September 13, 2013

Local Customs in Dubai

Dubai is a cosmopolitan city, but it is also a conservative one. As a Muslim emirate, there are various local customs that you need to bear in mind while you’re here. Of course, Arabs are remarkably hospitable and welcoming and are unlikely to take offence at your social blunders whilst you’re here – just as long as they are rooted in lack of knowledge and not ill will.

Adapting to the customs and social codes of the region is vital if you expect to have a comfortable holiday. Not only are there set rules, there are also unwritten ones that you need to observe so you don’t infuriate the locals.

Shut your PDA down

Public displays of affection need to be kept in check while you’re on holiday in Dubai. Kissing in public is frowned upon as is any other public display of affection. It would be prudent to save it for the hotel room. It’s safe to assume that any physical public contact between two people of the opposite sex is forbidden.

It is, however, alright to shake the hand of someone of the opposite sex. Though, if you’re a man, don’t offer to shake a woman’s hand unless she extends hers first. Both male and female homosexuality is illegal.

What to wear

Dress codes mostly apply to women when they visit Dubai, although men have to pay close attention to their attire too. In Saudi Arabia, even foreign women must wear an abaya, the traditional black over-garment that reaches down to the ankles. This is meant to protect women from unwanted attention from men outside the home.

If you fail to meet this requirement, the religious police will stop you and order you to cover your hair. In general, you are expected to wear informal but smart clothing, due to the hot climate. There aren’t any restrictions for women’s dress in private. Men, on the other hand, should avoid wearing shorts and sleeveless shirts in public.

Your hands and feet

You should always accept refreshments if they are offered to you, but you must always use your right hand for drinking and eating. This is because the left hand is regarded as unclean.

You should also avoid showing the soles of your shoes or feet. Failure to do so will indicate to the other person that you think he or she is ‘dirt’. Avoid crossing your legs - keep your feet on the ground.

Alcoholic beverages

For Muslims, the consumption of alcohol is strictly forbidden. Because of this, alcohol will only be available in certain locations, like hotel restaurants and bars. A mistake a lot of tourists make is taking alcohol with them to the beaches. The police are very strict in public areas.

Bear in mind that this is just a general guide: there are far more customs that you should read up on before you depart.

WRITER: Jeremy Koops - -

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