gubbi says:

    This is fantastic.

    I believe that Sharjah should be pink, as to my knowledge even 5-star hotels in the emirate do not serve alcohol… perhaps someday I’ll make the trek over from Dubai to confirm.

  7. Gubbi says:

    Ha – just scrolled down and saw you live in Dubai, Curzon! Guess you know as well as I do!

  8. Curzon says:

    Thanks fellow GCC residents for the comments and corrections. As with most aspects of law and practice in the Middle East, there is so much conflicting information out there with different stories from different authorities so I appreciate the insight.

    I know a person who was detained at the airport in Doha for bringing in alcohol, had it confiscated, but then picked it up on departure. This person was able to drink at “two or three select bars in hotels” in Doha. How long has the alcohol license system been in place?

    Sharjah is the dryest of the UAE emirates, but you can drink at the Sharjah Wanderers Club, and the business class lounges of Sharjah International Airport. There is conflicting information on whether or not you can get an alcohol license in Sharjah — anyone who knows first hand, please let me know.

    And of course, a large majority of expats drink alcohol in bars and buy in the “wet” emirates without an alcohol license. The alcohol license is only a license to buy from designated stores. No one checks your alcohol license if you walk into a bar to buy a beer.