If you're taking your first holiday in Dubai, remember you're visiting a different culture to that you may be used to in the US, UK, Europe or other Western countries. It's an Islamic culture and different rules and laws apply, so take note of the following things not to do.
Linked to this page on behaviour you'll also find our pages on Dress, Drink & Drugs, Water, Necessities and other Information Sources that will be of use to you especially if you're a first-time visitor to 'Plastic Fantastic' Dubai.
Some basic behavioural rules must be obeyed:
- Islam is the official religion. Do not criticize it or distribute material that speaks against it. Eating in public during the Holy month of Ramadan is prohibited from sunrise to sunset and visitors should consume meals in the confines of their hotel or residence. Visit our page on Ramadan for more information about it.
- Men and women should not kiss or show overt affection in public - holding hands, hugging and kissing is not recommended and public sexual acts can lead to prison and deportation.. Cross dressing should also be avoided. However don't be surprised to see Arab men rubbing noses and Indian men holding hands - it's just a sign of close friendship, nothing else.
- Shaking hands is only acceptable between two men. It is generally considered unacceptable for a man to shake hands with a Muslim woman or a woman to shake hands with a Muslim man.
- Don't photograph Muslim women and families or indeed anyone in national dress without permission, or any government buildings.
- Don't put your feet up on chairs or tables or sit in such a way that the soles of your feet or footwear show or point at anyone.
- If you swear at or insult somebody or make an offensive gesture and they complain to the authorities about this, it could lead to a fine or imprisonment.
- If you're caught smoking in any government facility, offices, malls and shops, you're likely to be fined. Smoking in restaurants and bars is usually OK.
- Members of opposite sexes living together if not married, pre-marital sex and homosexuality are all illegal in Dubai and are punishable by prison and deportation! In fact, any sexual relationship outside marriage is illegal.
- Ladies, topless sunbathing or wearing micro bikinis is not permitted on beaches, even the private beaches of hotels. In Sharjah, women are not even allowed to wear swimwear on beaches!
- Blokes, it is not appropriate to walk along the street bare-chested.
- If you're driving, don't cross a red light, you could be sentenced to a month's detention and be fined! If you're walking, do not jaywalk or cross roads where there are no clear pedestrian markings.
- If you're consuming, holding, buying or selling drugs, this is a crime in Dubai and on entering Dubai when thorough baggage screening is carried out - jail or even the death penalty beckons!
- It's against the law to walk in the street drinking alcohol or be drunk in a public place.
- There's a zero-tolerance policy to drink driving, including the day after the night before - it's simple, if you're driving or likely to drive, you just don't drink - jail beckons! Take a taxi!
- In Sharjah all alcohol is totally banned.
- Don't drink alcohol in the open, in public places or in vehicles and don't be found to be 'under the influence' of drink or drugs in any of these places - jail beckons again!
- Don't criticize the ruling royal families of any of the seven emirates or prominent business families.
- Be aware that the UAE does not have any formal relations with Israel and the government publicly supports any cause involving the Palestinian people or Palestinian statehood. Do not be critical of this.
For more detailed information please visit our Drink and Drugs page.
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If, on your Dubai holiday, you show respect for the rules, culture and religion, be sensible and be friendly, you'll have no problems.