The heat from the Arabian sun is causing water droplets to form on my forehead as I walk in temperatures ranging from 90-110 degrees depending on the time of day. The United Arab Emirates is a beautiful land with lots of culture, but with that culture comes certain guidelines that one must follow. Take, for instance, the style of clothing that you should wear. In California you might see men and women walking around in shorts and tank-tops, and donning Speedos and bikinis to the beaches. If you tried to do that in some of the smaller Emirates, you might find yourself with a fat fine – or in prison. Here are five helpful tips for your time in the Emirates.
Figure out where you want to go before you leave
If you already have a good grasp of the different Emirates, then by all means just go on an adventure. If, however, you’re only here for a short time and have never been before, pick up a good GPS, recent edition of a map (the roads are pretty much in constant change), and maybe consider getting a guide for the parks. Mount Jebel Hafeet is one example where, if you don’t already know much about the mountain, you may very well get lost along the rocky trail or stumble into one of the many winding caverns. And seeing as how the mountain is over 1200 m high, you’ll need some good preparation. Don’t be afraid to go a little slower on the road so you don’t accidentally drive down a road that leads to a militarized area.
While in America it is not uncommon for young men to “check out” the women of the town (even if it does turn from a brief compliment to creeper status in three seconds), if you get caught looking at the women of the Emirates, you could get into a lot of trouble. Yes, the cities of the Emirates are much more liberal than that of the neighboring Saudi Arabia, but the area as a whole is still more conservative than the States. The gorgeous eyes of the veiled beauties can be magnetizing for sure, just be careful!
Free water changed a people
It’s amazing what free water and a bit of oil can do for a culture. Rulers of the lands in the Middle East once had tight reign over the water supply, and they crushed the people living their for all that it was worth – till Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, founder of the UAE, gave all the people living there free water. Now there are bustling cities, a rich oil trade, and sky scrapers dotting the region. The first public school came in a few decades ago, and now graduates from that school are running the Emirates. All of this change happened in the past century, so when the people seem very happy and anxious to help you, know that they haven’t forgotten the hardships of the desert that is still close by to them.
It’s common to j-walk
You don’t normally see people out walking along the highways and byways of the United States very much, but in the Emirates it is a common every day sight. The overpasses usually have built in staircases just for them more often than not. Since this is the case, however, if you’re driving it’s a good idea to watch out for people hitting the streets to make it to the other side.
Don’t expect a party scene
If you know anything about pop-culture, then you’ll know that the Biebs is a big deal. Sadly, that happens to be no less true in the Arabian world. During his tour stop in Dubai, he managed to get thousands of young Emirate girls and ladies all riled up, the fathers and mothers questioning the meaning of life, and he managed to make everyone mad. In the end, a couple of editorial writers for The National (a paper from the National of the UAE) said something to the effect of, Justin Bieber is welcome here just as much as anybody else – but like them we expect him to obey the rules, honor our customs, and respect the people and the culture here. Sounds like common sense, but it doesn’t hurt to have a reminder. I only hope that the Rihanna tour that’s headed to Dubai will be better.