Tourists headed to UAE told ‘No holding of hands or Christmas kisses’

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Britain wants to make sure its citizens are more nice than naughty while soaking up the Persian Gulf sun this holiday season.

A social media campaign by British Embassy staff in the United Arab Emirates running this week is a play on the classic poem “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” and includes travel advice aimed at keeping unwitting Britons out of trouble.

The rhyme is meant for visitors to the Emirates, an oil-rich seven-state federation of former British protectorates on the Arabian Peninsula. It highlights potential cultural pitfalls through the eyes of a fictional traveller, Stu Nicholas.

“No holding of hands or Christmas kisses; under the mistletoe, despite amorous wishes,” goes a festive nugget.

Another says: “So time to go home after several spirits neat; but it’s a crime for Stu to be drunk on the street.”

The Emirates’ biggest and most cosmopolitan city, Dubai, has the most relaxed social codes in the conservative Gulf Arab country, but foreigners occasionally run afoul of strict decency laws and prohibitions on public intoxication.

British citizens have received jail sentences here, after being found guilty of kissing in public and having drunken sex on the beach. Other foreigners have been prosecuted for exchanging steamy text messages or showing a middle finger to a fellow driver.

The poem is being meted out little by little on Facebook and Twitter accounts operated by Britain’s diplomatic missions to the country.

It follows a similar awareness campaign last year centred on the “12 Days of Christmas” that included the tweet: “On the 5th day of #Christmas my friend said to me; If I have overdone it, please send me home.”

Millions of foreign tourists each year are drawn to the Emirates by beaches blessed with nearly year-round sunshine and eye-popping attractions such as the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building.

More than 100,000 British citizens live in the Emirates, and about a million visit the country each year, according to the embassies in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

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