Dubai is famous the world over as a luxury holiday destination, home to some of the world’s most expensive real estate and accommodation. This wealthy and modern image can sometimes obscure the fact that heritage and cultural traditions are still very important to Dubai natives, and failing to show proper respect for customs while visiting – or failing to follow the rules – can result in holidays ending earlier than planned.
Of the 1.1 million British visitors who travelled to Dubai last year, 249 were arrested or detained by the police after breaking local laws – more than were detained in any other country. It can therefore be crucial to learn some of the key rules before entering the country, familiarising yourself with Islamic culture to ensure you don’t accidentally offend people or transgress local regulations.
Severe penalties are carried for bringing drugs into the country, as Dubai has a strict zero tolerance policy to illegal substances. Even some prescription drugs are included on these regulations, so visitors bringing anti-depressants and other medicines into the United Arab Emirates may need to declare these prior to entering. According to Islamic traditions, pork products are also forbidden and may not be brought into the country, and neither can pornographic material such as magazines and DVDs.
While in the country on holidays to Dubai, it’s also important to respect local customs and avoid engaging in inappropriate behaviour, such as public displays of affection – especially among same-sex couples.
You should also avoid wearing clothing that is too revealing unless you’re on the beach or by the pool – non-Muslim women are not required to cover up in the manner of Muslim women, but wearing revealing outfits such as bikinis will not be tolerated in the city streets. You should also avoid wearing clothing that is too tight, or reveals the shoulders or bare legs. Men should never walk around topless and should ideally not wear shorts.
Politeness and good behaviour are highly valued in Dubai, and swearing in public or making obscene gestures can result in trouble with the law. Alcohol should only be consumed in premises licensed for its use, such as hotels and clubs, and you may run into trouble if taking photographs of government or military buildings. If you’re visiting Dubai during the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan, it’s also important to pay proper respect by not eating, drinking or smoking in public during the daylight hours.
Matilda Brown writes for a digital marketing agency. This article has been commissioned by a client of said agency. This article is not designed to promote, but should be considered professional content.