by Tom Kaneshige

Dangerous Dubai? There’s No App for That

May 25, 20123 mins
Consumer ElectronicsSoftware Development

Mobile travel apps are all the rage, especially for destinations like Dubai. While they appeal to tourists, they don’t tell the whole story.

I get requests all the time from iOS app developers asking me to write about their stuff. Well, it’s a lucky day for Leading Brands JLT of Dubai. The company has an app called Dubai 2012 ($1.99).

Here is the app’s description: “Dubai 2012 is a feature-rich digital travel book for the iPad. Packed full of information about the hottest restaurants, trendiest bars and most luxurious hotels, Dubai 2012 gives savvy travelers unique insights into this bustling city through video and web features.”

Now here’s a picture you probably won’t be seeing on the app:


You’re looking at inmates in a Dubai prison.

In contrast to the man-made islands, ski slopes in the desert and other worldly spectacles, a very old value system persists that you will never see in a mobile travel app – and it’s one that can get Americans in a heap of trouble.

A friend told me that a drunk driving arrest (that is, consuming any amount of alcohol) will lead to an automatic six-month prison term without a trial. Nearly five years ago, DJ Grooverider was sentenced to four years imprisonment for possession of 2.16 grams of cannabis at the Dubai International Airport. He was pardoned seven months later.


According to Sky News, you can get arrested for swearing or making rude gestures, kissing or holding hands in public, adultery, cross-dressing, homosexual behavior, exposing your underwear, taking pictures of certain government buildings, bouncing a check or failing to pay a bill, and wearing revealing clothing at places other than the beach. Visitors can’t eat, drink or smoke in public places during Ramadan.

Here’s another tidbit from Sky News: “Raw poppy seeds are included on the UAE’s banned list, and Fair Trials International highlights the case of a man held at customs after poppy seeds from a roll he ate in the airport became trapped in his clothing.”

Then there’s this picture in a story from The National last summer:


Here’s the downright scary caption: “Social worker Latifa Khadim at Dubai prison with prisoner Zakir Alam. Zakir has served 3 years and 4 months of a two-month prison sentence. He will not be released until he is able to pay the Dh 200,000 blood money to the family of the other driver who was killed in a car accident.”

The Dubai 2012 app serves up great pics but doesn’t tell American visitors what they really need to know.