general info LOCAL CULTURE
Local Culture
Updated on 01 February 2017

Despite becoming one of the most modern cities in the world, the local population of Dubai remain conscious of their heritage, legacy and culture. The late President of the UAE, H.H. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, famously said, 'A country that knows not its past has neither present nor future' a phrase which adequately describes the Emirates of today.

Many people come to Dubai holding misconceptions about the local culture, so in order to put everyone's mind at ease, Discover Dubai asked Mr Nasif Kayed, General Manager of the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU), to answer some of those frequently asked questions.

Q. What is the "dress code" in Dubai?
A. Most expect business casual as the official dress code, as well as the underlying values of modesty. Generally modesty in this country means no need to show-off. While we do see a bit of that, beachwear is for the beach, evening wear for the nightclubs and family friendly for the malls and public places. Just like company dress code rules, it's best that a family-friendly attire is worn when out, if your shoulders and knees are covered, you're sure not to offend anyone.

Q. Can you please explain the local dress?
A. In the past almost everyone wore some type of robe because of its simplicity and modesty, from religious figures to everyday people. Light, airy clothes also keep you cool in the desert, which is why they are still popular in this region. In the UAE, the national dress for men is the spotlessly clean and crisp white 'dishdasha' or 'kandoura' and is worn with a headdress known as a 'ghuttra' (normally white for Emirati nationals). The ghuttra is secured around the head with a black cord or 'agal' which is still used to tether the camel's feet together to stop them wandering off in the desert.

Local Emirati women wear a traditional black weightless cloak called an 'abaya', together with a headscarf called a 'sheyla' sometimes decorated with traditional embroidery or sequins. The black abaya has evolved over the years and has crossed the cultural line to become a more universal garment worn all over the world and is an iconic part of fashion in the region. Some women will also wear a leather mask called a 'burgaa' or use a very light veil 'niqab' to cover their face. Tradition, culture and religious modesty all influence the local dress for both men and women, and simplicity is the rule.

Q. Can I wear the local dress?
A. There is nothing that states you cannot dress like a local, but it's best to remember that once in that attire you may be mistaken for one! So best to learn the protocols, mind your manners and understand you may be representing (or misrepresenting) someone's culture.

Q. Is it okay to take pictures of a local/Emirati?
A. It depends on the person, ask first and if they refuse don't be offended, some might be in a hurry to get somewhere or may simply be shy and do not want their picture taken.

Q. Is it okay to hold hands, and even hug and kiss your wife/husband in public?
A. It's definitely okay to hold hands, but in public please conduct yourselves in a respectful manner. It's expected to see an embrace at the airport, but these types of gestures are not typical in local society, therefore visitors and residents are asked to keep intimate exchanges 'family friendly'.

Q. Is it okay to show the bottom of your feet?
A. In the past, walking in the village was not as tidy as it is today, so when you entered a home, one removed their shoes. Even if you wore sandals your feet may have become soiled and unsightly. Today, mostly the elderly would expect you not to show the bottom of your feet as a sign of respect.

Q. Can we enter a mosque?
A. Only if you are joining a guided tour through SMCCU (in Dubai) and currently Jumeirah Mosque and the Diwan Mosque in the historic district of Dubai are open weekly for tours.

Q. Why are alcohol and pork only served in limited areas in Dubai?
A. This comes from religion regarding do's and don'ts. So no to alcohol, but here in Dubai it is legal in places like hotels and private residences (if you have a license), but absolutely no tolerance for it in public or behind the wheel. As to pork, it's a dietary restriction mentioned in the Quran along with other restrictions pertaining to certain foods. In Dubai, pork can be found in a small number of markets, and is usually kept separate from the main area.

If you would like to know more, why not go along to the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding where you can try the local dishes and have an open conversation about life in the Emirates. Call +971 4 3536666 or email smccu@cultures.ae.

Share this page!
COMMENTS
MORE ON general info

Located in cluster Q of Jumeirah Lakes Tower (JLT), this new beauty entrant brings along its own kind of freshness to one of the most popular communities around town. he reception of the salon adorns a vertical green wall which looks so appealing

The first time you take a new fitness class can be intimidating! Especially if you’ve seen Instagram videos of famous people doing crazy-looking things on the Pilates equipment. If you’ve wanted to try it but are intimidated by all these videos.

As part of a series of features on individuals in the UAE who are using their skills and experience to give something back to the community, this month Connector meets an Emirati philanthropist on a mission to spread a message of kindness, compassion

Dubai Shopping Festival is here for its Silver Jubilee 25th edition and it goes without saying that the home-grown world class shopping event is bigger than ever and is packed with excitement. The festival opened on Thursday, 26 December 2019

Now is the time to set new goals for the year, and if weight loss is one of them, you should know that abs are made in the kitchen. Diet plays a crucial role in your weight loss journey.

A food intolerance, or a food sensitivity occurs when a person has difficulty digesting a particular food. This can lead to symptoms such as intestinal gas, abdominal pain or diarrhoea.

The world’s tallest building Burj Khalifa is set to return with its spectacular New Year’s Eve show tonight. Fireworks combined with a light show will start at 11.57pm and last for eight minutes. Revellers who are heading to Downtown to experience

Postal services in the UAE have spanned over a century, connecting near and far. Marking the occasion, Emirates Post has issued a series of commemorative stamps to celebrate 110 years of postal services in the country. The first postal agency was

The first public holiday of the year will be on 1 January. As per the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation, both public and private sector workers will be given Wednesday 1 January off, with work resuming on Thursday 2 January. 

Get ready to let Robbie Williams entertain you as the British pop star is coming to Dubai for a live solo performance at The Pointe on Palm Jumeirah on 24 January 2020. The ‘Angels’, ‘Let Me Entertain You’ and ‘Rock DJ' hit maker will perform live as

First Previous 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9  ... Next Last 
FEATURED
A 'must do' when in Dubai.
The Dubai Fountain was designed by California-based WET, the creators of the Bellagio Fountain in Las Vegas, and is 275 metres long with five circles and two central arcs. Over
Unveiled in February 2010, the Burj Khalifa stands 828 metres high - 320 metres taller than Taipei 101 which held the record since 2004. The Burj Khalifa currently holds seven records, including the highest occupied
Since its opening in December 1999, the Burj Al Arab has been one of the most photographed structures in the world. Sometimes referred to as "the world's most luxurious hotel
The UAE is surrounded by two bodies of water, both offering different diving experiences. Dubai is good for shipwrecks, which are home to Barracuda, Snappers and Jacks, with common
Take a magic carpet ride across rolling red sand dunes, with an amazing bird's eye view of the untouched desert below.
HAPPENINGS
2020 starts with an absolute bang and January is an action packed month of events and activities for everyone to do and see, from comedy, theatre, sporting activities and live performances from international stars. Here's just some of the many things
After an action packed weekend of fun and activities, you could be forgiven for wanting to take it easy this week. But don't! You will only miss out on a whole load of great things happening in Dubai over the next few days, and there is something for
Get ready for a great weekend with music, comedy, art and sport all happening around this great city. Go with friends and family to watch international golf stars in action, enjoy the sounds of live jazz as the band from one of the world's most
This weekend, venture outside at your peril and beware of things that go bump in the night. It's a spooky weekend, where ghosts and ghouls come out to scare us for Halloween, and if that is your thing then there are lots of ways you can mix and
Top things to do in Dubailand, Motor City, Sport City and Green Community
Top things to do in Jumeirah Lakes Towers (JLT), Emirates Living, Jebel Ali, Dubai Marina and Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR)
Top things to do in Al Barsha, Barsha Heights and Al Quoz
Top things to do in Downtown Dubai, DIFC, Business Bay, Al Meydan and Dubai Design District
Top things to do in Jumeirah 1,2,3, Beach Road, Al Wasl Road, Umm Suqeim, Al Sufouh, Palm Jumeirah
Top things to do in Sheikh Zayed Road, 2nd of December Street and Al Satwa
Top things to do in Bur Dubai, Karama, Al Mankhool, Al Jaddaf and Oud Metha
Top things to do in Deira, Garhoud and Al Muteena.
Dubai stands in line with cities like Paris, Milan, London and New York, so you can never be bored of this city. There are a million of things to see, try, and taste!
And you won't be disappointed.
Your little ones will thank you.
INSTAGRAM
FOLLOW
Discover Dubai
Stay Connected - Drop us your email.