Dubai is a lively cosmopolitan city with over hundreds of nationalities living together in harmony. There are millions of tourists flocking to Dubai every year which makes the city truly cultural crossroads. The local population is relatively small but Emirate, in general is friendly, welcoming, and very tolerant of travellers and residents from other nationalities. Hence, we should do our part by spending some effort on learning about the local customs and culture of Dubai.
Basically, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a Muslim country. The culture is based on a deeply rooted beliefs and customs in Islam. The official weekend is Friday, although government offices and most multinational companies are also closed on Saturday. Although you can hear English being spoken by nearly everyone on the street, Arabic is the official language.
When it comes to dress code, you have to pay a lot of attention to it. This is especially true for females so that it would not be seen rude and offensive to the locals. You would have probably seen women who cover themselves from head to toe because Islam requires ladies to cover their heads and to wear long loose clothes covering their arms and legs. However, women are welcome to wear bikinis and men can wear swimming shorts at the beach. It is more culturally acceptable for men to avoid wearing shorts or going shirtless and for women to avoid mini-skirts, midriff baring tops, shorts and even tight pants. T-shirts or blouses and mid-length skirts or long pants for women are considered quite appropriate when you are away from the beach. Muslim women from the Gulf States typically dress in a long black robe known as the "abaya" as it's a cultural custom. The Muslim men wear a loose, typically white robe called a "dishdasha" along with a white or red checkered headdress known as the "gutra".
Arabs are one of the most hospitable races in the world, but visitors still should be aware of a few cultural knows when interacting with locals. It is a must to have the local women to agree before taking their photographs and in most case you will be told to go away. Visitors should also be aware that most Muslim women and men will avoid shaking hands with the opposite sex due to Islamic tradition. It's a good idea to wait and see if the other person offers their hand in greeting first. Don't get shocked when the local men touch your nose or kiss you cheeks if you are a man. This is because it's a form of greeting and it means that they see you as one of them.
Lastly, you should not display affection in public between members of the opposite sex (such as kissing on your girlfriend's cheek). You may see men holding hands with other men when walking but this is simply a cultural norm and merely an expression of friendship. While you are in Dubai, I would recommend you to visit cultural heritage sites to learn more about Dubai's culture.