But first here’s a brief overview
Dubai is a fascinating and widespread multicultural city where under 20% of its inhabitants are native Emerati. The rest of the population is made up of expats from a whole range of countries. English is widely spoken in most places but not to any great degree by officialdom such as the police.
Dubai is a young city in terms of its development and its population. It’s a work hard, play hard sort of place. Any Westerner working in Dubai, and you can’t go to live there unless you have a sponsored job to go to, is likely to be a well educated go-getter. Apart from an occasional tourist, you’ll not find the ‘drongo’ sub-species of angry, illiterate, ‘the world owes me a living’ down and outs or lifestyle benefit recipients living here that you’ll find in many western countries. This makes for a better life for everyone.
However, it is not a classless society. It is a tiered society in, from the top:
- The Dubai Royal Family headed by HRH Sheikh Mohammed bin Saeed al Makhtoum
- Native Emerati
- Other Arabs
- European and other Western Expats
- Asian/Oriental manual and service workers – including taxi drivers.
Remember, Dubai is a Muslim state and it’s best to be aware of this. This is not a democratic society.
You’ll see plenty of Arabs in their traditional clothing which is always clean, pressed and very smart, but check out the men’s shoes. You’ll see the men always have somewhere on their traditional clothing for sunglasses, a pen and at least one mobile phone! The ladies have some fantastic outer traditional clothing but look discreetly and you’ll often see the jeans underneath. Sit and people watch for just a few minutes in a shopping mall & you’ll see plenty of examples.
Men - Bare chests and swimming shorts are generally for the beach and around the pool only, although as tourism increases you will see an increasing number of blokes in shorts or at least cut-off trousers shopping in the malls or at the various tourist attractions (but preferably not in Jumeirah Mosque!). It is not considered appropriate to walk on the streets or in malls bare-chested – save it for the beach or pool.
Ladies – Shorts and swimwear are for the beach/pool only. At other times and for your own ‘comfort’ try to avoid skimpy or low cut tops or very short skirts. You may also wish to cover shoulders and tops of arms. It doesn’t matter whether you’re young or old, ugly or pretty, more men will ogle you in Dubai than in Western countries and this unwanted attention can be uncomfortable. This is particularly true when in districts like Karama, Deira and Bur Dubai where the streets are packed with men, mostly Asian, especially in the evenings and at weekends.
Ladies also be aware that topless sunbathing is not permitted on public or private hotel beaches and micro bikinis are also to be avoided. If you visit Sharjah note that women are not even allowed to wear any sort of swimwear on beaches.
For both male and female tourists sandals and flip-flops are the norm everywhere except in reasonable or better restaurants.
Play safe and for anything like a decent restaurant go ‘smart-casual’.