Local traditions and culture in Dubai

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Most Viewed Local Customs in Dubai

  • colin_bramso's Profile Photo

    Clothing & behaviour

    by colin_bramso Updated Jan 23, 2013

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    This really shouldn't need saying, but unfortunately it is because of the behaviour of not only tourists but also some expatriate residents.

    Because people have abused the relaxed, liberal attitude of the authorities by behaving and dressing inappropriately, there is now an official campaign to enforce the rules and laws.

    Police are out in force along Dubai's public beaches to enforce the laws, after a British couple were found drunk and having sex in public on a beach. (Behaviour which would not be accepted in any country!)

    Put simply, public displays of affection are illegal. DO NOT kiss in public - if someone objects and calls the police you will be in big trouble.

    Bikinis are OK on the beaches but females must not sunbathe topless. You must cover up when leaving the beach.

    Dress rules are beginning to be enforced in public areas too. Revealing clothing is OK on the beaches and in hotels, but should not be worn in public streets, restaurants and shopping malls. Females should wear clothing that covers the shoulders and knees. Although you will see women wandering around malls in hotpants and revealing skimpy tops, please do not copy them!

    This is not Saudi Arabia and the rules are still very liberal. You will see people wearing the clothing they wear in their own country, a huge mixture of styles and fashions. Basically, if you wear decent clothing back home you can wear exactly the same here. Women do not have to wear abayas, do not have to cover their hair.

    I've included some photos I've taken in the streets and restaurants, not taken to specifically show the clothing but they do give an idea of the mixture of clothing that's worn in Dubai.

    Cosmopolitan mixture Appropriate clothing East meets West Beachwear ONLY at the beach (7Days photo) Mall rules

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    by colin_bramso Updated Apr 8, 2012

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    We regularly get Forum questions about tipping in just about every country.

    In Dubai it's entirely optional, and staff do not expect a tip.

    I never tip my hairdresser or tailor. I give a tip in restaurants only for exceptional service. Then I give cash to the staff member and never have it added to the credit card bill as I'm sure the staff won't be given it. I round up taxi fares.

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  • Blocked websites

    by Robin020 Written Nov 14, 2011

    In UAE they censor some websites that are thought to be used by groups who oppose the rulers of or website they believe is against ethicals,the country and it can be very hard to get on to some webpages, gaywebsites.
    but they are mostly blocked.

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  • Escadora7's Profile Photo

    UAE currency

    by Escadora7 Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    The local currency is DIRHAM (Dhs.), which is divided into 100 FILS. It is also referred to as AED (Arab Emirate Dirham).
    Bills come in 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 1000 units.
    Coins are in 1 Dhs, 50 fils, 25 fils. Because 5 and 10 fils coins are not widely available, you often will not receive the exact change.

    The Dirham has been stable at an exchange rate of apprx. Dhs. 3.67 to US $ 1.--.

    Exchange rates of all major currencies are published in newspapers daily. You can exchange money at banks, hotels, and at exchange places. Exchange places have often the best rate, while hotels are the worst. You can also withdraw money from ATMs - most ATMs accept international cards.

    We found the best rates at the little forex offices near Al Fahidi Street. Al Fahidi and the inside road parallel to it are filled with exchange places.

    Related to:
    • Business Travel

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  • Natashaf2008's Profile Photo

    Carry a prescription!

    by Natashaf2008 Written May 13, 2009

    When travelling to or through the UAE, any medicines that you may be carrying you should have a prescription for as many as banned here for containing codine etc. If you have a prescription from your GP then it will be permissable if you do not then you may face jail time!
    Recently for residents they introduced a ban on the contraceptive pill unless it is medical and you have a prescription or if you have a permission letter from your husband!!! Recently a woman was arrested at customs for carrying a painkiller containing codine she had bought over the counter and was jailed for 6 weeks before later being deported. Ignorance is no excuse so if in doubt leave it at home!

    Related to:
    • Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
    • Budget Travel
    • Business Travel

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    by colin_bramso Updated Aug 19, 2008

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    The holy month of Ramadan is a time when Muslims fast between sunrise and sunset. No food or drink and no smoking is permitted.

    Non-Muslims must respect the fast and also are not permitted to eat, drink or smoke in public during daylight hours. It's also more important than usual to wear appropriate, non-revealing clothing.

    Hotels have a restaurant open for their guests and some coffee shops are open, screened or curtained off from public view.

    Supermarkets and food stores are open and take-away food is available - but it must not be consumed in public.

    Some shops don't open until after evening prayers, others open normally throughout the day, some open all day but close during prayer times.

    The evening is when everything is up and running, with shops and restaurants often open until the early morning hours.

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  • jivanne96's Profile Photo

    do's and don'ts

    by jivanne96 Updated Nov 5, 2007

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    1. Public Displays of affection are frowned upon.
    2. Don't drink alcohol in public places.
    3. Obscene gestures could land you in jail.
    4. Don't take pictures of Emirates especially women and government buildings.
    5. Some medications are illegal in the UAE. Check with the local authorities if the medications you have are legal.

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    by loisl Written Oct 22, 2007

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    Yes, we all know the muslim society does fast during the month of ramadan.
    Should we stay away from Dubai in this month? No.
    In the Tourist hotels it is ok to eat and drink in public.
    But not in any other public places, like in shopping malls.
    The foud courts there are closed till sunset.
    Yes, Starbucks tooo...

    Starbucks closed
    Related to:
    • Luxury Travel

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  • Cielo_Algaeed's Profile Photo

    Coffee / Gahwa

    by Cielo_Algaeed Written Oct 13, 2007

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    Arab traditions also play an important role in Emirati people's life. These age-old traditions have evolved over the past years and are highly regarded. They include generosity and hospitality, which every Saudi family offers to strangers, friends, and family. The simplest expression of hospitality is coffee – its preparation alone is an intricate cultural tradition, and it is often served in small cups along with dates and sweets.

    Arabic Coffee or Gahwa is a special mixture of Arabic Coffee and Cardamom. Cardamon is always added to Saudi coffee, either crushed or whole pods, giving it a distinctive flavour, and aiding digestion. A pinch of saffron may be added on special occasions, or by the wealthy.

    The coffee is poured from a long-spouted pot called a dallah. The greeny-yellow coffee is drunk without milk or sugar from small handleless cups, which are only half filled.

    Guests should accept no more than three cups unless with close friends. It is courteous to accept one cup, although not essential to drink it. Always hold the cup in your right hand.

    To signal that no more coffee is required, wobble the cup from side to side (or in some areas cover it with the palm of the hand).

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  • Heavens-Mirror's Profile Photo

    ~ The Holy Month of Ramadan ~

    by Heavens-Mirror Written Sep 15, 2007

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    Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic Lunar calendar and the holiest of the four holy months. It begins with the sighting of the new moon after which all physically mature and healthy Muslims are obliged to abstain from all food, drink, gum chewing, any kind of tobacco use, and any kind of sexual contact between dawn and sunset.

    Bars and clubs are closed until around 7pm and live music is not allowed as well as dance clubs being closed throughout the month of Ramadan. Some restaurants do not serve alcohol and places with a liquor license can still sell alcohol to people but only to drink at home. Everyone is required to not eat or drink in public during Ramadan or even smoke in the streets. Also some hotels will still serve food but there is curtains or blinds up in the room to avoid people in the streets seeing.

    ~ A baby during Ramadan ~

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  • Roksolana's Profile Photo

    UAE & 'dress code'

    by Roksolana Written May 31, 2007

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    So many people are asking how they should dress up while in the UAE. Well, it is important not to overreact to the warning that it is a Muslim country. Yes, you have to respect the culture, especially during Ramadan, BUT it doens't mean that you cann't wear shorts, sleavless shirts, tight tops and mini-dresses. Just don't make it to the extreme and use the common sense: mini-skirt (it doesn't have to remind a wide belt though) can be work with more or less modest top or vise versa: tight top can be worn with not so narrow pants. This will help you to avoid the heat and still not to attract too much attention.
    Oh, forget about the strings in you swimsuit - it is absolutely unappropriate and vulgar here. Not to mentione the fact that you cann't go to the beach topless.

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  • scaffas's Profile Photo

    While in Rome do what the Romans do........

    by scaffas Written May 20, 2006

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    Well few tips i think the travellers rather tourists should know about dubai:
    - Being a islamic country nudity is very intolerant so if you guys on the beaches try keeping the swim suits on.
    - Alcohol is not sold everywhere, you cannot drink on the streets or carry a bottle with you outside, drink at home or clubs.
    - During Ramadan time you should refrain yourself from eating and drinking in public as the holy month of fasting is going on. The restaurants are all closed till sunset for a month.
    - Abusing and vulgar actions can cause you a trip to the jail.
    - Being intimate and kissing in public could also get you in trouble. A kiss is ok in public but more than that could invite trouble.
    - Being a muslim country pork is not served everywhere, only in five star hotels and they do mention if it is pork. But you can buy from the stores and cook it at home.

    Related to:
    • Singles
    • Women's Travel
    • Budget Travel

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  • leanne_pearc's Profile Photo

    Dress Code

    by leanne_pearc Written Jan 14, 2006

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    Dubai is modernising each day however when in the city it is always best to dress modestly which includes casually.

    Its best if ladies dont wear short skirts or tiny tops. Singlets with thick straps is fine.

    In the western hotels you can pretty much wear what you want and walk around the pool area in your bathers.

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    by leanne_pearc Written Jan 4, 2006

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    I think this is beginning to become a part of Dubai's culture.

    Example:- Our hotel controlled the Beaches temperature and every night we would get a newsletter informing of what it would be the next day!

    The Beach! - JBH

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  • ludogatto's Profile Photo


    by ludogatto Written Jan 1, 2006

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    Majlis is a meeting place for the man where they play domino, drink togheter coffe of tea, smoking shisa, talking and mantein the trditions alive.
    In Bastakia area there is still one of this, before was only a tent, now is a big room with carpet and pillows, but also a wooden and tent veranda.
    We hade the chance to occasionaly know a eau citizen in the Bastakia area thet invited me and my partner to stay with them in the Majlis....we were sitted near an ex Eau ambassador, a petroleum producer and the major eau date producer! simply people in the traditional withe cafetano asking about Switzerland, their next vacation
    This is a good place to maintain alive the tradition and to get involved the tourist in the true arab culture.
    A lot of them borned and grow up here but now they live in other residential area...Majlis is the way to stay togheter.

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