Useful Tips on Culture and Customs in Dubai and the UAE
With year-round blistering sunshine, jaw-dropping hotels and mega malls, endless glittering beaches, and extravagant attractions from water parks to indoor ski slopes, Dubai is close to perfect as a holiday destination. Hire a car and explore one of the richest and most exotic regions of the world – but do your research first! Here we give you a brief guide to holidaying in Dubai without offending your hosts (or even ending up in prison!).
Surrounded by signs of such exceptional wealth, it’s easy to forget that the United Arab Emirates are dominated by Islamic culture, but there are some norms and rules you should be aware of:
Drinking alcohol in the bars and hotels of Dubai is perfectly legal, but appearing intoxicated in public certainly is not. Don’t think you can get away with being drunk on the street because you could end up in prison. As long as you behave yourself, however, you can have a perfectly pleasant evening in the bar-lined streets of the Bur Dubai district. Just make sure you get a taxi back to your hotel.
You will notice that the local women in Dubai wear the hijab, a reminder that this is a Muslim society. Dubai is relatively progressive, however, so you don’t have to go swimming fully dressed. Swimwear is acceptable at the beach or around the swimming pool, but not on the street. Shorts and T-shirts are generally acceptable, but you should wear loose attire that covers shoulders, arms, and legs when visiting mosques, religious sites or older parts of the city. Women should wear headscarves in mosques.
If you are invited to a majlis (a private place in the home where guests are received), take off your shoes. Stand up when new guests or older people enter, and men should stand when a woman enters the room. When greeting a member of the opposite sex who is Muslim, do not offer to shake hands unless he or she extends a hand first. Women, in particular, may not want to shake hands with a man because of religious reasons.
Accept food and drink with your right hand and eat with the same hand. It is extremely rude to show the soles of your feet, or to point your foot at anyone. Do not cross your legs in front of a high-status guest. Use your whole hand rather than a finger to make hand gestures. Do not offer alcohol or pork to Muslim guests.
Once you bear in mind these simple rules, your visit to Dubai will be a success. Check out our car hire in Dubai for the most convenient way to get around.