1. Social Ethics:
Dubai is characterised by the interaction of a large number of cultures and nationalities. However, the culture, customs and traditions of the United Arab Emirates and its people shall be respected by adopting courtesy and moderation and avoiding all types of improper behaviour in the Emirate.
1.1. The symbols of the state:
It is the duty of every citizen, resident and visitor to show respect for the symbols of the United Arab Emirates’ rulers, flag and national emblem. The abuse of any of those symbols is a crime punishable by law.
An official business or business casual dress code shall be adopted by all visitors of Dubai’s official government buildings as well as business buildings and office towers. Access to Dubai’s official and business buildings may be denied if dress code is considered inappropriate.
In all other public places such as streets, shopping malls and restaurants, shorts and skirts shall be of appropriate length. Moreover, clothing shall not indecently expose parts of the body, be transparent, or display obscene or offensive pictures and slogans.
Beachgoers - men and women - shall wear conservative swimwear that is acceptable to Dubai’s culture. Swimwear shall not be worn outside the beach, as decent dress is the rule in the rest of the city. Nudity is strictly forbidden in every part of the city and is liable to be punished by imprisonment or deportation.
1.4. Public displays of affection:
Displays of affection among couples - whether married or not - in public places does not fit the local customs and culture. Holding hands for a married couple is tolerated but kissing and petting are considered an offence to public decency.
Public displays of affection, as well as sexual harassment or randomly addressing women in public places is liable to be punished by imprisonment or deportation.
1.5. Dancing and music:
Loud music and dancing are forbidden in public places like parks, beaches or residential areas and must be restricted to licensed venues only.
1.6. Public facilities:
Public facilities (i.e. public parks, benches, bus stops, etc.) shall be kept in good condition. Concerned authorities must be informed of any damages.
2. Substance abuse:
The consumption of alcohol as well as any other drug or psychotropic substance is strictly prohibited in Islam and is punishable by law. Due to the large diversity of cultures and nationalities present in Dubai, alcohol consumption is closely regulated.
Holding, consuming, buying or selling any kind of drug - in any quantity - as well as being tested positive to any drug by the authorities in the UAE is considered a crime.
2.2. Alcohol consumption:
Alcohol consumption shall be confined to designated areas (i.e. licensed restaurants and venues that serve alcohol to their clients). Being caught under the effect of alcohol outside these places (even in light doses) can lead to a fine or incarceration.
2.3. Driving and alcohol:
The UAE has adopted a zero-tolerance policy in terms of driving under the effect of alcohol. Being caught driving with even the smallest dose of alcohol can lead to a fine, incarceration or deportation.
2.4. Purchasing alcohol:
Buying and selling alcohol is controlled by very strict laws. Alcohol is exclusively sold by specialised licensed stores. It can only be bought by holders of an alcohol-purchasing license (this license is only attainable by non-Muslims). Buyers shall respect the local culture by carrying their alcohol in paper bags such that it cannot be seen.
Smoking is not allowed in government facilities, offices, malls and shops. Smoking outside designated areas is subject to fine.
2.6. Prescriptions for some medicines:
Some medicines containing psychotropic substances are forbidden in the UAE. Their holders must carry a prescription from a UAE-licensed medical doctor. Visitors shall verify that their medicines are allowed in the UAE before entering the country.
3. Driving safely:
Traffic on Dubai roads is increasingly becoming a major issue for commuters. Following simple security and courtesy rules can make the roads safer and more user-friendly. All road users shall demonstrate respect and consideration for one another.
Speed limits are clearly signposted and must be respected in order to ensure the general safety of all road users. Car racing is extremely dangerous and shall be avoided. Driving below speed on the fast lane is also dangerous.
Most of Dubai roads are monitored by radars and fines are high.
3.2. Tailgating and lane discipline:
Driving fast behind other cars and flashing headlights at them as well as jumping from lane to lane and overtaking are dangerous practices that can lead to fines.
3.3. Safety belts:
Drivers and passengers must wear their safety belt. Not buckling up is subject to fine. Children shall be seated in the backseat.
3.4. Mobile phones:
The use of a mobile phone whilst driving is illegal. Phones must be turned off before starting the car or unless a hands-free kit or headset is available.
3.5. Police, fire trucks and ambulances:
When sirens are heard, drivers shall give way as soon as possible.
Drivers may not stop or reduce speed to look at a traffic accident out of curiosity, which can lead to traffic obstruction. In case of involvement in a light accident, drivers shall clear the way to avoid danger and traffic obstruction.
Drivers shall park their cars considerately in designated areas only and must avoid parking on special needs parking spaces.
Drivers shall stop for pedestrians and respect their rights at pedestrian crossings. On the other hand, pedestrians must use the designated zebra crossings when crossing the road.
3.9. Bicycles and motorbikes:
Motorbike drivers shall carry a special driving license, wear their helmet and remain on car routes. They shall avoid speeding and reckless driving.
Cycling is considered a healthy and green way to circulate. Nevertheless, for their own safety, cyclists must commit to cycling paths. Not committing to cycling paths is subject to fine.
3.10. Weather conditions:
Drives should be aware of the occurrence of abnormal weather conditions such as thick fog and sand storms and avoid high speeds.
4. Mutual respect:
Personal freedoms in Dubai are guaranteed to all. However, freedom stops when it endangers people’s lives, health, security or liberty. Moreover, the exercise of these freedoms shall be governed by the laws of the UAE.
Islam does not differentiate between nationalities and races. Therefore, respect for cultural differences and equal treatment of people regardless of their origins is the base of the community of Dubai where security and peace prevail.
Swearing, profanities, insults and all kinds of vulgar language are strictly forbidden in Dubai and are legally reprehensible in case of complaint. All kinds of aggressive or offensive gestures are considered a public offence and are subjected to fines or imprisonment.
Queuing patiently for one’s turn to be served rather than pushing in ahead of others is common courtesy. Queues must be respected patiently and not jumped over. Priority shall be given to the elderly, people with special needs and pregnant women.
Basic rules of courtesy impose on people to respect public places’ calm and quietness by avoiding loud conversations or answering their phones where it might disturb others, e.g. in movie theatres, conference rooms, quiet shops and restaurants, hospitals, etc.
Spreading false news, statements or rumours and malicious propaganda that disturb public security and harm public interest are serious crimes punishable by law.
Photos of people - and especially photos of women and families - in public places shall not be taken without their permission. Taking photos of people is a sensitive issue in Dubai’s local culture.
4.6. Begging and street vendors:
Begging is forbidden in all parts of Dubai. Selling any kind of goods or services without a license from the competent authorities is illegal.
In the global context of climate change, it is everybody’s duty to try their best to protect environment, reducing waste and saving resources.
5.1. Resource consumption:
Considering the desert surrounding cities in the UAE and the lack of natural fresh water sources it is crucial to conserve water and avoid abusing this precious resource. It is also crucial to save energy by avoiding keeping air conditioning or other electrical appliances on when not in use.
5.2. Reducing waste:
Whenever possible, waste should be reduced through recycling. Green behaviour and the use of recycled products is encouraged.
5.3. Respect for nature:
Preservation of the marine environment: All practices that threaten the marine environment or the safety of marine life through any type of pollution are prohibited. Fishing is only allowed with a license from the competent authorities.
Preservation of the desert environment: Hunting all kinds of wild animals or birds or threatening wildlife and biodiversity is prohibited. Camping in the desert is only allowed with a license from the competent authorities.
Throwing waste and causing pollution to the desert or marine environments is subject to fine.
5.4. Pet management:
Pet owners are responsible for fixing any damage caused by their animals. They are also responsible for cleaning up any remnants their animals leave on the pavements or any other public place. Dogs are forbidden in parks and beaches; they must remain on leash in public places.
5.5. Littering and spitting:
Spitting in public and littering waste or cigarette butts in public areas are considered an offence and are subjected to fines.
6. Respect for religion:
In line with Islam’s great tradition of tolerance and openness, religious values are widely respected in the UAE. Therefore, committing blasphemy or sacrilege against any religion is considered deeply offensive. Islam being the official religion of the UAE, some simple rules shall be followed in order to show respect and avoid misunderstandings.
6.1. Prayer time:
Muslims pray five times a day. Each prayer is announced from the mosques by a call to prayer. When the call to prayer is heard, music shall be turned off in all public places and cars, and Muslims shall be allowed to perform their prayer duty.
During the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to sunset. Throughout this month, eating, drinking or smoking in public spaces during daylight is considered a public offence and is punishable by law.
6.3. Religious activities and celebrations:
Any type of religious activity - Islamic or not - is forbidden without a licence from the competent authorities.
Appendix I: Offence and penalty table:
|Public display of affection
||Warning or fine (in case of severe breach can lead to jail and/or deportation)
|Alcohol consumption outside designated areas
||Fine or jail
|Buying alcohol without an alcohol licence
||Fine or jail
|Driving under the effect of alcohol or any other drug
||Fine, jail and/or deportation - car confiscation
|Drug consumption or possession
||Fine, jail and deportation
|Lack of respect for Islam’s customs and symbols
||Fine, jail and deportation
|Lack of respect for other religions’ customs and symbols
||Fine or jail
||Fine or jail
|Littering and spitting
||Warning or fine
|Pet fouling public areas
||Warning or fine
|Damaging public facilities
|Respect for environment
||Warning or fine (cf. Federal Law No. 24/1999 on the protection and development of environment)