No, A Woman Wasn’t Detained For Having A Glass Of Wine On Emirates

Filed Under: Emirates

Yesterday a story went viral about a woman who was detained at Dubai Airport. The woman from the UK claimed she was detained because she didn’t have the correct visa, and the officers started questioning her about her drinking, causing her to be detained. She claimed she had a single glass of wine on her Emirates flight.

Several of you asked me to share my take on the story, and at first I wasn’t comfortable writing about it, because the story didn’t add up. On one hand, I don’t want to completely dismiss the woman’s story. On the other hand, when a story sounds too bizarre to be true, generally there’s more to it.

I’m not suggesting the UAE is the world’s most progressive place, but Emirates transports tens of millions of passengers per year, and many of them drink a lot more than a single glass of wine on an Emirates flight. I figured there had to be more to the story, especially as we were just getting one person’s side of the story.

What also didn’t add up is that the woman was supposedly turned away because she only had a single entry visa, so she couldn’t enter the country. European citizens can get visas upon arrival, so that didn’t make sense.

So I didn’t write about the story because I felt like there had to be more to it. I didn’t want to say the woman was lying, but at the same time I wasn’t about to point fingers at the UAE.

Dubai Airport officials have now provided their version of the story, which actually makes sense. The woman was detained after she began filming a heated discussion between her and immigration officials using her smartphone. Per The Sun, quoting an immigration official:

“We dispute Dr Holman’s account of her treatment.

She was not turned away because she had a one-visit visa, as she claimed, because European citizens get a 30-day visa upon arrival.

UAE law is strict on people recording others on their mobile phone without permission, which will not have helped Dr Holman’s case.

She became abusive towards airport staff, which is not tolerated.

We cannot comment further as Dr Holman’s case is still under review but there is more to her story than she has told.”

Virtually every country has laws against filming immigration facilities, and that includes the US. If you actively defy the orders of immigration officials, you can bet you won’t be welcomed into the country.

If she was being belligerent, it also explains why immigration officials might ask what she had to drink on her flight.

To be clear, I’m not saying that either side is necessarily 100% right or wrong here. But the explanation that she was detained for being belligerent and having filmed immigration officers is a lot more believable than suggesting it was because she had a single glass of wine on her Emirates flight and didn’t have the correct visa (that last part is patently false).

Based on the information shared so far, it sure seems to me like there’s nothing to see here, and reasonable policies were followed…

  1. of course, you are not a disinterested observer here. you make your living off reviewing luxurious first & business class cabins plus over-the-hotel hotels. and you use points. and the Middle East carriers have very accessible cabins using points. and the hotels in these countries are over-the-top. consider the reduced content you would have if you took a principled stand to no longer enter these countries.

  2. Don’t you love when facts get in the way of personal agendas?

    Thank you, Ben, for placing responsibility and impartialiaty ahead of personal beliefs.

  3. @ listen — Not really though. It’s tough to redeem miles for Emirates first class nowadays, and I don’t have that many great things to say about Etihad nowadays, so if you actually think that’s how I feel, I’m doing a pretty bad job at it. 😉

    But can we stick to the facts here? I’d call the UAE out if the story as presented were true. It would be a real risk to travelers. I’ve written other negative stores about the UAE. Plenty of them. But this one just didn’t add up in any way. Do you disagree?

  4. Seems apparent that @listen is a semi-pro troll with an agenda. Ben, you angered them by simply reporting facts as known (i.e. no speculation and hyperbole), which is what all ‘journalists’ used to do. #smh

  5. @Debit This blog is aviation related… and it’s pretty awesome.
    Take a look around if you’re a fellow AVgeek.


  6. Hey Ben. When I read the story yesterday the whole story definitely didn’t add up. Btw she is a citizen of Sweden I believe and that mean she gets a multiple entry visa on arrival for 90 days. I am interested to see an official account of the incident even if much like the lady’s version, it will be heavily biased. What I do take greater issue with is her treatment (assuming what she says is true) especially considering she had her young daughter with her.

  7. She’s been released and is also now even free to go to the UK, Sweden, Iran or wherever she wants to go. The Dubai government has reportedly apologized to her in a way and says they will pay for her flight back to London. They also say all charges have been dropped.

    Apparently the Emir of Dubai or someone he relies upon thinks the bad press wasn’t worth it or that she has already been punished enough and should be released.

  8. I think the UK needs to start educating their people about how to travel like the chinese government is attempting to do. They have a fraction the number of the people in the US yet they have a disproportionate number of liquored up passengers causing problems.

  9. As a gay man, your defense of the UAE here is troubling. This is a country that criminalises same gender relations. Ask Gigi Gorgeous about her experience of immigration in Dubai (google if you don’t know her story). I get the need to write about Emirates or Etihad on a luxury travel blog. But this article is a shameful defense of the UAE. I’m not saying you need to use your blog to highlight LGBT rights abuses around the world but you don’t need to write an article defending the UAE.

  10. Everyone (and their dogs) think, they can go viral if they pretend to be victim of some injustice and that’s the issue at hand here. That woman (or her husband’s) think, giving their account of story first, and hoping someone picks up the story and run with it make them innocent. I am against all these Dictators Govt in Arab world but let’s try filming some US or UK immigration officials when you arrive on a visit visa. See what happens?

  11. So is it time those who support human rights, gender equality, race equality BAN UAE carriers???

    @Lucky, I would expect you to defend your honor and rights and boycott Etihad and Emirates indefinitely. Say goodbye to those Residence and private suite.
    @Lucky, you do know that stuff from your blog regarding sexual orientation and champagne in F would be enough to lock you up next time you set foot in DXB or AUH.

  12. @Jon, Ben doesn’t care about being gay. He rather gets his champagne. Singapore, UAE, Saudi, Qatar, Kuwait, all highly rated by Ben when he flew them first class and sipped champagne and caviar have anti-gay laws.

  13. The report from the UAE media office is clear. Emirates didn’t check she had valid documentation, however it’s ultimately her responsibility. Her passport expired in June.

    She disagreed , was argumentative and tried to film someone against his/her will in a restricted area.

    She wanted to show everyone how “ innocent “ she was by posting family pics with her young daughter

    Whatever one thinks of the UAE, she was an idiot and deserves what she got.

    Had she remained calm , she would probably sitting on jumeirah beach now as she was offered a solution

  14. @ debit. You have never contributed anything constructive. You do realise this is a travel blog ? Clearly you have some sort of cognitive disorder. I would love to see you say something interesting and useful related to aviation, however doubt you know anything. Now is the time to prove everyone wrong

  15. Well Bill this woman is Swedish so…? Also I don’t think anyone apart from the Dubai official suggested she was “liquored up”.

  16. Yeah try filming a BCP officer at any US port of entry, I am sure you’ll get a superb treatment from them. I first read this story on a UK website and thought man how many times I flew the Emirates and drank alcohol, I could have spent some time in jail. However, it is illegal to film immigration officers in many countries including the US if I am not mistaken. It didn’t make any sense that she was detained because of alcohol consumption like she claimed.

  17. @FinalCall thanks, the official statement from Dubai makes things clear. When I learned that she videoed the immigration officer, that clarified half the issue because I’m pretty sure there are no-camera stickers on immigration booths in pretty much every country. So, the woman’s passport was the expired document not the visa. She had a second passport from Iran (surprisingly) but that only grants a 96-hour visa but according to what I previously read on the Daily Mail, she planned a 5-day trip so the immigration officer told her she now needed a new outbound ticket following her new visa. And that’s when sh!t went down.

    “She attempted to enter the country using a Swedish passport, which had already expired on June 10, 2018. She was advised by the immigration officer that she could not enter the country with an expired passport. She then produced an Iranian passport, and was informed by the officer that she could enter the country by issuing a new temporary visa, which allowed a 96-hour stay, and had to change her departure flight according to the new visa.

    Ms. Hollman refused angrily due to the additional payment fees the process would require, and proceeded to verbally insult the immigration officer and take photos of the officer via her phone.”

    Between the Dubai government and Hollman, I’d pick Dubai if I had to. Hollman was clearly in the wrong with her expired passport and it is a PRIVILEGE not a right to be granted entry to any country, entitled white person! Especially from someone who’s visited many times before she should know better. Should she have filmed the immigration officer? With all police body cameras and FB live streams of police abuse, it’s easy to think that one can film immigration officers as well. Dubai did poorly when the child got stuck with mum in the detention center. Couldn’t the child have gone to the friends living in Dubai instead?

  18. I wish they arrest you in dubai and spend a day or two inside their detention centres.Then you will stop writing about the reason behind the arrest and write the mistreatment,manhandled,being Ignored.among others awful ordeal you will face.Thank u

  19. She is an Iranian-Swedish dual-citizen, so it’s not unusual for such a person to have both passports.

    I already knew she was of Iranian national origin and a Swedish dentist before the UAE authorities put out public statements on the matter.

    If she would have been non-belligerent, fine with leaving within 96 hours and bought a new ticket to leave within that time frame to a place that would admit her, then she could have probably visited the UAE without issue. But of course it didn’t go that way.

  20. @Jon; Get a grip please. Unless you behave like a Primadonna, there would be no one to harass you while traveling to or through the UAE! Ben is not defending the UAE, the country does not have LGBT rights yet., however, it has laws of its own, whether you like it or not, you need to respect them. There are literally millions of travelers that go through Dubai every month without being stopped and questioned about their drinking habits or sexual orientation, Do you ever wonder why? There are thousands of gay people who live and work in Dubai, do you hear in the news people are getting rounded up and put in jail? No you don’t! As long as you conduct yourself decently in public, No one gives a flying toss if you were gay or not. Please stop moaning about LGBT rights in the UAE, it has been only yesterday since it was fully recognized in some of the most liberal democracies.

  21. How many other countries do you know where people have been detained for 3 days for filming at immigration facilities and defying orders of immigration officers? ‍♂️

  22. “Had she remained calm , she would probably sitting on jumeirah beach now as she was offered a solution”

    I’m a bit surprised she was allowed on the plane in the UK to begin with. Don’t they check documents before boarding, like they do in Frankfurt? If she was boarding with her Swedish passport, she wouldn’t have been allowed with as it was expired. And had she boarded with her Iranian passport, she would have had to show them she was only transiting there. Seems like a fishy story all around.

  23. And cue the folks who have never even visited the UAE with their strong opinions against them.

  24. Uh, yes she was.

    I know it’s very fashionable in the left-wing community to defend Muslims (why is that, btw – it’s not a race, it’s a religion), but seriously.

    Ben, these people *literally* want you and Ford tortured and killed. They *literally* roam the streets of Europe’s gay neighborhoods and bash gays who walk from the bars alone.

    Yet here you are, defending islam.

    It’s disgusting.

  25. I want to point out that you refer to her as “the woman” repeatedly and not as “Dr. Holmann.”

    In the United story last year, you refer to the man as “Dr. Dao.”

    Obviously these are different cases where the blame in one case lies on the passenger and in the other on the airline, but still, it does seem a bit of a double standard and a situation in which perhaps some implicit biases may be at play.

  26. Many LGBTI people travel to countries which criminalise LGBTI people. For trans travellers, for example, the world is a very small place if they don’t take that risk. While Ben is openly gay, OMAAT is not a blog with an overt LGBTI agenda. There is no inconsistency in his treatment of UAE compared to other countries and I don’t think people are right to criticise him.

    Indeed, the TSA treatment of trans passengers can be pretty dreadful, as are some States’ bathroom laws, so if commentators suggest LGBTI people should not travel to UAE on principle, why aren’t there similar calls here to boycott travel to the USA or at least some States?

    In this case, though, it is alcohol, not sexual orientation or gender identity. While the passenger’s version of the story fails to reveal certain facts, it seems at least possible that an irritated junior official did make an allegation about the passenger’s alcohol consumption which hasn’t been repeated in the official narrative. What seems important to other travellers is that cooler heads in more senior positions have clearly decided not to pursue any such allegation. I think for travellers the official response has turned this incident from one of potential concern into one which is reassuring to travellers that UAE isn’t likely to prosecute consumption of alcohol on inbound flights, even if provoked by poor passenger conduct.

  27. Traveler, as a gay man, I respect and support the Trans* movement and their struggle. I’d respectfully ask you to stop conflating the two, however.

    There are entirely different social, political, legal and cultural issues surrounding lesbian and gay travelers compared to trans* travelers.

    In fact, across the muslim world, it may arguably be easier being a trans* person than an openly gay man.

  28. QR, good observation. Also, Dao was not a doctor in the sense of the word we usually understand. In fact, he was specifically barred for trying to practice medicine in the United States.

    Yet this woman had the audacity to cause one of Ben’s favorite dictatorships to lose face, so she’s just ‘the woman’.

  29. Who decides where she gets deported back and how? Expired Swedish passport, secondary Iranian passport and likely an indefinite leave to remain in the UK.

    Can you even let your passport expire if you’re in another country even one where you have permanent residency status?

    Also how did she leave the UK on a month-old expired passport? Both check-in and passport control missed it? I find it suspicious that she thought to bring both her passports.

    She supposedly was released after 3 days and had been staying with Dubai-based friends awaiting her trial until she was pardoned and deported back… how did she enter the country? Emergency passport from Sweden?

    This happened in July 13 which is a Friday, which probably partly explained why she was kept in detention for so long. (ahaha, Friday the 13th, what a coincidence, but I mean more like a weekend slowdown of the bureaucratic legal system)

    Also travelling with children without the other parent can be tricky, I wonder what was up with that if that somehow factored in at all.

    The more I think about this, the more I feel badly for Dubai. It’s a ruthless regime when you get on its bad side (as in if you’re a non-white immigrant worker), the hot and smelly condition of detention center is likely the everyday reality of the Asian immigrant workers who built Dubai into the gleaming city it is today but in this case Dubai looks like the victim of a smear campaign. Every news outlet keeps harping about that glass of wine she drank, but that’s not the actual issue. The problem was a boring unsexy document that happened to be expired! Such shitty reporting even from the “respectable” broadsheets like the Guardian and Telegraph. Dubai has bent over backwards to accommodate Western pleasure-seeking attitudes contrary to its Muslim beliefs, ya think this mishandling of the truth will promote intercultural understanding and trust and further adoption of Western values? Also compound that with Westerners being so appalled when finally witnessing Dubai’s crappy unglamorous side. Get over yourself

  30. Glad to see a fair recount of this story. Amazing that every other news outlet jumped on the “banged up for a glass of wine” narrative without any thought or reason.

  31. Willian Y et al.
    Guys. Just get over it. If you dislike the UAE, don’t go there. If you do not like their airlines – don’t fly them.
    I know it can be done – I stopped flying them years ago, and survived.
    It’s a personal choice one makes – and shouldn’t be expected of others.
    Even if you consider this gay solidarity (and if that’s the case, please add Aeroflot to the list), Ben doesn’t have to agree.

  32. All these Americans spouting off about LGBT rights around the world when in areas of The US same sex relations are still technically illegal (Minnesota for example).No the Minnesota laws have not been enforced since 2001, but why isn’t everyone jumping up and down to change them.I know the Supreme Court deems these laws unconstitutional,and therefore unenforceable , but 17 years is a long time to do a bit of paper work.Mary Richards would have been furious!.I will never fly Air Minnesota.

  33. Filming, photographing or recording anyone without their explicit permission is either illegal, provocative or both. It’s a pretty reasonable rule of thumb never to do it.

    Even if it is technically legal you risk escalating whatever the situation is, having your phone smashed or confiscated, perhaps even being assaulted.

  34. Ben had been writing this blog for several years without any mention of his sexual orientation.

    Until recent years, there was always some trepidation about “coming out” in a highly visible position (such as blogging) due to fear of homophobic backlash. Fortunately that has mostly ended in western society so it was no big deal either way when he publicly answered a question about his sexual orientation.

    What’s most interesting to me is that I don’t recall Ben receiving a homophobic backlash. But he sure receives a lashing from those in the gay community who criticize him for not taking a public advocacy stance in countries intolerant to gays. I don’t think he ever signed up for that and I find it sad that his followers dictate his expected behavior. He’s a travel blogger, not a gay activist. Why do you insist that he must be both? Does a female traveler have to be an anti-veil activist when traveling to Muslim countries? I choose to travel there even knowing their laws so why would I? Or are you telling me I shouldn’t go? I’m a traveler, not an activist.

  35. @William Y – you piss and moan, act like you’re an expert and generally throw your own version of hate and bigotry around any time the Middle East comes up in a blog post. What is your end goal with the bile you spew? Are you trying to make everyone think like you? Is that it? Are you attempting to change the world to suit your ideology one travel blog post comment at a time?

  36. “Guys. Just get over it. If you dislike the UAE, don’t go there. If you do not like their airlines – don’t fly them.”

    I don’t understand why this only ever comes up here with UAE, Emirates and Etihad but not, for example, Singapore and Singapore Airlines?

  37. @Tracy

    There’s no exit immigration checks when leaving the UK, so it’s entirely Emirates’ fault that she was allowed on the plane without the correct documents

  38. @Jon “But this article is a shameful defense of the UAE.” – How is this particular article a shameful defense of the UAE? While I tend to agree that Lucky lets the UAE off easy overall, this article is about one incident in which criticism of the country probably isn’t merited. It’s not shameful to point out the numerous inconsistencies in the original story. Facts should still matter.

    @QR – Dr. Dao was a medical doctor, albeit on a suspended license. Dr. Holman is a dentist. A lot of people would call Dao “doctor” and not Holman. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re wrong, either.

    @Lord Lucan – You clearly have no understanding of American law. Same-sex relations between consenting adults are legal everywhere in the U.S. It is constitutionally protected nationwide. Your objection seems to be that states generally do not bother repealing those of their laws that are found to be unconstitutional-something that would have no practical effect whatsoever.

  39. @………….. To the so many people who blames the airline for not checking documents.

    Guess what, if you are dumb enough to travel on expired documents, you deserve to be detained and deported. And if you piss off the immigration agents you just made your life extra hard.
    Same goes for EK, dumb enough to let a dumb person travel then EK deserves the fine. (which goes back to the same pocket ;p)

    So if the expired documents are true, I say she deserves it. If not, @Lucky should boycott UAE.

  40. Radha Stirling, the chief executive of Detained in Dubai, said: “The UAE maintains a deliberately misleading facade that alcohol consumption is perfectly legal for visitors.

    “Tourists cannot be blamed for believing that the Emirates are tolerant of western drinking habits, but this is far from reality.

    “It is wholly illegal for any tourist to have any level of alcohol in their blood, even if consumed in flight and provided by Dubai’s own airline. It is illegal to consume alcohol at a bar, a hotel and a restaurant, and if breathalysed, that person will be jailed.”

  41. love your site. correction needed :

    “The woman was detained after she began filming a ~~~~heater~~~~ discussion between her and immigration officials using her smartphone.”

  42. Thanks Lucky for getting to the bottom of this. I had heard this story other places as well and it just didn’t add up. The wine on Emirates is basically unlimited and I remember receiving multiple mini wine bottles on an Emirates flight just a few months ago. Being detained for filming immigration personnel makes sense. In the world we live in we forget that some things just can’t be filmed.

  43. Good grief, sure is a lot of people on high horses around here. They must only be traveling from the US to Western Europe given most of Africa, Asia and South America has horrible human rights records. Of course, it’s easier to bitch on a blog than actually do something about it.

  44. Bill – she’s Swedish, not British. Get your facts straight before spewing your prejudiced bile. Perhaps it’s you who needs educating.

  45. This is 100% a made story and I think anyone believes in such a story like that is stupid, I’m really sorry for my language, but Dubai is a free city and the most safest place to live in the earth at the moment and this will never happened or will be happening in Dubai… it’s very strange that a woman like that makes this story and post it on line because of some mistakes, which she made ( which we don’t know what it is) and now she is made and upset, and using her Europe’s nationality and passport as a gun and put it in to the world most beautiful country in the world…!!!???? I really cannot believe that, Dubai has anything which no one has it in the world, all the freedom ( with respect it the religious and respect of the country) I have been many times to Dubai for business and pleasure with my family, and I really like to drink (honestly) and the people who are working in the airport or other places with the government or private companies are learned to be good to the people, specially to all tourists. I am going to Dubai on business again and again and I will keep drinking in the bar in lounges of Emirate with proud, and believe me I and all others( specially all my hundreds, partners and friends who are traveling and will keep traveling to UAE specially Dubai with me for business will keep drinking the copmlemantary drinks in the bar of business and first class of Emirates with pleasure and proud)

  46. Hey we are going to Dubai many times in year, and we love the services in Emirates airlines and specially airport, whenever the Emirates is involved of any flight, so there must be something crazy which this lady done in the airport to effect the law of the country… there is no city a single country, city, village, apartment, house, room, and even the poorest single families in this earth which you can, or would have your own law or rules, and we never ever do believe that, this is happened to you because of your one glass of wine, this can’t happen and will never happened or will happen… we will keep drinking with the respect of the country, and we will keep going back to UAE with pleasure and we will enjoy the Emirates airlines services which are the best in the world, please don’t mistake, we are only a user of Emirates airlines and we happy to keep continuing that.

  47. This didn’t add up to me either and it is disappointing to see The Guardian in the UK still peddling the lie in there story about her release today. There are obviously people above commenting with an axe to grind – there are some really quite unpleasant characters who comment on this site!

    I am no fan of the UAE or Emirates (I refuse to fly them due to the atrocious service I have often received) but Ben should be commended here for getting his facts right here. It’s sort of ironic people criticise when he jumps the gun, even when he admits when it’s mistake but here he is being cautious and people jumping on his back.

  48. What she was talking about? What the heal she was thinking to make such a story? I can’t believe that, to make such a story about the world most beautiful country and beautiful airlines??????

  49. Sorry but I cannot stop writing, and I really think that, something was going on with her ( of course not with her children) How comes an airline which is serving drinks with pleasure in the aircraft and having the world best business, first class, and the best lounge bar in the airport and airline with the best available crue and staff, with serving all with the best available wines, champagnes, beers, and etc… stop you in the airport and question you if you had a drink or not??????( same country staff, same group, same party, and same honest people, it’s just impossible, just please think, before you make any decisions…!!! The airline which is giving you the best service in the world with having many people Globally, to give you the best service wit many languages, and serving you the best of all and the first of all, gives you a hard time for drinking a glass of wine, OH MY GOD?!!!! Think before you write or act. It’s not possible and will never could happen. There is no any real true court in the world to judge someone with out having both parties comments, or present in the court room, so never trust and juge this story because of she was with her kids or because of she had a glass of wine…. we never heard from the other party which is a single person who worked in the immigration or security counter, and it’s not all government,… BUT BELIEVE ME AND TRUST ME ON THIS WHO EVER IS READING THIS STORY… ONE OR TWO PERSONS MADE MISTAKES ( NO MATTER IF WAS HER OR AN IMMIGRATION OFFICER WAS) THE GOVERNMENT AND RULLER HAS BEEN APPOLOGIZED TO THE PUBLIC, WHICH YOU WILL NEVER EVER WILL BE ABLE YO FIND SUCH A COUNTRY OR LAW OR EVEN A RULLER IN THE WORLD…..!!! PLEASE LET US KNOW IF YOU HAVE SEEN A COUNTRY’S RULLER COMES AND MAKE A DECISION OR CHANGE A RULE AND HELP A HUMAN OR PERSON BECAUSE OF SOME MISTAKES ( NO MATTER IF SHE DID OR SOMEONE ELSE DID, BUT THE RULLER APOLOGIZED) PLEASE GO AND FIND SOME OTHER COUNTRIES WHO WOULD DO THAT.

  50. Truly shame on Fox new if this news has came from them…. shame on any other news stations if they have been putting this news online, I really think you all should investigate before you put this news on line, how could you judge someone from one side? ???????, did you hear about the real story? Did you really know or knew what’s going on there at the same time? Did you really know what she was asking to do, and what was her response? Did you ever think this could happened by anyone or any human in case of she or he is or and will be unhappy with someone or something???? How could you judge that and put this story online, I really think that you are loosing you business and job and trying to find something new…!!! Something good to make you richer, but this it didn’t work please find something else, and please find some real good stories, we all use to love you and trusted you for any news you brought to us, but this one is not a good one at all. We don’t care about the politics, political groups, governments, Presidents, Royal Families, or senators, or what you saying about them but this matter brought you down and who ever did put this story online is out of mind and the people or groups who supported them are in stage to heard this beautiful country, and I’m fully ready to stay in touch and be in front of any camera with out any doubt, and speech about this matter, with protecting the truth no matter is her or is a immigration officer, which I’m sure is not government as the way posted on news.
    Please call me and let me talk about what I know and what I think of this beautiful country and the Rullers and the tills.

  51. Given the airport’s version of the story, EU citizens could enter with a 30 day visa on arrival. Why then would the immigration employee and the women have a dispute at all? Sounds like the dispute was worth filming.

  52. Just to clarify, here in the UAE you will be arrested if you film other people without their permission or if you are filming in restricted areas. It is also a criminal offense for you to swear or to gesture in an abusive way. So, yes, they had every right to detain her for breaking both of these laws. One must respect the laws of the country he / she enters.

    Furthermore, when you are detained for a behaviour exhibited by this woman, the police would do a test to see if she was intoxicated in public. That could be an additional charge. However, in general this is not widely used to detain people and certainly not for having 1 glass of wine.

  53. @Lucky,

    My understanding is she holds both a Swedish and an Iranian passport. Here’s how I understand the story: at passport control, she presented her Swedish passport, in order to get the “free 30 days,” but the passport was expired, so she presented her Iranian passport. (Presumably she boarded with the Iranian passport since Emirates check-in should have blocked her from boarding with an expired Swedish passport?) She was then told she could get a three-day visa with the Iranian passport, but that she would have to change her return flight — and possibly pay for the three-day visa? — in order to use the Iranian passport. At this point, she becomes abusive and starts arguing with the officer, filming him or her. The question is whether UAE law actually allowed for her to be detained for her abusive behavior — and filming — towards the immigration officer or whether the airport officers used her admission of drinking as an excuse to arrest her, citing her with “public intoxication,” which is illegal in the UAE, and I wouldn’t doubt that the UAE would have a very different threshold for “public intoxication” than, say, France or Italy.

    So, a few questions:

    1.) Why was she allowed to board with an expired Swedish passport? Or did she board with the Iranian passport with the intent to try and “pull one over” on the UAE by attempting to enter with her expired Swedish passport?

    2.) Was she arrested for abusive language — it’s illegal to swear and use hand gestures in the UAE — and filming the border guard? Or was she arrested for “public intoxication”?

    3.) Why would she be so stupid as to think she could behave this away at border control in the UAE of all places?

  54. @Paul

    You seem a little too over-invested in this issue. Not saying you are someone from the UAE or anything like that, but still…
    Also, while Dubai and the UAE as a whole are nice places, Dubai, while certainly safe, isn’t exactly the most free city on Earth (in many ways), and it being the most beautiful country…well, Dubai isn’t a country.
    And Emirates as an airline is nice, but I wouldn’t say it has the best service overall either.
    Dial it down a notch or three.


    As a Swedish citizen, she would be entitled to 90 days visa-free access (unlike much of the EU, UK citizens get a free 30 days visa on arrival), if her passport is valid. As an Iranian citizen, she would get a free 96 hour transit visa.
    Even if she had used her Iranian passport to board the plane in the UK, someone at the airport and/or the airline should have mentioned the transit status to her, or asked to see her itinerary beyond the 96 hours, or something, anything.
    The whole thing does seem very shady all around.

  55. I read an article (credible daily) that said she was traveling on a Swedish passport that had expired in June? Which also seems odd as how would she have been able to fly? It does seem there is a lot more to this story than has been accurately reported so thanks for trying to provide a more balanced take.

  56. I don’t know who this Willam T. Person is, but he sounds like the definition of the entitled gay white guy. Someone who thinks his problems are twice as bad as everyone else’s (apparently even trans people). If you’re reading this, I hope you get some perspective; you’re not above trans people, their rights are not different than yours. If you refuse to believe that then I at least hope you get yourself!

  57. The lady didn’t have valid travel documents, was disrespectful to an official and filmed in a restricted area – she is responsible for all these infractions and accountable for the consequences. These are all offenses that could get her into trouble in other places, too. I wouldn’t be surprised if she’d be detained for trying that approach for entering the USA!

    But the issue here is the unclear legal situation for alcohol consumption in the UAE, on Etihad and Emirates that travelers need to be informed about and that even many frequent visitors to the UAE and bloggers get wrong:
    – It’s illegal to purchase and consume alcohol in the UAE without an alcohol license.
    – Visitors can not acquire an alcohol license, it’s only for non-muslim residents.
    – on planes in international airspace, the law of the country of registration applies, making it illegal to consume alcohol on Emirates or Etihad!
    – public intoxication is illegal – so even if you have a license or consumed alcohol legally before departing your home abroad and are caught with alcohol in your blood in the UAE, you can be persecuted for public intoxication.
    The law is black and white – any visitor to the UAE or passenger on Etihad/Emirates who’s consuming alcohol or caught intoxicated in public is breaking the law. Period!

    Now, the UAE is not enforcing the law for visitors, is serving free alcohol on their airlines and serving it in hotels and bars with a license to sell alcohol. As long as you don’t come to the attention of law enforcement for other infractions, you can drink alcohol, fly in comfort and go home happy. That’s also why so many regular visitor to the UAE say: “it’s ok to drink alcohol, I do it all the time” – because it’s not regularly enforced. Every case I’ve read of people being persecuted is due to them coming to the attention of law enforcement for behavior considered inappropriate, then being found out for having had alcohol!

    But that doesn’t make it legal to drink, the laws are still on the books and if you get caught for some other issue, like this woman, you can be persecuted for breaking the alcohol law. Until the UAE changes their laws or makes permits available to visitors, any passenger or visitor drinking alcohol is breaking the applicable laws and at risk of being persecuted for it!

    I’ve analysed and written about it, including links to the law:
    If you visit the UAE (and I think you should), you need to understand the local laws and customs and behave accordingly – obey the law; skirt it, keep you head down and hope you don’t get caught; break the law, behave inappropriately and risk getting in trouble!

  58. Thank you Lucky. Your take and the UAE statement make perfect sense. Why? ANY EU citizen can get a free 30 days visa on arrival so the bit about refused entry because she only has a single entry visa that had expired is a load of horse poop. Most countries will start hassling you from a Canadian polite “you’re not supposed to be filming” to USCBP where you will probably be in a cell in short order. For those unfamiliar with the journalistic genre of The Mirror think National Enquirer not NY TImes. Finally if you travel to someone else’s country dont import your views and morals with you. If you find the place that repugnant DONT effing GO!

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