Before you land in Dubai:
What you should know
The Dubai Government's official website (http://www.dubai.ae/en/aboutdubai/Pages/default.aspx) says:
"Dubai is tolerant and cosmopolitan, and all visitors are welcome. However, Islam is a way of life in the city, and therefore tourists should adopt a certain level of cultural and religious sensitivity for the duration of their stay."
Emirati people are are generous by nature, and they welcome visitors. To be able to respond in kind to this warmth, it helps to know about the local customs and culture, what to do and what not to do.
No-one will dispute that Dubai is modern. However, it is also Muslim, and there are certain factors to take into consideration regarding dress code and behaviour.
Religion is important in the lives of Dubai's citizens. Mosques abound, and at prescribed times, the call to prayer rings out across the city. Non-Muslim tourists may visit some mosques; tours of the Jumeirah Mosque can be booked through the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding.
Ramadan is an excellent time visit Dubai if you want to experience the local culture with its religious legacy. At this time, all residents and visitors refrain from eating or drinking in public between sunrise and sunset. Non-Muslims, however, may eat and drink in designated areas. Many hotels and shopping malls will have various outlets that remain open during Ramadan.
In general, dress should be modest, especially in public and in conservative areas. It's OK to use swimwear at the beach or around the swimming pool, but in other places - cover up! Casual attire such as shorts and T-shirts is suitable in many places, but when visiting mosques or religious sites or even older quarters of the city, loose clothing that hides shoulders, arms and legs may be more comfortable - and appropriate. Women should wear a headscarf if entering mosques.
Visitors will enjoy the friendliness, courtesy, and hospitality of Dubai's people. If invited to a majlis (a reception or a party), remove your shoes at the entrance. Men and women will probably be escorted to different areas. Food and refreshment are taken before moving on to matters of business if sharing a meal. You show respect to new guests and older or higher-ranking people by standing up; also, men should stand if a woman enters. When meeting a Muslim member of the opposite sex, do not to offer to shake hands unless they extend their hand first. They may prefer, for religious reasons, not to shake hands with the opposite sex.
The right hand is used to accept food and drink and to eat with. Showing the soles of the feet, or pointing a foot at someone is considered insulting. Crossing your legs while seated in front of an important guest is considered rude. One should not beckon or point with a finger; use the whole hand while making hand gestures. Do not offer Muslim guests alcohol or pork.
Alcoholic beverages may be consumed in licensed bars and restaurants in Dubai. Most bars, pubs and licensed restaurants are to be found in hotels. Alcohol can also be bought from Duty-Free shops at Dubai International Airport within limits set by Dubai Customs. Dubai Police takes a zero tolerance approach to drinking and driving: it is not safe to have even one drink if you are going to be driving.
At all times, visitors should remember that Dubai is a Muslim city, and this should guide their behaviour. For example, being drunk and disorderly in public is offensive and could result in stiff penalties. Holding hands is alright, but hugging and kissing in public is not. Noisy behaviour, foul language, and obscene gestures are far more offensive than in other cultures, and may get you into trouble with the law.
Most importantly, showing disrespect in any way to Dubai’s religion or its leaders is forbidden and would have serious consequences.