10 Common Misconceptions About Dubai

In this era, when everything is a Google search away, it baffles me that there are people who see or think of Dubai differently. Some hesitate about moving or even visiting the emirate; afraid of things they should and cannot do. Here’s to shedding some Arabian light to common misconceptions about Dubai.


  1. Dubai is a country. Or Dubai is in Saudi. – WRONG!

Some people have come up to me and ask, “How’s Saudi?” For clarity’s sake, Dubai is an emirate (like a state) in the United Arab Emirates (that’s the country). The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is located west of the UAE, a plane ride away from Dubai.

10 Common Misconceptions About Dubai
The UAE flag in one of the numerous tunnels across Dubai
  1. Dubai is terribly hot year-round. – INCORRECT.

It is hot in Dubai, most of the time, yes. The temperature gets wild up to 50 degrees at the height of summer. But we get 2-3 months of good weather, also known as the Dubai winter (read: a few rain showers and temp as low as 5deg, in the desert area!). These are the best months to visit Dubai – from December to March.

  1. You won’t find pork and alcohol in Dubai. – FALSE!

When we go home and meet friends and relatives, they’d bring us to a restaurant serving the best pork in town, thinking that we’re deprived of that here in Dubai. No. Pork is available in a few supermarkets like Spinney’s, Al Maya, Waitrose and West Zone. A couple of licensed restaurants serve pork and alcohol as well. Also, there’s such a thing as individual alcohol license, which allows one to purchase alcohol legally.

10 Common Misconceptions About Dubai
Irish Village is one of the known places where alcohol and pork are served
  1. There’s nothing in Dubai but desert. – HAHAHA, DEFINITELY NOT!

Unless you’re a hermit living in a cave, I don’t know how to forgive you for thinking that Dubai is nothing but desert. In case you missed it, Dubai has the tallest building in the world, the largest fountain, and the biggest mall and whatever superlatives you can think of. We have manmade islands over here and nice beaches, too.

10 Common Misconceptions About Dubai
The magnificent Dubai skyline as seen from one side of the creek
  1. Ladies are required to wear abaya. – NOPE!

Dubai is an open city, the entire UAE, if I may add. Ladies are free to wear whatever they want as long as they respect the local customs and traditions. It’s okay to wear a bikini if you’re at the beach or a short dress in malls. But it’s highly advised to wear as conservative as possible to avoid frowns, raised eyebrows and unwanted glances, especially during Ramadan.

10 Common Misconceptions About Dubai
Dubai is not very strict with clothing but as visitors to this country, we’re encouraged to dress respectfully
  1. You cannot practice your religion/belief in Dubai. – NOT TRUE.

As of my latest count, there are 8 Catholic churches across the UAE. Two of these are in Dubai. I also know of a Hindu temple here. The UAE is an open country, tolerant of other religions. Christmas may not be a public holiday but everyone is free to celebrate. In fact, malls here are lavishly decorated during this season.

10 Common Misconceptions About Dubai
A typical Christmas day scene in Dubai’s St. Mary’s Church
  1. It’s necessary to learn Arabic. – NOT REALLY.

While it will be beneficial if you know the local language, it’s not a requirement to survive in Dubai. English is widely used across the country whether in spoken or written form.

  1. Everyone in Dubai is rich. – OF COURSE NOT!

Oh, how we wish this is true! Expats take more than half of the population of Dubai which means everyone here works to earn money. Not because media portrays Dubai as a luxurious city does it mean that everyone lives extravagantly. Dubai is rich, but most of us are not.

10 Common Misconceptions About Dubai
There will come a time that stumbling upon luxury cars becomes normal
  1. It is not safe in Dubai. – I DON’T THINK SO.

The UAE in general is a very safe place to live in. Crime rate is close to zero and police responds quickly to any emergency. You can whip out your iPhone, camera and laptop at the same time without feeling scared that someone will come to take it from you at gunpoint.

  1. The locals are not friendly. – HMM, NO.

Emiratis are normal people just like you and me. A lot would love to have small talks once in a while. We’ve met locals who are cool, down-to-earth and have good sense of humor. There’s no reason to be afraid of them.

10 Common Misconceptions About Dubai
A local in one of Dubai’s art events

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  1. I am in unison with you and appreciate your gesture to debunk the misconceptions about Dubai. I wouldn’t mind going a step further and rating it the safest place on earth for tourists. People here are tolerant and all they expect from tourists is respect for their culture, which I feel is ain’t asking something big. The fact that there are restaurants in Dubai that serve pork in itself is a big testimony of their tolerance and acceptance of western culture.

  2. I agree with you, Dubai is a beautiful country and it’s safe for tourist. Last year I visited there with my family through the well know travel agency Altdubai who helped me a lot when I was on a trip to Dubai and we are all enjoyed. Thanks for sharing

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