What are some unwritten rules of Dubai

Social Customs

While Arabs are understanding and seldom offended by a misstep resulting from ignorance, you will be more welcome to familiarize yourself with local customs. As a foreigner, you are expected to adapt to the new environment, not the other way around. Aside from certain behavior that is considered criminal, there are some unwritten laws that you must adhere to in order not to be offensive.

Clothes in Dubai

There are two types of clothing for women, one for locals and the other for expats. On the street, most Arab women dress according to religious custom, which means that they cover most of their bodies. The traditional overgarment (abaya) has ankle length, long sleeves and a high collar. The hair is also covered. Some Arab women, especially Saudis with very religious husbands, cover their bodies including their faces and hands. This is supposed to protect women from unwanted attention. In Saudi Arabia, foreigners also have to wear an abaya on the street. Women with bare hair are stopped by the Islamic religious police and asked to cover their heads. In other countries, foreign women are allowed to wear western clothing, but they should always be dressed inconspicuously.

The combination of high temperatures and traditional clothing requires ingenuity. Arabs disapprove of clothing that exposes the shoulders, arms and legs and women who dress provocatively are considered prostitutes in the worst case. At home, in the absence of friends and relatives, however, many Arab women, especially the younger ones, adopt the Western style of clothing. There are no restrictions on the private clothing of foreign women.

Arab men wear the thawb, a wide, ankle-length robe made of fine, white cotton (or heavier material for the winter). There are different types of thawb that differ both in cut and in how they are attached to the neck. Probably the most striking thawbs are those of the Omanis, which are adorned with tassels. The Thawb is worn both privately and professionally. The overcoat (until) is worn on formal occasions and can be very expensive as it is decorated with gold embroidery and made of fine material.

The typical headgear (guthra) and is a white or red and white checkered cloth that goes through the Agal, a black "rope", which was originally a rope for camels, is held. There are different types of agals. Qataris, for example, usually wear a more African headgear, the two ends of which extend to the back. Arab men dress loosely for very informal occasions or on the beach. Saudis, on the other hand, must always wear their robes.

Foreign men are of course not required to wear Arab robes. They usually wear western clothing. Men should still not wear shorts or sleeveless tops, as this is considered too casual. With the increasing number of tourists, however, this is also viewed less strictly. Suits are seldom worn in the Gulf region unless it is a very important business meeting. In the office you wear light trousers, a shirt and tie, usually with long sleeves.


Arabs value courtesy very much. So it is important that they greet and say goodbye to locals correctly. The use of Arabic names can be confusing at times to newcomers. For example, a man could be called Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al-Jishi. Abdullah is his first name and he is the son or grandson of (bin) Abdul Aziz. Al-Jishi is the family or tribal name. To make it even more complicated, the first name is often abbreviated. So Mohammed can be shortened to Mohd, Hamad, or Hamed. It is particularly important to use the full name on formal occasions and in letters. You should never address Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al-Jishi as Abdullah (let alone the short form Abdul). However, the father's name may be omitted so that you call him Abdullah Al-Jishi.

The formal salutation for men is “Sayyed” (“Sir”), for women “Sayeeda” (or “Sayedity”) and is followed by the person's full name. Arab women can also be addressed as "Madame".

Rulers are addressed as "Your Highness", the King of Saudi Arabia as "Your Majesty". Elderly members of ruling families are referred to as "Your Excellency" followed by "Sheikh”(Which is pronounced“ she-ik ”) and her full name. Government ministers are addressed as "Your Excellency, Minster of ..." and other ministers only as "Your Excellency" followed by their name. Less important members of ruling families are called "Sheikh“And then addressed her name. In Saudi Arabia this title has a less important meaning and is also used by influential business people. The rules and customs of salutation can be confusing and you should always double-check before introducing yourself to dignitaries.


The most common greeting in the gold region is "Salam alaykum"(" Peace be upon you "), to which you with Wa alaykum as-salam (“And be with you peace”) answer. Other common greetings and responses to it are:




Ahlan wa sahlan


Ahlan bik

Sabah al-khayr

Good morning day

Sabah an-only

Masa al-khayr

Good evening

Masa an-only

Tisbah ala-khayr, which means “good night”, is said when parting and the answer is wa inta min ahlu. You should always shake hands with Arab men to greet and say goodbye. With Arab women, let their behavior guide you. Many Arab women do not shake hands with a non-Arab man, but educated women may. Shaking hands is also common among close friends. If the handshake you get when you say goodbye is longer than the greeting, it means that you have made a good impression. It is also frowned upon when newcomers refuse or hesitate to meet people. If you have not been introduced to her, do not approach, look at, or talk to an Arab woman.

After shaking hands, one usually asks about health or other things. Be prepared to be asked something similar too. (Never ask about the health of female family members. Limit your questions to the family in general or their sons.) This may take some time as neither side wants to bring the conversation to an end. Foreigners are not expected to know all the intricacies of this ritual, but you will make a good impression if you know at least a few standard idioms and use them correctly. Whether it's face-to-face or on the phone, you never get straight to business! If you do it anyway, your Arab counterpart will believe that you are impatient and not interested in him as a person.

Hands & feet

You should always accept an offered refreshment. However, you should only use your right hand for eating and drinking, the left is considered unclean (as it is intended for "toilet purposes"). Likewise, you should never show anyone the soles of their feet or shoes. This means that you are mistaking the other person for "dirt," which is obviously a strong offense. You should therefore keep your feet on the ground and not cross your legs.

Invitations in Dubai

If an Arab invites you to their home, you should never refuse. In general, you should take every opportunity to get to know locals and not - like many foreigners - just stay within your foreign community. Your Arabic host will be interested in you and your opinion. However, you should avoid discussing politics or religion. Even if your opinion is acceptable from your point of view, it could be seen as ill-informed or hurtful here.

Who you the majlisWhen entering the visitor reception room, you should always take off your shoes unless the host specifically tells you otherwise. (Make sure your stockings have no holes!). If you are accompanied by a woman, she will be sent to the other women immediately. You will almost certainly be offered something to drink and sometimes something to eat. Accept the offer. Arabs are almost always very polite and expect the same from others. They also believe that eating together has a positive effect on relationships.

The default greeting is Ahlan wa sahlanwhich means “welcome” and which all visitors to Dubai will encounter. It is definitely worth learning enough Arabic to exchange niceties and know greetings and the answers to them. You will get positive responses and the locals are happy to support those who want to learn their language. Be aware, however, that the Arabic language is considered to be the language for proclaiming the word of God. Therefore, use them with respect.

You should also never pay an unannounced visit to an Arab. If the women of the family are present, this is not appreciated, especially in Saudi Arabia. Nor should you ever express yourself in admiration at a property of your host, as tradition then requires him to give it to you. Even if this tradition is not followed by everyone, it can still cause embarrassing situations. In addition, a gift in return is expected from the recipient. So think twice before expressing admiration for an Arab's Rolls Royce!

You should always observe the following basic rules:

  • Never offer an Arab an alcoholic drink unless you are sure that he is drinking alcohol. This can be taken as an insult.
  • Do not step on prayer mats, stand in front of those praying or stare at them.
  • Do not try to enter a mosque without first asking for permission. You are unlikely to be let in.
  • In Saudi Arabia, do not try to enter the sacred area that surrounds Mecca and Medina. Numerous signs along the streets indicate the prohibition. If a non-Muslim is found inside the cordoned off area, he will most likely be attacked and no help will be offered against the attackers.
  • Avoid swearing in the presence of Muslims and especially in Saudi Arabia. Many Arabs who do not come from the Gulf region work in Dubai; they are usually less tolerant than the residents of Dubai.
  • Avoid embarrassing an Arab in front of other Arabs. If he notices your efforts, he will be grateful to you.
  • Never wave your finger at people. It is considered particularly impolite and Arabs only use this gesture to call a dog.
  • Avoid shouting loudly and showing signs of aggression or drunkenness at all times. This is seldom tolerated.
  • During the fasting month of Ramadan, you should not eat, drink or smoke during the day where you could be seen by Muslims. Keep calm and don't hug or kiss anyone in public.

By Just Landed

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