The aim of this paper is to obtain an initial estimate of people awareness, attitudes and understanding towards epilepsy and to provide a basis for international comparisons. A cross-sectional study conducted during 1995 in Al-Ain City, Dubai and Sharjah Emirates, United Arab Emirates (UAE). We used a simple questionnaire following a two-stage sampling technique. A total of 1050 subjects aged 15 years and above were selected randomly. Of these a total of 892 individuals (86.4%) responded to the study. Seventy-five percent of respondents (665 people) had heard or read about epilepsy. Males and females were similarly familiar with the concept of epilepsy. The age group and education had a positive significant effect on awareness of epilepsy (p < 0.001). Thirty-four percent had occasionally seen a seizure. Nineteen suggested that there is no treatment. Those acquainted with a person with epilepsy were more likely to know that there is treatment. Among those familiar with epilepsy 18.5% believed in cautery and 40% believed in faith healing. A small percentage (7%) of respondents had objections to allowing their children associating with a person with epilepsy at school or in the playground; 68% objected to their children marrying an epileptic person; 10% believed that epileptic people should not be employed in jobs as other people are. In conclusion, unfortunately, knowledge, awareness and attitudes towards epilepsy in the UAE were less compared with surveys conducted in Western countries. The majority lacked information about the causes, nature and treatment of the disease.