Youth alcohol parties are rife in UAE, say residents

Residents, parents and teens have said that underage drinking often happens at parties held in empty villas, beaches or under bridges.

The foot bridge between Al Zeina and Al Muneera in the Al Raha Beach area, which residents claim  is a popular location for youth to congregate and partake in underage drinking. Christopher Pike / The National
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They gather in empty villas, on beaches and under bridges. The death four years ago of a British boy has had little effect on underage drinking.

ABU DHABI // Underaged drinkers as young as 12 are gathering in empty villas, on beaches and under bridges for unsupervised parties with alcohol, residents say.

Residents, parents and teens say pupils are obtaining alcohol from people who sell it from the backs of cars or by bribing drivers and maids to go to licensed stores for them.

It is four years this month that 15-year-old Harry Harling, a British student, fell to his death after drinking at a party in an unfinished Dubai building.

But the tragedy has not deterred other teenagers from drinking at such gatherings.

Annabelle, 14, says she has seen teens drinking at several parties.

“I’ve also heard about lots of parties in Al Zeina that involved underage drinking,” she says.

“Youths are aware of the consequences of getting drunk but they don’t really seem to care because it’s ‘fun’ and ‘exciting’, from what they hear. Some people also do it to seem cool and end up forgetting about the dangers.”

D B, an Abu Dhabi resident, says teenagers often drink in unused properties.

“I know there have been some parties in vacant villas in Al Reef,” she says.

The Canadian expatriate believes many teenagers drink out of boredom and a lack things to do in their spare time.

“If we don’t give teens an outlet, how can we expect them not to act out?” she asks.

Jessica Rita Chedid, a Lebanese expatriate who has lived in Abu Dhabi since she was a teenager and experimented with alcohol when she was younger, explains how her peers used to obtain alcohol.

“The way they do it is they’d send an adult – for example, the driver – to the liquor store after paying them to buy them the alcohol,” says Ms Chedid, now 26.

Murtaza Hussain, a 15-year-old Pakistani living in Mediterranean Village in Al Reef, has seen her peers drinking.

“In downtown of Al Reef by the Select Supermarket, I have seen many teens drinking alcohol with people sometimes much younger than their age,” Murtaza says.

Another Al Reef resident, M F, has also seen teenagers drinking alcohol in public areas.

“It’s quite disturbing as some of them are as young as 12,” she says. “There is not a lot for teenagers to do here – it is no excuse for the drinking but it doesn’t help.

“Teenagers are sneaking out of houses at night and meeting up and drinking and smoking in the parks when their parents believe them to be in bed asleep.

“They are then sneaking back into their residences at 4am.”

Another resident has seen teenagers drinking under the bridge between Al Zeina and Al Muneera, “very loud and obviously drunk”, while Masoud Dawoudi, a Dubai resident, believes underage drinking is rife.

“I was a witness at one liquor store here selling drinks to three boys who didn’t look older than 15 to 16,” Mr Dawoudi says.

“Those who decide to act stupid despite their age and experience will deservedly have to deal with the consequences, which can be severe in some cases.”

The minimum age for those seeking an alcohol licence in the UAE is 21.