Over the years the press in Dubai has been filled with horror stories of expats and visitors to the United Arab Emirates behaving badly. Perhaps one of the most famous incidents of all times concerns the story of the British women who reacted badly to criticism that she was dressed inappropriately in a Dubai mall that she stripped down to her bikini in retaliation, prompting an outcry from angry people throughout the UAE. While the hot debate that followed her rebellious actions have since died down, this week the issue of dress code has once again reared its head and yet again expatriates are being warned of the need to respect and adhere to the rules of their host nation.
The “UAE Dress Code” hashtag that is now trending on Twitter has been prompted by renewed support of the cause for protecting those cultural values in the United Arab Emirates that are continually being openly flouted by wayward expatriates. Many Emiratis have added their own tweets to the debate, hoping to educate expatriates and visitors to the region on the need for people to respect the culture in the place in which they live.
Commenting on the current campaign, one anonymous Emirati social media enthusiast said: “This debate is not about raising a divide between Emiratis and expats, but rather one that wants to unite different communities into expecting each other’s differences in a more respectful manner.
“We want people to be respectful of that fact that the UAE is ultimately a Muslim country and while the lifestyle is very tolerable and liberal in comparison to other countries in the Middle East, there are some limits that should not be crossed in public places as a courteous gesture to the locals and their culture.”
Today, one proponent of the campaign tweeted: “In 10 days ONLY since we started this hashtag, we’ve done something which makes me really proud. Keep it on!!” While another commented: “Expats/Tourists, Nobody’s pointing a gun at u & force u to live/visit here. If u can’t stand the LOCAL values & law, then LEAVE.”
It is not just Emiratis that are in agreement with the campaign. One expatriate commented: “I’m a westerner living in Dubai and I support this initiative. I find it sad that we all get tarred with the same brush…” and another tweeted: “I support #UAEdresscode – our differences make this world beautiful; our respect for these differences makes it more equal.”
As the debate roars on, many people have questioned why the authorities, particularly those in Dubai, are seemingly overlooking wayward expatriates who ignore the rules of the country in which they live. One follower tweeted: “Why can’t #UAEdresscode just involve a friendly chat to those who don’t know? I am all for it but more rules needed in other areas first.” Meanwhile a Dubai resident claimed: “There are banners with what should be worn in the malls, yet there’s no one abiding by the rules, so where’s the punishment to that?”
In response to the renewed calls for expatriates to respect the rules of their host country, the British Ambassador to the UAE, Dominis Jermey spoke in an interview with 999 Magazine and urged people to adhere to the rules: “It is really important for expats and tourists to understand the norms of the society they are in,” he said.