Etiquette may mean little to some people in some places in the world but there are general codes of conduct and ways of being perceived in public in all places.
For all of its beauty and splendour, Dubai has perhaps been given bad press for its often strict religious and cultural decorum. There are certain rules to follow but it shouldn’t take away an enjoyable experience in an exotic land. The main factors for such etiquette simply require a level of understanding, respect and common sense.
What are 5 things you should know about etiquette in Dubai?
Dubai is located within the UAE, a Muslim country, and many of the rules of etiquette come from this very fact. Dubai is known for its warm and inviting cultural atmosphere and visiting most Mosques is definitely possible for tourists. One of the many factors to remember is during special times of year such as Ramadan where many things are not allowed during the festivities for example eating and drinking in public. Ramadan is considered to be one of the most exciting and greatest times to visit Dubai to understand its cultural and strong religious ethics. Non-Muslims do have designated places to eat and drink throughout this time and many hotels and shopping malls remain open.
Visitors are asked to dress modestly when in public and conservative areas around Dubai. Swimwear is perfectly acceptable at the beach and pool but covering up when elsewhere is important. Clothes such as shorts and t-shirts are acceptable in most places but arms and legs should be covered up when in mosques, other religious sites and older areas of the city. Once in night clubs, hotels etc tourists are allowed to wear what they like. Headscarves are usually required for women when entering mosques. It is suggested that wearing loose fitting, thin clothing maybe more comfortable that covers the legs and arms.
In Dubai it is common courtesy to do such things as standing up for guests, higher ranking individuals and to remember when greeting a member of the opposite sex who is Muslim to allow them to offer a handshake first. But also to remember that they may not offer one due to religious reasons.
It is customary to accept food and drink and to eat with your right hand, to avoid showing the soles of your feet and to avoid pointing your foot at anyone. It is also important to remember not to cross your legs in front of an important guest and if you are to use a hand gesture use the whole hand and not to point your finger.
Alcohol in Dubai is available in licensed bars and restaurants which are mostly located in hotels as this is the only way a licence can be acquired. Purchasing alcohol from duty free shops at the international airport is also allowed as long as set limits are met. Of course drinking and driving is illegal. It is generally believed that you shouldn’t even bother having a single drink as there is zero tolerance as in most of the Middle East.
Public affection is minimal in the country. Hugging and kissing in public is not allowed but holding hands and perhaps a peck on the cheek is fine. But it is urged that a person should be careful about the openness of physical relationships in public.
The use of photography is also something to bear in mind. Taking pictures of government buildings, airports etc should be avoided and talking photos of locals, especially women, should be respectfully sought.
Dubai may have many cultural aspects to carefully regard, as do many countries in the Islamic world, but it is definitely a place that is stunning, modern and deeply rooted in traditions. It is a Mecca for shoppers and holds some of the most luxurious hospitality in the world.
Richard Summers is a travel writer who has been fortunate enough to experience luxurious holidays in Dubai.