For the first time, Dubai has eased its ban on daytime alcohol sales during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a move that will benefit thousands of westerners visiting the emirate. Although the city-state is considered modern and progressive compared to other Middle Eastern countries, it has never permitted the sale of alcohol until sunset when Muslims break their daylong fast.
In fact, like other Arab countries, Dubai too prohibits eating or drinking in public during daytime in the Ramadan season.
However, this year, Dubai's Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing issued a notice that alcohol sales would be governed by normal rules, as opposed to limiting their hours during the month-long fasting period, the Associated Press reported.
The department told the news agency that "ensuring a superlative visitor experience consistently is at the centre of our destination proposition and remains in line with Dubai's significance as a world-class tourism destination".
The tourism department did not reveal why the rule change is being introduced, but the move is said to indicate that Dubai values and benefits from the revenue that tourists and alcohol tax bring in.
The authorities have appealed to tourists to continue to respect Ramadan rules. It still bans the sale or transportation of liquor without a valid government licence, including the possession of wine or beer at home. Besides, being drunk in public or driving even under the slightest influence of alcohol is a criminal offence.
"With nearly one million tourists expected to visit and enjoy all aspects of our city over Ramadan, we expect all operators and travellers to be respectful of the Holy month and be mindful of cultural sensitivities," the department said in a statement.
Alcohol sales have been booming in the Gulf and Dubai profits from its sale despite strict rules on consumption. Liquor imports are heavily taxed at 50%, and a further 30% municipality tax is collected for every purchase of it for home consumption through a licensed bar or stores attached to hotels.