Now that I’m back in Cairo, I thought I would make a helpful guide for those of you who plan on going to Dubai in the future. The United Arab Emirates is a strict country with a strict set of rules that they demand you follow. Should you break any of these rules, it’s possible that you could be arrested. Now don’t freak out. Most of these are really easy to abide by. But it’s imperative that you guys be aware of what you’re getting into before you book your flights, less any of these be a deal-breaker.
1. Check Your Meds
This is the most important one for me. The UAE has a list of over 60 medications that are banned in their country. Their customs check at the airport is no joke, so don’t even think about smuggling them in. A while back, a British man was imprisoned in Dubai for bringing an anti-anxiety medication that was banned. So before you go, check this list and see if you’ll be able to bring any medications that you need. Remember to check the name brand and the generic name.
2. Cover Up
Like most Arab countries, the UAE has a strict dress code, particularly important for women. Short skirts and shorts are not acceptable in public and are considered provocative. This goes for low cut shirts and spaghetti strap tops as well. Men are not allowed to walk around without a shirt on and women may not wear a bathing suit outside of a beach or pool.
3. Be Respectful of Religion
Whether you be Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Sikh or any other religion, the UAE demands respect for all religions and nationalities. Don’t make fun of the call to prayer, anyone’s head coverings, or anything else that separates them. This should be the same for anywhere you go, but in Dubai, there are severe consequences.
4. Alcohol and Drugs
Drugs are strictly forbidden. There is absolutely no leniency when it comes to illegal substances and getting caught with any of them will lead to a harsh sentence to jail. Alcohol can only be purchased in certain places, mostly hotel restaurants, and bars. Do not go out drunk in the street or drink anywhere outside of designated places.
The UAE is trying to get smoking banned completely, but as for now, the best they can do is ban it in most public places. Obviously, you can’t smoke in a mall or any public venue indoors. But you also can’t smoke in parks, outdoor shopping centers, and outside of buildings. You have to go to designated smoking areas. Make sure you throw your butt in the trash, as there are fines for littering as well.
Unlike most other countries in the Western world, dancing in public is frowned upon. Not only is it frowned upon, but you can be fined, imprisoned, or deported. Don’t go around breakdancing in the street or skipping and singing along to the Hamilton soundtrack. As hard as it might be to refrain from belting out The Story of Tonight, you’re just going to have to resist the temptation.
This goes for any forms of affection in public, from holding hands to a kiss on the cheek. In many places, they have a no-cohabiting policy, where unwed men and women are forbidden from staying in the same room. However, most high-end hotels won’t really mind. I do suggest not calling your partner “boyfriend” or “girlfriend”, rather your “husband” and “wife.”
8. Offensive Language and Aggressivity
This wasn’t too hard for me, as Egypt has the same policies, though they are not as strict. Cursing, aggressive behavior, and even hand gestures could get you fined or deported. Fortunately, this also extends to sexually harassing women. So I consider that a win.
Despite all these restrictions on everyday life in Dubai, it’s still worth a trip to a strange country with a dramatic lifestyle. Dubai is unlike any other city in the world this way and you would be sorry to miss out on this futuristic land of magic and luxury. Happy travels!