If you want to visit the popular destination Dubai, it is important to check what is and isn’t allowed. Different countries have different rules, and knowing what is forbidden will prevent you from offending locals and possibly getting yourself into legal trouble.
It is forbidden to swear in public, show any public affection, disrespect Islam or the rulers, and dance and drink in public. Other things that are strictly frowned upon in Dubai are taking photos of people in public without consent and using your left hand to greet someone.
Some of the forbidden things to do in Dubai are more obvious and well known by tourists. However, others may surprise you, like not using your left hand to greet anyone or eat your food.
Forbidden Things To Do In Dubai
There are specific things that are prohibited in Dubai. Although it may seem different from what is allowed in other parts of the world, it is important to obey these rules as a sign of respect to Dubai and its local people. Of course, you also don’t want to land in trouble on your holiday.
Swearing In Public Is Not Allowed
Think twice before you swear or make a rude gesture in a public space in Dubai. Swearing is strictly frowned upon, and you could be fined or jailed if caught. It might be difficult to not spontaneously use foul language (for whatever purpose) but remember this is forbidden in Dubai.
In addition to this, shouting, screaming, or acting out inappropriately in public is considered offensive. It is best to hold off on arguments until you are alone with the person who caused you distress, and remember to keep the volume down if you are surrounded by other residents or in a hotel room.
Public Display Of Affection Is Prohibited
One of the most common no-nos in Dubai is PDA. PDA includes kissing, holding hands, hugging, and other forms of affection towards your loved one in public. These social acts are not accepted, and foreigners caught have suffered the consequences.
An exception to this is married couples holding hands. Married couples holding hands in public is somewhat tolerated, but all other openly affectionate gestures are not allowed between married couples.
It Is Offensive To Insult Islam Or The Rulers
Do not speak about Islam or Muslims negatively or insultingly. Although insulting religion while visiting any country is a big no-no, doing it in Dubai is taken very seriously. If you are found saying insulting things or making insulting gestures about the Islamic religion, you could even land jail time.
The same is to be said about insulting any rulers of the UAE. Dubai and every other state of the UAE have a ruler or a Sheik. The public highly respects the Sheiks and their contributions – whether financial or otherwise – to improving the way of life and future prospects for the countries they rule.
It is illegal to make insulting comments or disrespect them. This includes social media posts or comments, where prison terms of between 3-15 years become applicable, and include a fine of up to 1 million dirhams for anyone on the internet who comments or posts “with the intent of inciting to actions, or publishing or disseminating any information, news, caricatures, or other images liable to endanger state security and its higher interests or infringe on the public order.”
Taking Photographs Without Permission Is Banned
While taking photographs of people and landscapes may be normal while visiting other countries, Dubai strictly bans this. You first need to get permission to take a photo of someone.
Permission especially pertains to women, whom it is not allowed to take photos of without consent. Similarly, walking up to and addressing a random woman in public is frowned upon.
Dressing Inappropriately Is Frowned Upon
Women especially should dress more modestly in public in Dubai. Dressing modestly typically includes covering your arms, chest, and legs with loose clothes. Short dresses and tight tops will most likely not be appreciated, particularly in markets, mosques, malls, and other public areas.
Clothes should be relatively conservative and not revealing. This does not mean that Western clothes are not allowed, only that they are not inappropriate. You can wear swimming costumes and bikinis at the beaches and hotel pools, but not elsewhere.
Drinking And Dancing In Public May Be Fined
Drinking in public is forbidden in Dubai. Certain restaurants, hotels, and bars can serve alcohol to guests so that you can go there safely for a drink or two. Being drunk in a public space is especially frowned upon and will most likely land you a hefty fine.
After a few drinks, you may feel compelled to dance. But Dubai does not allow public dancing as they consider it provocative. There is, however, a loophole – dedicated clubs and bars are available for dancing and clubbing.
Do Not Use Your Left Hand To Eat Or Greet Someone
It isn’t very respectful in Dubai (and some other countries) to use your left hand to shake hands with someone, eat, and even open doors. This rule may be surprising to some people. Also, most people greet others with their right hand anyway.
The left hand is perceived as the “unclean” hand and was used to clean up in the days before flushing and toilet paper. Of course, this doesn’t apply to the present day, but the association with the left hand still holds. Please do not use your left hand for social activities other than to drink, as it is seen as insulting.
Drugs And Certain Medication Is Forbidden
Like in pretty much all other countries, drugs are illegal in Dubai. There are strict search measures at the airport, and if you are found with even a tiny amount, you can be jailed for a considerable time.
Other types of medication, like prescribed medication, are allowed but still tightly controlled. The golden rule is to check with the authorities before traveling whether your medication would be allowed in the required quantities. Also, don’t forget to carry the prescription.
Similarly, smoking in public – whether cigarettes or a hookah pipe – is forbidden. This rule extends to instances where other (non-smoking) people are present, and includes pregnant women and children in close proximity to the smoker.
Eating In Public During Ramadan Is A Crime
During Ramadan, tourists and residents should be extra aware not to eat or drink in public. This also includes chewing gum.
Most food services like restaurants and cafes are closed during this time, so it would be best to eat privately where you are staying and try to plan your meals. Some restaurants remain open but are covered.
Because Ramadan is such an important part of the Islamic religion, any actions perceived as offensive are taken seriously. Besides not being allowed to eat and drink in public during fasting hours, smoking and dancing would also be frowned upon.
Dubai has become a well-known and popular tourist destination. However, tourists should know what is not allowed or offensive in the country. Essential things like swearing, showing affection, drinking, and dressing inappropriately in public are all forbidden.