By: Meneesha Govender

As the summer holidays approach, many of us are planning vacations abroad or locally. Dubai is often a destination of choice for many South Africans. This city on the Persian Gulf is known for shopping, ultramodern architecture and a lively nightlife. Aside from the glitz and glamour of the city, it also has many cultural highlights.

So, book your tickets, make sure you are covered with Travel Insurance and pack your bags for a fabulous, fun-filled Arab adventure.

Hippo.co.za asked me to put together a few tips on what not to do in Dubai. Take heed and you will be assured of a fantastic holiday.

While Dubai is one of the most permissive and cosmopolitan destinations in the UAE, you should nevertheless take heed of its cultural norms and watch your behaviour to some degree. What’s considered appropriate at home may not be here.

The left hand is traditionally used for “body hygiene” in Muslim cultures, so avoid using it in certain circumstances. Don’t shake someone’s hand with your left hand, don’t hand

someone something, especially food, with your left hand and don’t eat with your left hand.

Exercise discretion in your consumption of alcohol. Remember that public inebriation is not tolerated in public areas. Drinking alcohol is accepted in demarcated places, including licensed restaurants, hotels and bars.

As tourists, we often want to capture photos of local people as a visual souvenir. Just remember to be respectful of local customs. In Dubai, it is considered rude and intrusive to photograph people, especially women, without permission.

Public displays of affection are considered indecent, so limit your make-out sessions to your hotel room. Holding hands as a married couple is tolerated, but no kissing or hugging is allowed. In 2010, a British couple were jailed for kissing in public.

It is also considered indecent to swear or make disparaging or blasphemous remarks about Islam. Any form of bad language is discouraged, and those who have been identified as offenders can be fined or jailed.

While Dubai is quite liberal, there are still guidelines to follow with regards to dress code. Women do not have to cover their head or face in public unless for religious reasons, but are required to do so when entering a mosque. Carrying a scarf or pashmina in your handbag will always come in handy. Men should stay away from wearing very revealing or tight shorts and are required to wear long pants in a mosque. Nudity is not allowed in public places; appropriate swimwear is tolerated at the beach, pool or water parks.

Dubai is more tolerant of Western customs than other Arab states, but it is still advised to be respectful of their regulations and rather stick to the more conservative side of dress code, language, consumption of alcohol and body language. For a comprehensive list of tourist attractions that you shouldn’t miss while you’re there, check out this Guide to Dubai.

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