Despite Dubai being one of the most developed, relaxed and permissive cities that the Middle East has to offer, there are still some basic rules that a tourist should abide by. Many things that are considered appropriate in the west are considered unethical and inappropriate in the Arab culture.
Therefore, care should be taken such that the line of caution isn’t crossed.
1: Don’t use your left hand
It is a part of Muslim tradition and culture to use the right hand while eating and also while shaking hands. This is because the left hand is used for cleaning the body. The left hand is thus ritually considered less clean than the right hand even if it is washed.
Thus, when visiting Dubai, care should be taken as to not using your left hand while eating, passing someone food, or while shaking hands.
2: Don’t display obscene hand gestures
Using abusive language and displaying obscene hand gestures is an act, which is greatly condemned by the general public. If a person is caught displaying such a hand gesture – like the middle finger, for instance, it can lead to that person being fined.
3: Do not eat in public during Ramadan
Ramadan is the holy month of the Muslims. In this month the Muslims fast. Fasting is the act in which the individual is keeping the fast refrains from eating, drinking, and indulging in sexual contact from sunrise to sunset. This is an activity that promotes brotherhood and empathy.
In the month of Ramadan, eating in public is not only unethical but is legally offensive as well. Hence, a tourist in Dubai, in the month of Ramadan, should keep his lunch and dinner in his own room.
4: Do not listen to loud music in Ramadan
Keeping on the topic of the holy month of Ramadan, it is also not permissible to listen to loud music. This is considered extremely unethical and offensive.
Therefore, if a person goes to Dubai in Ramadan, he should take care to keep the volume control to the minimum. Blasting your favorite music and head banging would just have to wait a month. Better yet, use headphones.
5: Don’t get too close and personal
No matter how permissive and relaxed the atmosphere and environment of Dubai is, it is still a Muslim city with the majority of people being religious and belonging to religious backgrounds.
Therefore, it is better if, as a tourist, you maintain a safe distance from the locals – especially the women. Hitting on a girl is extremely frowned upon. A person visiting Dubai should take care as not to get frisky and to maintain a safe distance and give everyone around them space.
6: Do not take pictures without consent
Arab culture is one of the fascinating cultures in the world. The Muslim heritage that is pre-dominant there is brilliantly depicted through this culture. The abaya-clad women on the one hand and the liberal women on the other, living in perfect harmony serve as a brilliant thing to see. It is but natural to want to capture pictures of that culture. But consent is one of the major things that are required in the Arab civilization.
As a tourist, one should not go crazy taking pictures and should ask for consent first.
7: Cross Dressing
Cross dressing is an act in which people of one gender wear clothes or items that are usually regarded as something that belongs to the opposite gender. Many people today cross dress for the sake of self-expression as well as comfort.
However, there is somewhat an observance of gender roles in the Arab culture and heavy cross dressing could probably get a person arrested as well as fined.
8: Be cautious while smoking
It is prohibited to smoke in public in Dubai. Smoking is an activity which is not encouraged in the Arabic culture. It is allowed to smoke in cars or homes, but it is not allowed to light up a fag in the middle of a shopping mall or restaurants.
As a tourist, one should take care of where he is allowed to smoke or not. In the case of smoking in a non-smoking zone, a person can be fined.
9: Don’t get frisky
As archaic and ancient as it seems, it is illegal to have pre-marital sex in Dubai. Thus, if a person is visiting Dubai with a partner they are not married to, it is required that the individual keeps the physical intimacy to a minimum.
People that get too frisky and physical in public can be arrested as well as fined heavily. Hence, keeping a safe distance from your partner, if you two are not married, is the logical and recommended thing to do.
10: Don’t stock up on meds
Almost all airports keep a keen eye on the medications going to and from immigration. But there is probably no government that is more strict in this respect than Dubai. It is firmly prohibited to import or bring in medications that are not prescribed.
Even in the case of prescribed pills, there is a certain concentration that is allowed to be let in or not. Thus, a person should keep a keen eye as to what to bring into the country and what to keep out.