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Emirati man with his camel | © Flickr
Emirati man with his camel | © Flickr | Flickr
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11 Stereotypes About Locals in Dubai That Aren't True

Picture of Jessica Harn
Updated: 28 September 2017
Dubai, the unofficial capital of the United Arab Emirates, is famous around the world for its glitzy and extravagant lifestyle. Many tourists come with certain preconceptions about the locals of Dubai, from how they act to what they wear. Here are some of the most common stereotypes about the local people of Dubai that are in fact far from the truth.

Everyone in Dubai is a millionaire

While it is true that many Emiratis are far richer than the average citizen of other Middle Eastern countries, there are many locals who are not wealthy and instead live in average apartments or smaller traditional houses. Although small in number, there are also Bedouin locals who still live in tents in the desert and live a life far removed from the stereotypical rich and glamorous one imagined in Dubai.

Local Bedouin Emiratis in a desert tent
Local Bedouin Emiratis in a desert tent | Flickr

The locals in Dubai are all related to an oil tycoon

It is true that the city of Dubai gained its wealth from oil, however it is far from true that all locals gained their wealth from family connections to the oil business. Many locals have little or absolutely no connection to the oil wealth of the royal families of Dubai, and have other family businesses, just like in any other major international city.

Local Emirati fishermen
Local Emirati fishermen | Flickr

All local women are forced to wear the hijab

The hijab, which is the Islamic headscarf worn by many Muslim, is not mandatory as in Saudi Arabia or Iran. Local women are free to choose whether to cover their hair or not. Although many women wear the black hijab for religious reasons, it is also worn to show status as a local Emirati or as a fashion accessory.

Muslim woman wearing the Islamic hijab
Muslim woman wearing the Islamic hijab | Flickr

Local women are oppressed

Many tourists who come to Dubai sometimes subconsciously equate the black hijab with oppression, and assume that local Emirati women are therefore more oppressed than women in the West. This however is untrue, and Emirati women are some of the most empowered women in the world. Emirati women outnumber men in universities, and hold some of the highest positions of power in government.

Local Emirati women enjoying a coffee break
Local Emirati women enjoying a coffee break | Flickr

All local men have four wives

Because the Islamic holy book, the Quran, permits a husband to marry four wives if he meets a list of requirements, many outsiders believe that having four wives is common and that all local Emirati men have several wives. This however, is not true and almost all of the current generation of young Emirati men will only ever have one wife.

Young Emirati man
Young Emirati man | Flickr

Local men don’t have proper jobs because they don’t need the money

This is another stereotype that comes from the idea that all Emiratis are extravagantly rich. Many families are not, and even if they are, the society in Dubai now believes that working in the city is the norm. Local men work in government positions, security, police stations, and local businesses. Like any other major city around the world, local men will work for the experience even if they come from richer families and don’t actually need the money.

Young Emirati Men
Young Emirati Men | Flickr

Everyone in Dubai owns camels

While it may have been a tradition to own camels in the past, most Emiratis live in neighborhoods or villas and no longer have the room or time to own camels. In fact, it is common for the younger generation of Emiratis to have never even touched a camel!

Emirati man with his camel
Emirati man with his camel | Flickr

The locals in Dubai all live in the desert

This stereotype comes from the fact that Dubai is indeed surrounded by the desert and that in the past many Emiratis lived the Bedouin lifestyle in the desert, however now almost all the locals of Dubai live in the city and only go to the desert for a picnic in the winter or to visit their grandparent’s date farms.

The city of Dubai at night
The city of Dubai at night | Flickr

All locals hate mingling with other nationalities

Many people who visit Dubai don’t get the chance to mingle with the locals, and instead only see them moving in groups in Dubai Mall and therefore get the idea that Emiratis only interact with each other and not with other nationalities. This however, is not true and once you get the chance to talk to a local, you will realize that many of them are extremely well traveled and love to talk to people from other countries.

Veiled Muslim women grouped together
Veiled Muslim women grouped together | Flickr

Everyone in Dubai only speaks Arabic

While Arabic is the local language, most Emiratis can speak well if not perfect English. English is used almost everywhere in Dubai, and therefore is commonly used with locals as well. Using English will never be a problem while in Dubai.

The Arabic language
The Arabic language | Flickr

The locals of Dubai are all related to royalty

The royal family of Dubai, headed by His Royal Highness Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, may seem like a large family to an outsider but in fact only consists of his immediate family. All the locals of Dubai are therefore not related to the royal family, and many come from humble villages or Bedouin families originally.

These are but a few of the stereotypes on the locals of Dubai, and while many more stereotypes exist, with more and more tourists visiting the city of Dubai the barrier between outsider and local is becoming smaller and smaller. The local Emirati is no longer as inaccessable, and if you ever get the chance to visit Dubai its worth making a local friend or two! The hospitality from Emiratis is other worldly and an unforgettable experience.