Dubai is a fun and frivolous playground on the Persian Gulf, but don’t consider it the Vegas of the Middle East. If you’re planning to take a trip to one of the worlds most multinational cities and the Middle East’s tourism and business hub, adhering to some basic guidelines and cultural sensitivities will help you have a good time without offending anyone.
Don’t Drink In Public: Consuming alcoholic beverages is only permitted in private locations such as your home, or in public at licensed restaurants, bars and clubs, which are often located within a hotel.
Don’t Do Drugs: Drugs are absolutely prohibited in the UAE. The penalties for drugs are swift and severe. Drug related incidents can lead to life in jail at best or at worst, the death penalty.
No Loud Music: Loud music and dancing is forbidden in public places like the beach, parks and residential areas. It is restricted to licensed venues.
Watch Your Photography: Taking anyone’s photo without their permission is illegal and you can be arrested and/or fined for doing so. In general, photographs of government buildings, mosques or military installations should not be taken.
Don’t Pucker Up In Public: Something as simple as a kiss or cuddle could see you being arrested or sent to prison. Sex outside of marriage completely illegal and there are very severe penalties for anyone caught doing this.
Watch Your Tongue: However much you might feel like it, keep any foul words inside your head. Hurling verbal obscenities will get you fined or worse.
No Nudity: The stomach, shoulders and back should be covered. Men should cover their chest and underwear should be out of sight. These rules are relaxed at beaches and swimming pools but topless sunbathing is not permitted in any location.
Keep Style Sensible: Dress modestly where it is appropriate and give respect to the local culture. Women’s clothing should be conservative and females should avoid wearing clothes that are transparent, low-cut or short.
Don’t Eat In Public During Ramadan: During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to sunset. Throughout this month eating, drinking, smoking, playing loud music and dancing in public places during daylight hours are strictly forbidden and punishable by law, including for non-Muslims.
Don’t Use Your Left Hand: Keep your hands in your pockets. However tempting it is to give someone the finger, this gesture and sticking two fingers up at someone are seen as criminal acts. When a woman is introduced to an Arab or Emirati man do not go to shake his hand unless he extends his first.
Keep Your LGBT Lifestyle On The QT: Homosexuality is completely illegal and any homosexual acts can lead to very severe punishment.
Watch Your Wallet: The UAE is a relatively safe country from a crime perspective. Nevertheless, when you are out and about, take the necessary precautions to stay safe just as you would do if you were in your own country.
Traditions: The UAE is built on generations of Islamic traditions which are rooted firmly in its culture and tribal heritage. These traditions have been passed down from generation to generation and form the very cornerstone of everyday life for an Emirati family. The Emirati are friendly people who show tolerance and an open minded approach to visitors in their country; but their culture and values should always be respected.