The Emiratis are proud but hospitable people, and when not in their cars, they are generally extremely civilised and friendly. Like most people in the world, they welcome visitors who are willing to show a little respect and can be extremely generous (some expatriates and visitors don’t understand that exposing one’s clothes can be quite offensive to some people, even if you don’t tell the delinquents). Their culture is unique and can be very conservative, but on the whole they are quite well adapted to customs, events, media and worldly ways.
The men of the region usually wear a “kandoura”, a long dress (usually white), and a ghutra, a red or white checked headdress. Women wear a black dress (abaya) and a black scarf (shayla).
The UAE is more conservative than most Western societies, but not as conservative as some of its neighbours. Travellers should be aware of and respect the UAE’s more traditional outlook, as there are typical Western behaviours (e.g. “rude and insulting gestures”) that lead to arrest in the UAE. On the other hand, Western travellers will find most of the UAE quite comfortable.
Although women are not legally obliged to wear the hijab, fashion trends such as tank tops and shorts should be avoided. Skirts below the knees are a little more acceptable, but you still risk being stared at. However, there are a number of areas dominated by tourists or expatriates where ‘provocative’ clothing may also be seen without necessarily being respected. These include many parts of the emirate of Dubai and, for example, the seaside resorts of Ajman or Fujairah. Nudity in public is strictly forbidden everywhere and is punished. Sharjah is the most conservative emirate in the emirates with public decency laws (i.e. prohibiting overly revealing clothing or certain types of beachwear), but few of them are enforced (although this varies).
The Emirates do not support homosexuals, and consensual homosexual activity is potentially punishable by death. However, discretion is key: as with many things in Emirati society, what happens behind closed doors is – well – what happens. On the other hand, it is not unusual for Emirati men or women to show physical affection, but not consistently. Emirati men often kiss each other on the nose as a greeting and women greet each other with kisses on the cheeks and may hold hands or link arms.