Once you have procured a license—which is a small booklet—you are advised to carry it with you at all times. Any time you buy alcohol it is documented in the license and you are monitored so as not to spend more than 20% of your monthly income on alcohol. That would have equaled about $1140 per month for me.
However, I didn’t have to go through all that. Because I lived in what was considered the "Wild West". Ras Al Khaimah did not require a license. And it is home to Barracuda; the largest liquor store I have ever seen in my life--two rooms full of wine from all around the world. (Barracuda is actually in Umm Al Quwain--the Emirate just South of Ras Al Khaimah).
Many expats from Dubai would make the 35 minute drive north to purchase their monthly libations. There was only one catch to this: driving through the Emirate of Sharjah. Sharjah is a completely dry Emirate and even having alcohol in your trunk could land you in jail if caught. Visiting Barracuda just before Ramadan was like Black Friday; you could wait up to an hour to pay for your shopping carts full of booze!
We did have three other options in Ras Al Khaimah and it was the most intriguing one that I brought my parents and sister to when they were visiting. Located in the back alleyway behind Spinneys, it always felt like something out of Prohibition Era slipping around back to purchase your whiskey. Mom was clearly nervous as I led her up the stairs to the steel-handled unmarked door in the back corner outside the local grocery store. Her gasp was audible as I pushed the door open to reveal a liquor-stocked room full of smiling Indians waiting in line to pay for their hard earned 40.
We made our way to the labeled Wine Room and I had to chuckle as mom declared, “Look, they even have Gallo!” Gallo Wine; recognizable even in the Middle East!
From the back alley of Spinneys in Al Hamra. They have since added the sign "Beverages" since I took my mom there!