Woman using a camera on Dubai Creek

Photography Laws in the United Arab Emirates: Useful Tips for Tourists

by Dubai Travel Planner

Every year, Dubai and the UAE greet millions of tourists eager to explore the enigmatic spirit of eastern countries.  If you also want to visit one of the luxurious cities of the UAE, you’ll undoubtedly want to immortalize your experience and capture as many photos as possible of the most picturesque locations the UAE is famed for.

Still, do not fall victim to your ignorance of local photography and get the most out of your trip; familiarize yourself with the rules and statutes that regulate photography in public places. In general capturing photos of and in such popular places as Burj Khalifa, Palace Downtown, Atlantis, the Palm, and the like is totally legal.

You can rest assured you won’t get into trouble for shooting pictures in the legendary Lost Chambers Aquarium or the Miracle Garden. That being said, there are some nuances you should be well aware of to avoid problems when travelling to the UAE.

    Government Buildings and Military Sites in the UAE

    In the Emirates, tourists that spend much time hanging around government organizations and other sites that have something to do with national security, law enforcement, or military forces always arouse suspicions. Let alone photographing them.

    The UAE laws are very strict about photographing political, government, and military buildings. So, unless you want to serve a term in a local prison, make sure to steer clear of taking pictures of government organizations or military sites. You also would be well-advised not to shoot nearby to avoid unwanted problems.  

    Airports in the UAE

    Airports are generally one of the most Instagrammable places. Tourists that first arrive at Dubai or Abu Dhabi International Airport may get overwhelmed by an irresistible urge to capture this ostentatious luxury. Still, you should really pull yourself together and refrain from doing so.

    Tourists are not allowed to photograph or videotape in these places. What’s more, you need to obtain special permission from concerned authorities to photograph aircraft. This measure is dictated by the government’s attempts to ensure the safety of airport passengers and employees. So, think again if you decide to capture an image of you or your friend with a Boeing at the backdrop. 

    People in Your Pictures

    Street photography represents a debatable issue in many countries. Now that so much attention is paid to protecting people’s privacy, the idea of filming or photographing people in the streets without their consent may evoke much concern.

    Emirati Men standing in Dubai

    The UAE is famed for its respect for people’s privacy and laws that ensure all citizens don’t invade each other’s privacy. So, it comes as no surprise that according to the UAE Cyber Crime Law, no person whose consent hasn’t been received should appear in your photos or videos.

    It’s allowed to shoot in public places like restaurants, malls, theme parks, etc, provided shooting is not prohibited there. That being said, filming and photographing families and women is frowned upon in the UAE. If you don’t abide by this law, you’ll be liable to a huge fine or even imprisonment.

    Sharing Pictures

    It doesn’t mean you’ll go unpunished if you’ve contrived and taken a picture of some forbidden place or person. You can be fined, imprisoned, or become persona non grata in the Emirates; if you share a picture with a state building or another person in it, you might end up prosecuted under UAE law.

    So, if you accidentally or purposely captured a person in your photo, you will certainly want to refrain from sharing this picture or footage on Instagram or other content-sharing platforms. Still, this is no longer a problem if you obtain permission from them. Other exceptions include sharing photos with celebrities, officials, or gatherings of people during public events.  

    Make sure to respect the laws and cultural conventions upheld in the country you’re visiting, and your vacation will be pleasant, and your pictures will be mesmerizingly beautiful.

    You may also be interested in learning moe about Dubai’s Drone Laws and general do’s and dont’s visiting Dubai

    a camwra set up with sunset view of burj khalifa in background

    Before you go… More important things you should know when planning a trip to Dubai


    Please note we are not a travel agency. This site is a travel blog to help newcomers to the UAE and transit passengers self plan their trip, we cannot book your flights, hotels, visas or connections for you. We may make a small commission if you click on any of our recommendation links.

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