VIP February 2018

KWR: Culture in Dubai?

Victoria, on April 20, 2017 at 8:11 PM Posted in Honeymoon 0 10
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FH and I would both LOVE to honeymoon in Dubai, but when I started researching I've found a few articles that show that wear strappy sundresses and holding hands is disrespectful and can get you ticketed and possibly even arrested. Does anyone know if this is true?


  • J
    Super September 2017
    Jenny ·

    I have been to Dubai many times. It's a very liberal city. Once in awhile, the ultra-conservatives will get rowdy and the police will prosecute someone for show, but to be honest, if you're not making out on a public beach, you'll be fine.

    If you are staying in one of Dubai's many luxury hotels for the honeymoon, you can pretty much do whatever you'd like on the hotel grounds. That includes most of the romantic places - ie. beach side, etc. Hold hands when you shop etc is all fine. I held hands freely with my BF when we went last year, and no one cared (except him, he's American and it was his first trip out of the US, he freaked out the first time I reached for his hand). The only places where I'd be respectful are mosques and perhaps the souk areas.

  • Victoria
    VIP February 2018
    Victoria ·

    @Jenny: I was thinking that for our days nearby our hotel, at the beach, in major malls, etc. that short sundresses would be acceptable, but when heading to the souks & other cultural buildings, I'll be sure to cover up a bit. I've never been out of the country and am a bit anxious about it. Do you think that'd be fine?

  • J
    Super September 2017
    Jenny ·

    In the beach at your hotel, you can wander around in a bikini. In a public beach, I would cover up a little more - shorts and t-shirt is fine (but only because you don't want rando men staring at you, and presumably you don't want to go to the women-only beaches). Major malls - you may or may not want to be in a short sundress. Just know they really really blast the AC in the Middle East. It's like 65 F at best, and then you step outside and it's 105 for 30 seconds until you get into an ACed vehicle.

    While you're there, I'd strongly recommend this RIB boat tour on Viator. It's not expensive - $35-45? But one of the best times we had.

    The concern for you isn't so much the police as it is random single men. Dubai has a huge labor population from countries like Nepal, India, Pakistan, etc. They haven't been around their families for years. They aren't dangerous, but will unabashedly eye you in a way that can be very uncomfortable.

  • Jennifer
    Devoted May 2014
    Jennifer ·

    "I've found a few articles that show that wear strappy sundresses and holding hands is disrespectful and can get you ticketed and possibly even arrested"

    If you know it can be interpreted as disrespectful why would you push the boundaries? Yes, it is a rather liberal city... over 80% of Dubai's population are expats so you will see people dressed in a huge variety of ways. But if a portion of the population might be offended by short strappy sundresses, is it really so important for you to wear them?

    "The only places where I'd be respectful are mosques and perhaps the souk areas"

    @Jenny - The quote above probably came out differently than you meant it, but I think it is important to be respectful of other cultures wherever you may travel. When people from certain Asian countries where manners related to personal space and waiting in line are different visit America, I get very annoyed if they do not respect our societal norms. Therefore, I go out of my way to make sure I do everything I can to respect the societal norms of other countries I visit.

    As Jenny mentioned, the AC is blasted everywhere inside in Dubai, so it really is not an inconvenience to cover up a tad when you leave your hotel grounds. I wore a half sleeved loose fitting tunic dress over footless tights to the mall there and I was cold. There are plenty of fashionable options that would not risk offending. Throw on a lightweight maxi dress, cardigans over anything strappy, etc. I really don't think it is difficult.

    Here is an example of the kind of dresses I like to pick up for trips like this...

    At home, I would wear it as the model does, cinched up at the waist and open at the neck. When traveling to Muslim majority (or otherwise conservative) countries I loosen the tie at the waist so that it falls to my knees, tie the strings at the neck together to cover cleavage, and throw a cardigan over it. It's not like you need to waste money on frumpy stuff you won't ever wear again, you can just accessorize differently (tights, cardis etc)

  • MrsMitch
    Master August 2017
    MrsMitch ·

    I totally got what @Jennifer T is saying and I agree.

    We "Americans" expect others to be respectful of our culture when traveling in our country. Therefore, we owe other cultures the same courtesy when we choose to vacation in their country.

  • Victoria
    VIP February 2018
    Victoria ·

    @Jennifer I know that in traditional Muslim culture that could be offensive, but I wasn't sure how traditional of a city Dubai was. I own very few articles of clothing (unless work or gym clothes) that aren't like this and would need to shop around for more modest items if a dress that hits two inches above the knee or is strappy instead of having full sleeves would be offensive. Thanks for your advice!

  • Cricket
    Devoted March 2018
    Cricket ·

    I've been to Dubai. While it is a city of mostly expats, it is still part of the UAE, so UAE rules apply. Dress conservatively out in public (shoulders covered, at least knee length bottoms). If it's a private hotel, sundresses and bikinis should be fine on the beach. Hand holding is acceptable for married couples, but you'll still likely get some sideways stares. Don't kiss in don't want to get sent to jail on your honeymoon. Also, it's VERY hot there the majority of the year, so yes, AC is blasting in many places. You may want something to cover up with solely for that reason. Basically, be more modest than you would be here. Do as the locals do when you're in doubt. And if that's your final a boat cruise dinner on the river one evening. So incredibly romantic! It was my favorite part of my trip. The Atlantis resort waterpark on Palm Jumeirah was fun too (and more casual dress applies there too). Book the Burj Khalifa in advance too if you want to go up as they often sell out in advance.

  • kmd0506
    Dedicated June 2017
    kmd0506 ·

    I live in the region and spend a lot of time in Dubai. As everyone has said above- pretty much anything goes at hotels and the beach areas at hotels. The big malls request you cover your shoulders and knees, and I would do it without prompting as the ac is no joke. I usually spend my time around the Dubai Marina and have seen all sorts of attire and handholding with no weird looks. Lots of women running around there in shorts/tank tops or even shorts and sports bras without an issue.

    While I don't have concrete proof I have head over and over again the folks that get arrested are usually only arrested if they become belligerent with the police. If asked to stop a behavior, stop and apologize- don't fight it (but I think that's not so common sense- at least not anymore).

    If you're there on a Friday I would recommend going to a Brunch, even if you don't drink the food is usually amazing and the people watching is incredible.

    Try to avoid traveling there during Ramadan- prices are great but a lot of places (and almost all restaurants) close during the day and only re-open at Sunset. Alcohol is also not widely available during that time period.

    It surprises people that it does get cold there in the winter and they can get some nasty storms which curtail outside activity (we splurged for a birthday weekend at Atlantis and the waterpark wasn't even open one of the days due to high winds and rain- not normal but Jan-Mar can be cold and stormy)

  • Jennifer
    Beginner April 2017
    Jennifer ·

    I used to live in the UAE and of course Dubai is one of the more touristy destinations. It is a muslim country, so be respectful of course. Friday and Saturday are the weekend there, Sunday- Thursday the workweek.

    You'll want to have a sweater to cover yourself going into the malls, restaurants, etc... There are signs saying to have your shoulders covered, but also the AC is on HIGH! It may be sweltering outside but inside it is cold! Temps range from about 75-110ish outside depending on the month you go. Also, the more uncovered you are, the more unwelcome/ awkward stares you will get from men.

    You'll be fine wearing your typical swimwear on the beaches. The stories that get people into the news and in trouble with the law there, are those of people trying to have sex on the beach or in the back of taxis, are visibly drunk in public, and are disrespectful. Just be mindful of your surroundings and you will be fine!

    There are so many sights to see in Dubai- the souk, palm Jumeirah, of course the mall has Ski Dubai, burj Khalifa, Burj Al Arab (try to make a reservation for high tea or something there!), you can go on a desert safari... there is so much to do!

    I'd also recommend going to Abu Dhabi just an hour down the road... there are amazing sights to see there as well. The Mosque (definitely have to be covered for this and they will give you the appropriate attire)... but it is amazing!!! Emirates Palace, so much!

    Definitely try to avoid Ramadan because everything will shut down until the evening hours. Even if you were to decide to explore during the day, it would be considered disrespectful to even chew gum or drink water in public. I first arrived in the country during Ramadan one year and it is a great cultural experience to see but if you are there to experience the country, it probably isn't the best time. Also, during the summer months when school lets out (I was a teacher there), a great majority of the locals go on holiday to other countries. It is also quite hot there during this time.

    You will be fine in Dubai!!! It is definitely an amazing experience!

  • Jennifer
    Devoted May 2014
    Jennifer ·

    @MrsWrs - I am really not getting your point

    1) I quoted the OP in order to respond and ask if it was worth pushing the boundaries if there was a chance locals MIGHT be offended. I received similar advice when I researched this same topic years ago and I found it to be helpful. Packing may take a bit of extra effort but I personally found it to be worth it in the end. She asked for input, I gave some well thought out SPECIFIC suggestions that I thought might be useful.

    2) Not sure which advice you think I should be taking. I can only assume you somehow think my statement was offensive to people of asian descent? I made no blanket statements about Asians, that would be absurd. The point I was making has nothing to do with race, this is simply a well documented example of how regional differences in manners can cause offense. I mentioned CERTAIN asian countries (not all) where manners related to certain specific topics ARE different than in America. When I travel to India or China I will mentally prepare myself for the fact that I will likely be jostled, and feel crowded and overwhelmed by what I perceive as an invasion of my personal space at times. I will not take offense because I know it is simply part of accepted societal norms there. However, when a TOURIST from one of those countries shoves me or cuts me in line IN the United States, I am bothered by that, as I think most people would be.

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