One of the reasons Dubai has become one of the most sought after holiday cities and consequently one of the most visited cities in the world are down to their 7-star hospitality. The Emiratis are some of the warmest people in the Middle East and indeed, the world.
Of course, they must know that for their tourism industry to thrive, they must have a very welcoming attitude towards their visitors who flock into their city to spend their dollars. A thriving tourism industry is usually built on a very high level of hospitality besides world-class infrastructure and security.
However, as cosmopolitan as Dubai may have become a city; it still has its cultural identity which allows its people to live freely within the cultural definitions of their values. These values are what tourists must know and respect in order to be able to safely enjoy their visits to this amazing and hospitable city.
Needless to say, many Arab customs are very different from those in the west, and you should be aware of what you’re expected to do and not to do.
Although Arabs are understanding and unlikely to take offense at social blunders, provided they arise from ignorance rather than malice, you will be made far more welcome if you acquaint yourself with local ways of doing things. It’s important to remember that you’re a foreigner and you must therefore adapt to the customs and social behavior of the region – not the other way round. In addition to actions and behavior which are regarded as criminal, there are certain unwritten rules that you must observe in order not to offend local sensibilities.
Below are 5 culturally unacceptable behaviors that tourists should endeavor to avoid while visiting the city in order not to offend the locals.
Women’s clothing in the region is of two distinct types: one for locals and one for expatriates. Outside the home, most Arab women dress according to religious custom, which means that they must cover most of the body, from head to foot. The traditional black over-garment (abaya) is ankle length with long sleeves and a high neckline, and the hair is covered.
Arabs frown on clothes which reveal the shoulders, arms, and legs, and any woman dressing provocatively will be regarded as being of ‘easy virtue’ or perhaps even as a prostitute.
Obviously, foreign men aren’t expected to wear Arab garments, and western dress is the norm. Men should avoid wearing shorts and sleeveless shirts in the street, as is these are regarded as excessively casual, although with the development of tourism, this attitude is softening.
If you are visiting a mosque, it is of utmost importance to follow their dress code appropriately. Western clothing is not welcome - especially for women.
Arabs generally value civility highly, and it’s important that you greet (and part from) local people in the correct way. The use of Arab names can be confusing for newcomers to the region. For example, a man might be called Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al-Jishi. Abdullah is his given name and he’s the son or grandson of (bin) Abdul Aziz; Al-Jishi is the family or tribal name. To make matters even more complicated, given names are often abbreviated: for example, Mohammed can be shortened to Mohd, Hamad or Hamed. It’s important to use the full name, however, particularly on formal occasions and in correspondence. Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al-Jishi should never be called Abdullah (let alone the diminutive Abdul), although the patronymic may be omitted and he can be addressed as Abdullah Al-Jishi.
The general formal address is ‘ Sayyed’ (‘Sir’) for a man or ‘ Sayeeda’ (or ‘Sayedity’) for a woman, followed by the person’s full name. Arab women can also be addressed as ‘Madame’
In addressing the rulers, they are usually addressed as ‘Your Highness’. Senior members of ruling families are called ‘Your Excellency’ followed by ‘Sheikh’ (pronounced ‘shake’ and not ‘sheek’) and their full name. Government ministers of the ruling line are ‘Your Excellency, Minister of . . .’ and other ministers are simply referred to as ‘Your Excellency’ followed by the full name. Lesser members of ruling families and those in religious authority are addressed as ‘Sheikh’ followed by their full name. The conventions for addressing rulers and members of ruling families are complex, and you should always check locally before being introduced to any dignitaries.