Dubai may be a fun and frivolous city on the Persian Gulf, but you should never confuse it as the Vegas of Middle East. There is no denying that the city is eclectic and one of the most relaxed cosmopolitan destinations in the region, but it is also very strict when it comes to culture and adherence to religious beliefs.
When you renew passport to travel to Dubai, you must not carry along all the liberties you had in the west and think of Dubai as another free world where booze and women flow without care. That would be the perfect recipe to land you in a lot of trouble, some with consequences so dire that you may regret why you made the trip.
Cultural sensitivity in one thing you must never put in the back seat when you are in Dubai and here are some of the things you must never do if you don’t want to offend the locals-:
Don’t drink in public
As far as the Muslim world is concerned, Dubai is considered as the most liberal city regarding alcohol consumption. However, there are certain rules you must observe, and one of them is
being discreet with your drinking or else you may find yourself in hot soup. Public drinking is not allowed in Dubai, and if you are a visitor or an expat, you may be free to drink at licensed hotels, but be sure not to overindulge. You may get arrested and charged should you be seen appearing to be drunk in public or when caught driving under the influence.
If you renew passport and head to Dubai hoping to dribble drugs, then this is a thought you must drop immediately. Though it sounds like common sense to avoid drugs in any country, it must be stressed enough when it comes to Dubai, because the conditions there may not be very forgiving. The city has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to possessing, using or selling illicit drugs.
We are not just talking about heroin, marijuana, ecstasy, and cocaine, but also prescription medicine and some over the counter drugs may be considered contraband. Many travelers have gotten into deep trouble by carrying codeine-based pain relievers, and many are also rotting in Dubai prisons for being in possession of some of these substances. Therefore, be very cautious and avoid doing drugs in any form.
Don’t just sing and dance as you wish
In the west, you could take out your record player and burst into song and dance to your favorite tunes. But in Dubai, such liberty doesn’t just exist. You can’t play loud music in the streets, and you are also not free to bust a move or two unless you are dancing on an official dance floor.
Go slow on the camera
An integral part of any traveling experience is to create beautiful memories by capturing lots of photos of the places you visit. Most travelers are fond of capturing locals as they go about their daily business. But in Dubai, you must go slowly on the camera. This is because it is considered rude and inappropriate to take photos of other people without their express permission, especially women. Therefore, before you think about taking out your camera to capture the nicely dressed woman in hijab cooking by the roadside, take a second and think about doing so without their permission.
Avoid public display of affection
Public display of affection is nothing in the west but a very big deal in Dubai, and you must keep your make-out sessions extremely private. Dubai has no place or time to kiss, touch or even have sex with your partner in any place considered public. If you renew passport and head to Dubai with your lover hoping to have some good times at the beach, just remember that a British is currently serving a jail sentence for having sex on a beach.
A couple was also arrested for kissing at the back of a taxi. Sometimes even a casual peck on an opposite friend’s forehead can also land you in trouble. In fact, holding hands in public, whether you are married or not is still grey here. Therefore, if you want to be completely safe, you must never show any kind of public display of affection.
Watch your tongue
Public cursing is not allowed in Dubai. Keep your profanity, insults and vulgar language to yourself, irrespective of how annoyed you may be. You should never, at any time, utter anything that may be considered as blasphemous or disparaging to the religion of Islam. This is considered grave, and there are lots of foreigners languishing in jails because of off-cut comments they made about Islam. Additionally, you should restrain your tongue about saying negative or nasty things about the ruling families or the Emirati businessmen. In as much as you may have opinions and insights about them, don’t express them and if you have to, do so amongst your inner circles of trusted friends to avoid attracting trouble to yourself. Just remember that freedom of speech is never a universal right.
Forget about nudity
This should go without saying, but don’t ever expect to be nude or dress in a manner to suggest you are nude in public when you are in Dubai. It is allowed to have appropriate swimwear while on the beach or the water parks, but for ladies, you must never be topless. For men, those six packs must always remain covered even when you are jogging.
Your normal dressing must also be decent enough not to raise a lot of eyebrows everywhere you go, and this affects ladies the most. Forget about strolling the streets with miniskirts or hot pants. It would also be a good thing if you covered your hair when going to meetings or when with prominent Saudis. It is a sign of respect and decency among the Muslim culture.
Don’t show off your LGBT Lifestyle
Several places in the world are more forgiving when it comes to LGBT lifestyle, but don’t include Dubai amongst them. Sexual relations other than the traditional heterosexual marriage is a huge crime in Dubai and will certainly land you into a lot of problems if you are discovered.
Even cross-dressing is not allowed in this place. There are a few underground gay scenes in Dubai, but they experience raids all the time, and it would be a good thing to avoid them simply. Same-sex couples should also avoid PDA as it is a sure recipe for a lot of problems.