From humble beginnings with a scattering of fishing villages, deserts that border the sea, and a number of dilapidated forts, the UAE has, in a few decades grown to become a behemoth on the global stage. Large, opulent, palatial resorts, glitzy high-end malls, man-made islands, and mind-boggling adventure opportunities are now a daily staple of life in the UAE.
For most people, the United Arab Emirates means just one place: Dubai, the sci-fi-esque city of iconic skyscrapers, palm-shaped islands, city-sized malls, indoor ski slopes and palatial beach resorts. But beyond the glitter awaits a diverse mosaic of six more emirates, each with its own character and allure.
The UAE is rooted in Islamic traditions, so even in cosmopolitan Dubai, do as the long-time expats do and respect the culture by dressing modestly. Men and women should wear clothing that covers the tops of arms and legs, including the knees.
The UAE has strict, zero-tolerance anti-drug laws, and thorough searches are conducted at its airports. Even medications that are over-the-counter in some countries — those that contain codeine, for example — could get you arrested. Check the banned -substances list from a UAE consulate or embassy. And always carry a doctor’s prescription for any medication you’re bringing into the country.
Tipping is not expected, but it’s a common practice. Most restaurants add a service charge to the bill; if one doesn’t, simply tack on 10 percent to the total. The 10 percent is divided among all staff, not just wait staff, so if the wait staff was particularly good, tip a little more. Taxi drivers don’t expect to be tipped, but they’ll appreciate it if you do. (A 5 dh tip is good, or round the fare up to the nearest 5.) At hotels, bag carriers are usually tipped 2 dh.
Don’t miss an opportunity to try authentic Emirati and Persian Gulf cuisine, which is full of flavor with cinnamon, nutmeg and za’atar (an herbal-citrusy Middle Eastern spice blend with sesame seeds).
Alcohol is served in the UAE, but only within licensed hotels and clubs. It’s illegal to be under the influence of alcohol in public.
Sri Lankan Mission Embassy of Sri Lanka – Abu Dhabi, UAE Villa No. 18/A, Sector E 18/3, Salam Street, P.O. Box: 46534, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
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