Culture of UAE

Before you arrive, it’s important to understand a little about UAE culture, and the deep-rooted traditions that make the country so interesting. We also want to appreciate the nuances of life in this dynamic and cosmopolitan location, but while also being aware of the cultural guidelines and expectations your hosts will have of you. So here are the five key points you should familiarise yourself with before you arrive in the UAE.


Alcohol is permitted in the UAE, but only in licensed outlets which are almost always attached to hotels or sports clubs. Once you become an official resident, it is advisable to apply for an alcohol license, which will permit you to purchase alcoholic beverages from designated outlets for consumption at home.

While some locations in the UAE are known for their party atmosphere it is important not to flaunt this outside of these designated areas, as such it is illegal to drink alcohol in public unlicensed areas or appear drunk in a public place.


The traditional Emirati clothes are the long white shirt for men (dishdasha) and the white headdress (ghutra). For women, the long black robe (abaya) is worn with a hijab. Expatriates are not expected to adopt the traditional dress, but you should dress modestly. Avoid shorts, short skirts, or sleeveless tops.


Tourist photography is allowed. If you’re photographing people, especially Emirati women, it is essential you ask permission. Photos of airports, ports, military bases or government buildings are not allowed and the penalties for ignoring this can be severe.


Visitors must behave with respect to the Emirati culture at all times. Particular attention should be paid to the period of Ramadan, and other religious festivals. Public displays of affection should be avoided, too.


It is important for expatriate women to dress conservatively in the UAE. Make sure your shoulders and knees are covered in public out of respect to the culture and religious beliefs of Islam. Within more western areas such as bars and restaurants, women can wear more relaxed styles.

Got any more questions about living in Dubai and the culture of the UAE? Feel free to drop us a line, or have a look at our blog.

Life in UAE

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