Dubai 101: History, Culture, and Tradition


Dubai, founded in 1833, is second largest and most populated of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates. It is a land of stunning contrasts, with oceans of picturesque Arabian desert and sand dunes, primitive villages, and opulent modern city life, offering a collage of different backdrops, sounds and experiences.




Less than twice the size of London, Dubai was known, among other things, for being a fisherman village and important center for the trading of pearls in the first few decades of the 20th century. In modern times, Dubai is renowned for its trading of gold. With year-round hot weather, it only rains on average five days a year. Visitors will find the climate to be most ideal in the winter months.

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With Arabic being the native and official language, the UAE's culture is rooted in Islamic tradition, and family is the cornerstone of society.


While Dubai is a cultural melting pot, it is most common to see traditionally-dressed Gulf Arabs, men in dishdashas and women wearing abayas. Locals of the Bedouin culture make up approximately 15% of the city's population.





The remainder consists of expatriates from other nations. Around 40% of the expats in Dubai are from India or Bangladesh.

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Although Arabic is the official language of the UAE, English is the language most commonly spoken in Dubai.


Hospitality plays a key role in the city's culture, especially to visitors and newcomers. It is part of Dubai tradition for locals to extend hospitality to visitors; and likewise, it is polite to graciously accept.


The month of Ramadan is the most important month on the Islamic calendar. During this time, eating, drinking and smoking is only allowed between sunset and sunrise.



Visitors to Dubai will discover that most cafes and restaurants are closed during daylight hours. Neither alcohol nor food will be served or may be consumed during the day in public places, including shopping malls and beaches.

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Smoking and chewing gum in public are also strictly prohibited during this holy month. Note that some hotels and restaurants offer their guests the opportunity to eat and drink in screened-in or closed-off areas.



Adherence to the laws of the land have elevated Dubai to one of the safest cities on the planet to visit. Accordingly, it is very important that visitors respect the laws and culture. Failure to do so will result in fines, jail time and/or deportation.

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Some random, interesting facts about modern Dubai: and its landmarks:
  • Dubai is a tax-free zone: no income tax, no sales tax. 
  • The Burj Khalifa in Dubai is the world's tallest building and was built by mobile phone manufacturer LG.
  • The JW Marriott Marquis Dubai at Business Bay is the world's tallest hotel.
  • Dubai's Burj Al Arab Hotel is the world's most luxurious on the planet, with gold detailing throughout. It is also the tallest freestanding building in water.
  • Hotels in Dubai offer smoking rooms upon request.
  • There are no do-it-yourself laundry facilities. Laundry services pick up and deliver.
  • Gold jewelry and gold bars can be purchased from vending machines. Sales are so popular at these machines that resemble cash point ATMs, they have to be re-filled twice weekly. 

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