Ellie Holman, a British dentist traveling to Dubai with her four-year-old daughter, was arrested for accepting a free drink on her Emirates flight. It might sound like entrapment, but it’s actually just the result of Dubai’s incredibly strict laws surrounding alcohol consumption. Upon landing, she was informed that her visa had expired and that she would have to immediately return to England. Reluctant to board yet another long flight with her young daughter, she pushed back against the request, and sensing hostility, the officer asked if she had been drinking. “Yes, I had a glass of wine on the flight,” she said, according to The Sun, “Given to me free by Emirates Airline staff.”
In Dubai, that admission was tantamount to confessing a crime. Since public drunkenness is illegal in the UAE — and the officer apparently believed Holman to be drunk — she was swarmed by police and taken to a cell, her passport confiscated. Holman claims that she and her daughter were not allowed water, food, or even use of a bathroom for two hours. “My little girl had to go to the toilet on the cell floor,” she said. “I have never heard her cry in the same way as she did in that cell.” Guards also removed Holman’s earrings and tried to tear out her hair extensions. In conditions reminiscent of an interrogation chamber, lights were left on all night, making it very difficult to sleep.
When Holman’s partner, Gary, heard that they had been detained, he flew to Dubai and bailed them out of jail. The whole ordeal, however, has cost her $38,000 (£30,000) in legal fees, expenses, and missed work. Her passport remains confiscated, and she is stuck in Dubai until her case is settled, which may take up to a year.
“My practice is gone,” she said. “All our savings have gone.”
Bibi, her daughter, has been allowed to fly back to the UK with her father while Holman awaits the outcome of her case.
But don’t let this story scare you away from ever taking a sip of alcohol in Dubai. Drinking is not illegal; it’s simply limited to certain venues, like bars, restaurants, and hotels. What is illegal is possessing alcohol or being drunk in public. However unjustified, that’s where Holman ran into trouble. According to the UK government’s advice for travelers, it’s common for visitors to be arrested under this law, “often in cases where they have come to the attention of the police for a related offense or matter, such as disorderly or offensive behavior.”
So, if you do drink on an Emirates flight, make sure you keep it together on the ground, listen to the officer, and don’t mention the free wine.
H/T: The Sun