Add to Technorati Favorites expat Abu Dhabi Dispatches: The Liquor License

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Liquor License

Everyone that personally knows me is aware of my penchant for beer. To me it is the perfect companion for many of life's activities. Sporting events, barbeques, working on the car, parties or just hanging around the house watching TV, a frosty can of sparkling golden "poor man's prozac" is never far from my parched throat. Beer is a mellow way to knock the edges off of the trials and tribulations of everyday life. Ben Franklin once said that beer was God's proof that he loves us and wants to see us happy.  Beer probably predates wine in our ancestors' quest for intoxication and today it is brewed and cherished in almost every country in the world....except the one I moved to.

"So Ace", you may ask, "why would you consider moving to a country where adult beverages are illegal?" Well, in a bit of wisdom, the U.A.E. decided to make a concession to the huge amount of foreigners that were needed to work and live here to build their country up to the standards the rulers desired. They knew it would be hard to recruit and retain these expats if booze was not made available to them. They also knew that tourism would suffer if holiday-makers couldn't get their tequila shots. 

In Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and the rest of the Emirates (except for Sharjah which is totally dry) alcohol is freely available for tourists staying in resort hotels and expatriates who reside here are allowed to purchase a cetain amount of firewater per month for their personal use at home IF you register with the police and pay an annual fee to get a Liquor Licence which looks like a small passport (complete with photo) and has a page for each month in the booklet. 

For 200 Dirhams (~$54) per annum you are allowed to purchase 1000 Dirhams (~$368) per month in your favorite libations. That sounds like a lot but when you consider that a case of Heineken Tall Boys costs almost $40 it adds up quick. That's pricey but it is good quality 5% European beer, not the crappy 3.2% Utah peewater.  For those of you wondering-no, I have not reached my monthly limit yet.

The few liquor stores in Abu Dhabi are umarked and unadvertised, word of mouth is how you find the locations, I almost expect to have to utter a secret word to get in like the old speakeasies during prohibition. Once inside, there is a good stock of all the favorites, anything you could want. At checkout, you have to produce your Liquor License to the cashier and she writes in the amount of the purchase in the current month's page. I don't know what they would do if you go over the limit, I may have to try that sometime. Your purchases are then put into opaque black plastic bags and you are free to go. Out in the parking lot on the way to the car I feel so dirty!

One bit of irony when I applied for my Liquor License at the local police station is that the girl at the counter (she was cute, about 22 y.o. braces on her teeth and sporting a police uniform) motioned for me to come back up to the counter again and she apologetically explained that she could not issue me the document because I was listed as Muslim in the central computer and Muslims were not to be issued the license. A quick visit to my employer's HR  dept.-their mistake- and it was all straightened out in a couple of days. Good thing, I was down to my last two beers!


Roger said...

Thanks for an entertaining and informative insight into the forbidden zone. Do you have access to McEwens Lager? That was my favorite barley pop while in the UK.

Ace said...

I haven't seen McEwens yet, but every time I go for "supplies" there seems to be a different selection.

Grolsch, Pilsner Urquell and Heineken seem to be most plentiful. All good stuff! Some Miller Products are available too but more expensive than the European brands. I always buy the Tall Boy (500ML) cans--more cost effective!

Anonymous said...

Sharjah, as you mentioned is not so dry. There is a Shooting Club which serves and you can also obtain license from Sharjah Police to import the stuff from other emirates.