For the hapless traveller, far from home, I have found it helps when you can find food from home. Now that I am living in the UAE things like pork and alcohol are the home comforts I sometimes seek. Fortunately for me the UAE government is keen to attract people to the country. This means it is possible to get alcohol and pork in Dubai and the UAE.
At this point I should mention that the UAE is comprised of a series of states (or emirates), each with their own laws and systems of governance. Dubai is where most Westerners live and is the least conservative of the emirates. So it is fairly easy to get a range of Western goods. In contrast Sharjah is more conservative and there is a total ban on pork and alcohol.
Alcohol in Dubai
Interestingly it sounds like the rules for alcohol are similar to those in South Africa in the 1970’s. In that case it was a conservative Christian government which discouraged excessive alcohol consumption. You could not buy alcohol in stores on a Sunday. In fact the only public place to drink alcohol was in hotels providing you also had a meal. Sports clubs could also sell alcohol while screening matches so my parents and their friends often went the local rugby club on a Sunday afternoon.
In the UAE a limited number of hotels and Sports Club restaurants have a licence to sell alcohol and pork. Non of the restaurants in malls sell alcohol but lots of menus have a cocktail section. The first time I went to a mall restaurant I was pleased to find what looked like a Mojito on the menu. It was hot and it would have made a nice refreshing drink. I was somewhat disappointed but not completely surprised to discover there was no alcohol.
The law requires individual consumers to have a licence in order to purchase alcohol in Dubai and the UAE. What I find fascinating is that the first time I saw a 10 L bottle of vodka was in a UAE liquor store. Some of the liquor stores are massive but perhaps that is more a reflection of the wide range of nationalities in the UAE.
Pork in the UAE
Then there is the challenge of getting pork. I have found that there are very few restaurants that sell pork certainly fewer than those that sell alcohol. A large part of the reason is that a separate kitchen is required to cook pork thus increasing costs. I also find it fascinating how many different types of bacon you can get here.
You can also buy various pork products in selected supermarkets. There is usually a special room which is clearly marked with something like “Pork (for non-Muslims only)”. I was surprised by some of the items I found in the room such as ham and mustard crisps or Pepperoni Pizza. I was just expecting to find things like sasuages and bacon. It made me think about how difficult it must be for Muslims living in some Western countries.
I believe that if you are living in a foreign country that it is important that you respect the laws and customs of that land. Having said that I am glad that the UAE is sufficiently open-minded that that it is possible to get alcohol and pork in the UAE. I think the best plan for new arrivals in the UAE is find out from those of have been here a bit longer where the best places are to go.