Mom detained in Dubai after drinking complimentary glass of wine on Emirates flight

A mother from Kent, England, and her young daughter were jailed in Dubai for three days – where she was allegedly denied water and forced to clean toilets – after she admitted to drinking a glass of wine on the incoming Emirates flight from London, but Dubai officials have a different side of the story.

It’s illegal to drink alcohol or be intoxicated in public in Dubai, one of the seven emirates of the United Arab Emirates.

Ellie Holman, a 44-year-old dentist originally from Sweden who resides in Britain with her husband and their three children, was arrested on July 13 after landing in Dubai with her 4-year-old daughter, the Press Association reported.

Upon arrival in Dubai, an official reportedly told Holman she needed to return to the United Kingdom immediately because of an invalid visa, at which point she took out her phone and started filming the encounter, according to human rights group Detained in Dubai.

Holman said the official was “dismissive and rude” to her, and asked if she had been consuming alcohol. She admitted to the official that she had a complimentary glass of wine on the Emirates flight.

Holman, unaware that it was an offense to film the encounter, and illegal to drink alcohol, was taken into custody, Detained in Dubai reported. The mother and her daughter also had their passports and electronic devices confiscated.


Holman said in a statement to Detained in Dubai that the prison guards also attempted to pull out her hair extensions, and the prison facility was “hot and foul-smelling.” She claimed she and her daughter were forced to sleep on a “filthy mattress” and to clean toilets.

“My little girl had to go to the toilet on the cell floor. I have never heard her cry in the same way as she did in that cell,” Holman said in a statement.


Holman added that she was given food that “smelled like rotting garbage.” She said her husband and friends tried to visit her in jail, but they were not allowed to see her.

Ellie Holman claimed she drank one complimentary glass of wine on her Emirates flight to Dubai.

Ellie Holman claimed she drank one complimentary glass of wine on her Emirates flight to Dubai. (iStock)

Holman was released on bail days later, but could face “being detained in Dubai for up to a year while awaiting a court hearing,” the Press Association reported. Her passport was confiscated until the case is finished, and she claims to have already lost thousands of dollars in missed wages and legal costs.

Her daughter returned to the United Kingdom with her husband.


Holman was initially traveling to Dubai with her to daughter to visit friends for a few days. She has been in the country before.

However, Dubai officials told The Sun a different story and disputed the dentist’s claim.

“We dispute Dr. Holman’s account of her treatment," an official told The Sun. “She was not turned away because she had a one-visit visa, as she claimed, because European citizens get a 30-day visa upon arrival. UAE law is strict on people recording others on their mobile phone without permission, which will not have helped Dr. Holman’s case. She became abusive towards airport staff, which is not tolerated.

“We cannot comment further as Dr Holman’s case is still under review but there is more to her story than she has told."

Dubai's Attorney General's Office told Fox News in a statement that an investigation into the incident was completed and charges were dropped. The office said it decided to deport Hollman after she attempted to enter the country with an expired visa.

The office also said Hollman and her child "remained in airport security for less than 24 hours while services were provided to them, taking into full account and consideration of her 4-year-old daughter."

Radha Stirling, Detained in Dubai’s chief executive, said it is “wholly illegal for any tourist to have any level of alcohol in their blood, even if consumed in flight and provided by Dubai’s own airline. It is illegal to consume alcohol at a bar, a hotel and a restaurant, and if breathalyzed, that person will be jailed."

However, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade says that being intoxicated, and not neccessarily just having a small amount of alcohol in your system, is what's actually forbidden, according to

“It’s illegal to drink alcohol or be intoxicated in public,” the department states. “You can be arrested. Foreigners have been arrested on arrival after becoming intoxicated on incoming aircraft or while in transit.”

This story was updated to add a comment from Dubai officials.