Glen Hipolito, a tattoo artist in Dubai, inks Aries Manzo's arm.
Glen Hipolito, a tattoo artist in Dubai, inks Aries Manzo's arm.

The secretive world of the tattoo artist

DUBAI // Usually, what they create is there for everyone to see. But tattoo artists in the UAE operate quietly, undercover, in a murky zone where they are not sure that what they do is legal, though they claim that there is nothing in law to ban them.

Legal or not, tattoos are a worldwide craze that is taking hold in the UAE, with artists earning thousands of dirhams a month. Dhengz, 32, a tattoo artist from the Philippines who asked that his last name not be published, said he was not aware of any law that prohibited tattooing. Most of his customers have their tattoos done inside a rented room in Dubai during a day off from his job as a sales assistant, or after work. He uses a machine that he bought in the US in 2007.

"I am very particular with hygiene and cleanliness," he said. "I do not reuse needles." Dhengz has been a member of the Philippine Tattoo Artists Guild since 2005. He also has a certificate from the Department of Health in Manila after attending a seminar on blood-borne diseases. Half of his customers are Filipinos. The rest are British, Indian, Russian, American, Moroccan and Lebanese. "Most of my British customers ask to have tattoos done in their homes," he said. "I don't mind it because it's much safer."

Police were more likely to become suspicious of a tattooist's activities when a customer, who was not Filipino, left the villa after getting a tattoo, said Dhengz. His job brings in Dh2,500 (US$680) a month, not enough to cover the Dh2,700 monthly rent on his room and other expenses. When business is brisk, he can earn up to Dh8,000 a month from tattooing. His cheapest tattoo costs Dh500. "A Briton had his full back tattooed and I charged him Dh10,000 for the entire job, which could cost twice or thrice more if he had it done in the UK," Dhengz said. "We did it in six sessions and each session lasted for about five to seven hours."

Ronaldo, 32, a graphic designer in Dubai, who also did not wish to give his last name, said some of the money he earned from tattooing was sent back to the Philippines and the rest helped to pay bills. "If no one complains, then I guess it's all right," he said. He earns Dh10,000 a month from his full-time job but said he could earn twice as much from tattooing with a couple of dozen customers. The majority of his customers are Europeans who travel from Abu Dhabi and Dubai to have tattoos done inside his home in Sharjah.

In four years, he has tattooed at least 15 Emiratis. "They like black and grey tattoos as well as tribal designs, such as waves, the sun, and birds," he said. Ronaldo charges Dh500 an hour. If a tattoo takes four hours, it costs Dh1,500. The tattoo artists said they took health and safety precautions by keeping their place and equipment clean and hygienic to prevent infection or illness. "We will only face problems when a customer complains," said a 37-year-old Filipino tattoo artist who did not give his name.

He said police were more likely to check up on them if they used drugs or supplied drugs to customers to control pain.  Eighty per cent of the tattoo artist's customers are from India. He charges a minimum Dh300 for a tattoo, but it can go as high as Dh7,000 for a larger and more intricate design, which takes about 12 hours to do in one sitting. He does not hold any other job. In 2004, he quit as a hotel lifeguard after working for two weeks. He took on other jobs, but a year later, became a full-time tattooist.

He started out as a tattoo artist 22 years ago in the Philippines. In Dubai, he earns an average of Dh35,000 a month, far more than he could make at home. "I tattoo every day for at least eight hours," he said. "When it gets really busy, I usually ask someone to assist me. I've trained six so far."


Started: 2023
Co-founders: Arto Bendiken and Talal Thabet
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: AI
Number of employees: 41
Funding: About $1.7 million
Investors: Self, family and friends

Rafael Nadal's record at the MWTC

2009 Finalist

2010 Champion

Jan 2011 Champion

Dec 2011 Semi-finalist

Dec 2012 Did not play

Dec 2013 Semi-finalist

2015 Semi-finalist

Jan 2016 Champion

Dec 2016 Champion

2017 Did not play


The specs

Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo

Power: 268hp at 5,600rpm

Torque: 380Nm at 4,800rpm

Transmission: CVT auto

Fuel consumption: 9.5L/100km

On sale: now

Price: from Dh195,000

Cricket World Cup League 2 Fixtures

Saturday March 5, UAE v Oman, ICC Academy (all matches start at 9.30am)

Sunday March 6, Oman v Namibia, ICC Academy

Tuesday March 8, UAE v Namibia, ICC Academy

Wednesday March 9, UAE v Oman, ICC Academy

Friday March 11, Oman v Namibia, Sharjah Cricket Stadium

Saturday March 12, UAE v Namibia, Sharjah Cricket Stadium

UAE squad

Ahmed Raza (captain), Chirag Suri, Muhammad Waseem, CP Rizwan, Vriitya Aravind, Asif Khan, Basil Hameed, Rohan Mustafa, Kashif Daud, Zahoor Khan, Junaid Siddique, Karthik Meiyappan, Akif Raja, Rahul Bhatia

Pros and cons of BNPL


  • Easy to use and require less rigorous credit checks than traditional credit options
  • Offers the ability to spread the cost of purchases over time, often interest-free
  • Convenient and can be integrated directly into the checkout process, useful for online shopping
  • Helps facilitate cash flow planning when used wisely


  • The ease of making purchases can lead to overspending and accumulation of debt
  • Missing payments can result in hefty fees and, in some cases, high interest rates after an initial interest-free period
  • Failure to make payments can impact credit score negatively
  • Refunds can be complicated and delayed

Courtesy: Carol Glynn


Name: Shaffra
Started: 2023
Based: DIFC Innovation Hub
Sector: metaverse-as-a-Service (MaaS)
Investment: currently closing $1.5 million seed round
Investment stage: pre-seed
Investors: Flat6Labs Abu Dhabi and different PCs and angel investors from Saudi Arabia
Number of staff: nine

Inside Out 2

Director: Kelsey Mann

Starring: Amy Poehler, Maya Hawke, Ayo Edebiri

Rating: 4.5/5

The Specs

Engine: 3.6-litre twin turbocharged V6
Transmission: 10-speed automatic
Power: 472hp
Torque: 603Nm
Price: from Dh290,000 ($78,9500)
On sale: now


Director: Makoto Shinkai

Stars: Nanoka Hara, Hokuto Matsumura, Eri Fukatsu

Rating: 4/5

The specs: 2018 Nissan Altima

Price, base / as tested: Dh78,000 / Dh97,650

Engine: 2.5-litre in-line four-cylinder

Power: 182hp @ 6,000rpm

Torque: 244Nm @ 4,000rpm

Transmission: Continuously variable tranmission

Fuel consumption, combined: 7.6L / 100km


Company name: Revibe
Started: 2022
Founders: Hamza Iraqui and Abdessamad Ben Zakour
Based: UAE
Industry: Refurbished electronics
Funds raised so far: $10m
Investors: Flat6Labs, Resonance and various others

SPECS: Polestar 3

Engine: Long-range dual motor with 400V battery
Power: 360kW / 483bhp
Torque: 840Nm
Transmission: Single-speed automatic
Max touring range: 628km
0-100km/h: 4.7sec
Top speed: 210kph
Price: From Dh360,000
On sale: September

How I connect with my kids when working or travelling

Little notes: My girls often find a letter from me, with a joke, task or some instructions for the afternoon, and saying what I’m excited for when I get home.
Phone call check-in: My kids know that at 3.30pm I’ll be free for a quick chat.
Highs and lows: Instead of a “how was your day?”, at dinner or at bathtime we share three highlights; one thing that didn’t go so well; and something we’re looking forward to.
I start, you next: In the morning, I often start a little Lego project or drawing, and ask them to work on it while I’m gone, then we’ll finish it together.
Bedtime connection: Wake up and sleep time are important moments. A snuggle, some proud words, listening, a story. I can’t be there every night, but I can start the day with them.
Undivided attention: Putting the phone away when I get home often means sitting in the car to send a last email, but leaving it out of sight between home time and bedtime means you can connect properly.
Demystify, don’t demonise your job: Help them understand what you do, where and why. Show them your workplace if you can, then it’s not so abstract when you’re away - they’ll picture you there. Invite them into your “other” world so they know more about the different roles you have.

2020 Oscars winners: in numbers
  • Parasite – 4
  • 1917– 3
  • Ford v Ferrari – 2
  • Joker – 2
  • Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood – 2
  • American Factory – 1
  • Bombshell – 1
  • Hair Love – 1
  • Jojo Rabbit – 1
  • Judy – 1
  • Little Women – 1
  • Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You're a Girl) – 1
  • Marriage Story – 1
  • Rocketman – 1
  • The Neighbors' Window – 1
  • Toy Story 4 – 1

The UAE Today

The latest news and analysis from the Emirates

      By signing up, I agree to The National's privacy policy
      The UAE Today