The Customs and Culture of Dubai – What You Need to Know

Visiting any culture different to your own may mean you have to alter your approach somewhat and be aware of certain things. Acquainting yourself with the culture of Dubai is something that’s important and will help ensure you enjoy your time in the Middle Eastern country. Here are some tips to make assured you have a wonderful time in this amazing part of the world.

Shopping at a souk in Dubai

Dress

Even though Arab women tend to dress in traditional clothing, tourists and ex-pats can wear informal but smart dress that covers the arms, above the knee and also the shoulders. Though locals cover their heads, tourists don’t and can get away with casual smart clothing. For men, avoiding sleeveless t-shirts is a must, as are very short shorts. Aside from this most smart casual clothing is perfectly acceptable.

Hands and Feet

When eating and drinking you should use your right hand for drinking and eating. The left hand is seen as unclean in the Arab world and so should not be used for eating. Showing the soles of your feet is also frowned upon and suggests you don’t think highly of another person and is very offensive. Keep feet on the ground and don’t cross your legs.

Alcohol

Alcohol is available in Dubai, though drunkenness is frowned upon and is rarely tolerated. Of course, needless to say you should never offer alcohol to locals as this causes great offence. Some do drink, but never ask speculatively.

Islam

Never walk on a prayer mat or in front of a person who is praying and try never to look at people when they are praying. You should also never enter a Mosque without asking for permission first. Do note that as a Westerner, who is not part of the Islamic faith, it is unlikely that you will be allowed to enter. The same is true for Mecca and Medina, the holy sites and there are harsh punishments for non-Muslims who enter these holy areas.

During the period of Ramadan, you should not eat, drink or smoke in front of the locals during the hours of daylight. This is seen as offensive and frowned upon. You should also refrain from kissing people and being noisy in public during this time of the year too.

Invitations

If you receive an invite to go to dinner then you should accept. Of course, avoid politics and religion as topics of conversation when a guest. Upon visiting you will be taken to the Majlis and should remove footwear – ensure your socks are clean. Women are then asked to join the other women and men stay with the men. You will then be offered food or drink as part of your visit.

Other things to note are that you need to contact a person before you visit their home and should never express admiration for the host’s possessions. This is because traditionally they must then offer you the item as a gesture and though most won’t it may still cause embarrassment.

Dubai is a wonderful part of the world and somewhere that Westerners can really enjoy and many return to again and again for this reason.

 

Christopher Rennicks writes about Dubai hotels and has traveled to a number of continents and countries in his time.

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