Historically a fishing, pearl-diving and trading port, Dubai’s culture is rooted in Arabic traditions, Bedouin heritage, and Islamic customs, such as giving hospitality to strangers.
Emiratis comprise less than 10 per cent of Dubai’s population but their culture is strong, with many still practicing Muslims.
Bargaining is expected in souks but not malls; once the salesperson agrees to your offer, pay up.
There are no hard-and-fast rules about what to wear in Dubai, but this is a Muslim country so you should respect local Islamic customs by wearing trousers, knee-length skirts, and shirts with sleeves, and avoiding showing too much skin. Swimwear is fine at the city’s many resorts and even on the public beaches, but cover up before you wander off to one of the many seaside food trucks and cafés.
Note that the weekend falls on Friday and Saturday in Dubai, with Sunday a normal working day. Many workers only get Fridays off, and as a result, the parks, malls and attractions are often packed then.
The holy month of Ramadan can be an interesting time to visit Dubai, but be aware that some restaurants will only serve food after sunset and outdoor venues may be closed during daytime hours in deference to those fasting. The usual timetable turns on its head during Ramadan with people out on the street late at night – it’s not unusual to find yourself in a traffic jam at 2am.