Planning on a trip to Dubai before intense summer heat hits? Brush up on behavioral norms to avoid holiday disasters far worse than sunburn and frizzy hair. Among the seven member states of the United Arab Emirates, Dubai – if it was a Disney dwarf – could be called “Tolerant”. That’s modern Middle East tolerant, a term that benefits from a bit of clarity.
Here are some tips to help navigate Dubai-acceptable conventions:
Outrageous Dubai: where you can illegally scale soaring skyscrapers, and hit a Guinness Record holder every time you spit (but don’t – it’s not allowed!) – but where you’d best save antics like those pictured above for another trip to Hawaii or San Tropez.
Unmarried visitors in particular should get wise to acceptable rules of behavior. Public displays of affection (including kissing and holding hands) and all forms of nudity are verboten. And all those single ladies (and men) – keep your music volume on low.
The guidelines have just recently been re-broadcast and are absolutely in play, with rules strictly enforced. They appear to be aimed at the Emirate’s world-record-breaking shopping malls which act as magnets for tourists (and all manner of unrestrained cultural habits), but you can be fined or imprisoned for violating them anywhere.
Kissing on the shores of Dubai Creek, suggestive caresses in the Gold Souk and blasting your iTunes on a sightseeing bus can land you in big trouble with the police. Rules soften in Western-style bars and resorts, but why confuse things with the double-standard? Heed that classic advice to the amorous, and get a hotel room.
The Tawajed clause in Sharia (Islamic) law technically forbids an unmarried couple to share bedroom, or even a car. In Dubai, where foreigners outnumber natives nine to one, enforcement on this point gets pretty limp. Hotels typically require only one guest to register, and never ask for a marriage certificate. So relax a bit, but don’t flaunt your ring-less status.
Discretion is always the smarter choice.
Keep your clothes moderate, which will also help you cope with oppressive heat and humidity. Opt for loose-fitting and opaque fabrics; top that camisole or skinny tee with an overshirt or sun-blocking shawl. Keep limbs maximally covered (and be grateful for how much better your protected skin will look when you are seventy).
Women’s beachwear should scream “college swim team”, not “Ipanema Beach”.
I’m OK with these rules, they’re nothing that a dozen years of Catholic school hasn’t already tattooed on my psyche. But if they drive you to drink, stick to any of the long list of nightclubs, restaurants and hotels that legally serve alcohol.
And drop Green Prophet a postcard to tell us how the trip went.
Image of young couple on a beach from Shutterstock