10 Things Visitors Should NEVER Do In Dubai
Dubai is an incredible and unique place – a sparkling ultra-modern metropolis built literally out of the desert sands, with towering skyscrapers, distinctive architecture, and unique attractions that has earned it the nickname ‘The City of Superlatives’. It has the world’s tallest tower, the world’s largest ‘performing’ fountain, the largest man-made archipelago of islands, the longest driverless metro system, and the tallest hotel, to name just a few.
It’s no wonder that people from all over the world are attracted to this ambitious, fast-paced and at times over-the-top city, where anything is possible. A record-breaking 17 million tourists arrived in Dubai in 2017, making it the 6th most visited city in the world. People also flock to the city for great jobs and the opportunities for career advancement, and out of a population of 9.2 million, roughly 7.8 million of them are expatriates.
But it is easy to forget that beneath the glitz and the gleam, there still lies a conservative country, which, until just a few decades ago, was largely unchanged, until the discovery of oil forced Dubai into warp-speed growth. This Emirati state has a rich culture and deeply rooted traditions, so visitors need to be aware of certain rules and cultural expectations that should be respected. The City of Superlatives has a lot to offer, so if you’re planning your trip to Dubai, here are 10 Don’ts to make your trip fun and friendly, without making any faux-pas.
1. DON’T INDULGE IN PDA
In any conservative city, public displays of affection are taboo, including men hugging women and vice versa, kissing on the cheek, walking hand in hand, snuggling, and kissing. Anything racier than that could result in jail time.
If you are a man meeting a woman, you are not expected to shake hands with her or give her compliments, and you should not enter an elevator if you are a male and a single woman is inside. Western women should be conservative when it comes to any body contact with men.
2. DON’T FLOSS IN PUBLIC
And we don’t mean your teeth! Any form of dancing (including the now infamous ‘flossing’), playing loud music, and acting like an intoxicated fool is not considered acceptable behaviour in Dubai.
This includes any public place such as the beach, parks, your car, and residential areas. That’s not to say that there is no dancing in Dubai – in fact, it has a lot of wicked nightclubs where the music pumps all night long.
3. DON’T USE YOUR LEFT HAND
In the United Arab Emirates, and some other countries such as India and Indonesia, the left hand is considered unclean. This is because traditionally – meaning before the days of toilet paper, running water and flushing toilets – the left hand was used for ‘cleaning up’. If eating a meal with your hands, use your right hand only (it’s hard, but can be done). Never extend your left hand to greet someone.
4. DON’T FLIP THE BIRD
If you absolutely must drive in Dubai – and yes, there are places where you can rent a luxury sports car for the day – keep your hands on the wheel at all times. We’ve all had road rage before, and one of the ways to let another driver know your annoyance is to make a rude hand gesture, such as the middle finger.
This is a huge no-no in Dubai, and will land you in serious trouble. If someone makes you angry, even if they were in the wrong, control your temper, and don’t ever use your hands to show anger or aggression.
5. DON’T PACK YOUR ROMANCE NOVELS
t’s common sense that when travelling, you should be careful what you put in your suitcase, and never bring in prohibited items (obviously). When entering Dubai, avoid packing anything that could be considered ‘adult material’, and that includes things like women’s fashion magazines (think of racy Cosmo covers), books that could be considered immoral or offensive, and products from Israel. Oh yes, and just in case you were thinking of, for some reason, packing some bacon, be advised that pork products are not allowed!
Also if you have any prescription drugs, you should bring the prescription with you, and make sure medicine is clearly labeled.
6. DON’T DISS THE LEADERS
As a general rule, regardless of what you think about a foreign culture, keep your criticisms to yourself – or at least hold them until a suitable time and audience. Don’t ever openly insult, mock, or criticize Dubai’s Family. Other taboo topics are Emirati culture, politics, religion, laws, and people. If you don’t agree with certain aspects of Dubai, that’s fine. Just don’t air them in public. The United Arab Emirates is not the only place where you are not allowed to disrespect the Family – the same law applies in Thailand.
7. DON’T GORGE DURING RAMADAN
Ramadan is the holiest month of the calendar, and a time for families to gather together and celebrate. During this time, Muslims fast, abstain from pleasures, and pray daily. From sunrise to sunset, they will not eat, drink or even smoke, and public places like malls and food courts will be almost empty. That is, until Iftar time, when people come together to eat a big meal after sunset.
During Ramadan, it is considered taboo to eat in public, though some restaurants stay open, and simply close the blinds on the windows. Visitors should be aware that during Ramadan they should not party, eat, drink or smoke in public in order to be respectful.
8. DON’T TAKE PICTURES WITHOUT PERMISSION
When you’re surrounded by so many incredible sights, you may be tempted to walk around taking pictures and videos of everything. But modesty and safety are the names of the game in Dubai, which means you should be careful when taking pictures of women and children. Taking pictures without people’s permission is a big no-no, so focus instead of the amazing scenery.
9. DON’T MAKE BIG PLANS ON A FRIDAY
Different religions have different holy days, and in Dubai, that day is Friday. While the entire city might not shut down, Friday is not considered a working day, the same way that in the West, many things are closed on a Sunday.
You can expect tourist attractions to open much later in the afternoon – as late as 4pm – and government offices will be closed. If you find yourself at a loss with what to do on a Friday, hit up one of Dubai’s infamous Friday Brunches, mostly held at hotels, with free-flowing food and drinks.
10. DON’T BE CLOSED-MINDED
A lot of the don’ts on this list may seem hard to accept – no bikinis on the beach? No canoodling in public? But rest assured, these are simple guidelines to follow. The key to having a great stay in Dubai is to simply respect the local ways, and go with the flow. There are a lot of great experiences waiting to be had in Dubai, so have fun, and remember, when in someone else’s country, do your best to be a good guest.
References: That Dubai Site, Gulf News, The Independent.