Local laws and etiquette
• Islam is an important aspect of UAE daily life, even in Westernised Dubai. Emiratis adhere to Islamic codes of conduct, following the Five Pillars of Islam (ie, declaring there is no God but Allah, praying five times a day, donating to charity, fasting, and making the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime).
• Dress modestly: women should wear skirts to the knees or longer, tops with sleeves, and nothing too tight or revealing; men should wear trousers/jeans and tops with sleeves.
• Same-sex marriages are not recognised in the UAE and homosexuality is illegal; the country is considered one of the world’s least hospitable nations for LGBT+ people.
• Heterosexual couples should not display affection in public other than holding hands, especially during Ramadan when it’s forbidden (along with eating and drinking in public during daylight hours) and could land you in prison. In November 2020 it was announced that cohabiting out of wedlock would be legalised aross the UAE; previously, unmarried (heterosexual) couples were not legally able to share hotel rooms, though in practice poof was generally not required.
• Alcohol consumption has also been decriminalised as part of new measures aimed to “boost the country’s economic and social standing and consolidate the UAE’s principles of tolerance”. It has always been available to tourists in hotel and club restaurants and bars, but Emiratis can also now buy and consume it. Note though that this is still only the case privately or in licensed public places by those over the age of 21, so caution remains advisable.