Working in Dubai can be lucrative for many, with high wages and low taxes, it is a mecca for anyone wanting to earn big bucks. That being said however, it is still important to bear in mind that Dubai is an Arab city, situated within a Muslim country. With both tradition and law held in high regard, it is important for anyone starting a new job abroad in Dubai to know exactly what they are walking into and what will be expected of them.
So if you plan on working in Dubai, or getting a finding a job in the United Arab Emirates in the near future, here are five things you need to know:
1. Clothing Is Very Conservative
Although considered very liberal when put into context compared to other places in the Middle East, Dubai still maintains conservative dress codes. Any clothes that are somewhat transparent, low-cut, or short should be left at home and what’s more, it is absolutely imperative for women that the stomach, shoulders, and back are completely covered when in public. Men must cover their chest, and all underwear should be out of sight. Such rules are more relaxed when it comes to the beach and at swimming pools owned by hotels, but topless sunbathing is a big “no” in any location. At the end of the day, make sure you are maintaining modesty in your dress everyday.
2. Premarital Relations Are Illegal
Crime rates are particularly low in Dubai as the laws are strict and there are severe punishments for people who break them. One of these laws is sex outside of marriage, which can also be applied to expats and visitors from any country too. In fact, even if you have been living with your partner for decades, you cannot legally live together once you work abroad in Dubai – even in hotels. It is important that you do not take any risk in regards to this law as you can be jailed and then deported from the country.
3. Public Displays of Affection Are Rarely Tolerated
Although holding hands is generally okay (if you are married), kissing, and hugging is not tolerated in public. In regards to dancing however, the rules are slightly different, as it is allowed in the privacy of your own home or at licensed clubs, but dancing in public is deemed to be provocative. It is deeply frowned upon for men to take photos of women without permission, be sexual or harassing in nature toward them, or even randomly speak to a woman.
4. Islamic Values Must be Respected
Muslims pray five times a day, which is when mosques call people through their speaker systems. During this time, it is important that you turn off all music so that daily prayers can be given. During Ramadan, it is also important to know that drinking, smoking, playing loud music, and dancing during daylight hours are strictly forbidden. Nothing can enter your body, not even your finger, so no picking your nose or nail biting. Breaking these observations can result in heavy punishments – even for non-Muslims.
In general, any disrespect towards religious beliefs or practices is considered deeply offensive and is likely to result in a heavy fine and or imprisonment. Other religions are respected in Dubai and may be followed by expats working in the UAE.
5. Alcohol Consumption & Inebriation Is Illegal in Public
It is forbidden to drink alcohol in Islam, although this was not always the case. At first Muslims were only forbidden to be intoxicated during prayer, until finally, some years later the Qur’an stated that, "intoxicants and games of chance" were "abominations of Satan's handiwork,” and so Muslims were ordered to abstain. This means that public consumption and inebriation in public is illegal, though it is legal for non-Muslims to enjoy alcohol in licensed premises, as long as they themselves have their own liquor licences to drink. Non-Muslim residents must even attain a liquor licence in order to drink alcohol at home. What’s more, the licence that you are issued is only valid in the Emirate in which you applied for it.
You will be able to buy and consume alcoholic drinks within licensed hotels and clubs, but remember that doesn’t change the legality beyond the doors. It is strongly advised that if you are leaving the premises, you get straight into a taxi and do not wander around the area.
In Dubai the legal drinking age is 21, but this is not consistent throughout the Emirates. For example, the legal age to drink alcohol is 18 in Abu Dhabi (although a by-law allows hotels to serve alcohol only to those over 21). In Sharjah, drinking is totally illegal and it is also worth mentioning that passengers in transit through the U.A.E. under the influence of alcohol may be arrested.