“One Bud Light please,” I meekly told the bartender.
“That’ll be 40 Dirham,” she replied.
$11 for a beer and the night out in Dubai had only just begun. There was no way this evening was going to be cheap.
Similar to Singapore, Dubai and other Middle East countries charge a hefty premium for alcohol. In the UAE, the only way to buy alcohol for private consumption is to have a government issued license to go to a Costco-esque warehouse that exclusively sells alcohol. Having been in the desert for a month, I never found this alcoholic’s oasis. Alternatively, if you are visiting Dubai for a short period of time, you can take advantage of the duty free shops and bring in a few bottles without having to declare them at Customs.
Although this is inconvenient for the social drinker who enjoys pre-partying with friends before heading out, it is better than the policy in the Maldives, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia where the importation of alcohol is prohibited. This regulation is strictly enforced in the Maldives. There are stories from travelers who have tried to smuggle alcohol in their scuba tanks only to be caught at the border.
After a couple of weeks in Dubai the rations of vodka were beginning to run low with reinforcements not scheduled to arrive for another ten days. So, in order to not break the camelbank completely, my friends and I had to get creative.
We heard there was a Benihana in Old Dubai that had all you could eat sushi and all you could drink beer. Strategically, we made it there just as the promotion was beginning and found our own private teppanyaki room.
Some bland California rolls later, one of the geniuses that I was with thought this was an opportune venue to play the Taps Drinking Game. (a precursor to The Ugly Hungry American) It was my first time playing this game and till this day I still don’t know the rules. If I had to describe it as a football play, it would start as a halfback sweep to the right only to setup the weak side screen to the left in order to walk into the endzone. In other words, a player indicates he is going one way then fakes like he is going another so the next person in line is tricked.
Terrible explanation, notwithstanding, we had found an opportunity for alcohol arbitrage in one of the most expensive cities and took full advantage. I can’t count the number of bottles consumed at the table that night but I will never forget the great time had by all, except Mr. Hana’s bank account.
I have been told by locals that they no longer offer this food and drink special.