Dubai is one of the fastest rising cities in the world and this has not only brought the city into the international scene, it has also caused so many people to have a couple of misconceptions about the great city. Like other places around the world, Dubai has its own uniqueness, beautiful destinations, practices, and culture.

Dubai is one of the seven emirates in the United Arab Emirates and it is known for luxury shopping, ultramodern architecture and a lively nightlife scene. Of course, one cannot talk about this beautiful city without talking about its exotic structures and extraordinarily tall skyscrapers; and of course, it is home to the tallest building in the world, Burj Khalifa.

There was a conversation with a friend a couple of days ago and it was about the most beautiful countries. He brought up a recent encounter with a friend where he asked what country she’d like to visit and she said “Dubai”. This is just one out of many misconceptions a lot of people have about Dubai and today, we’ll be looking at 20 common misconceptions about the Emirate of Dubai.

1. Dubai is a country

As mentioned earlier a friend of a friend thought Dubai was a country and i’m pretty sure he’s not the only one living with that wrong fact. Unsurprisingly, Dubai is just one of the seven emirates of the United Arab Emirates. Another popular emirate is Abu Dhabi, which is the capital of the country. Needless to say, Dubai is just a city and not a country.

2. Dubai is always hot

It is true that the summer months in Dubai can get unbearably hot and humid, but tourists or visitors still come anyway, because pretty much all the buildings are fully air-conditioned, even the swimming pools, metro, buses, and some bus stops. However, the sweltering summer doesn’t last the whole year so there are months of lower temperatures, with occasional rain showers, some neighboring emirates have even recorded snowfalls and hailstorms in recent years. These things happen from December to March which would be the best time to tour the city, and during this season it’s advisable to have a light jacket or lightweight warm clothing with you as it could get unbearably cold for some people. So, like every other normal environment, there is time for some scorching heat and there’s also time for some coolness.

3. Dubai is filled with deserts

It is no news to us all that there are deserts in the Middle East, including Dubai. The presence of the deserts is one of the uniqueness of the region but the truth is, there is more to Dubai than just deserts. Unless you’ve been living under the rock, you must have heard that there are beaches, resorts, and malls in Dubai. Matter of fact, the city is filled with lots of record-breaking places like the world’s tallest building, biggest mall, largest fountain, and other wonderful attractions. No wonder it is one of the most visited cities in the world.

4. There is a strict dress code

Most Muslim countries are very strict with their dress codes, especially the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and although Dubai doesn’t also condone indecent dressing, it is still the most liberal when it comes to clothing. However, it is advisable to dress modestly when going to mosques and public places but if you do otherwise, your actions are likely to be frowned on. Other than mosques and public places, you can wear pretty much anything you want especially in your hotel and anywhere around where you stay, of course, beaches too. Another factor to consider is the hot weather which always requires you to wear something light and free.

5. You can’t eat pork in Dubai

Although Islamic laws forbid Muslims from eating pork, that doesn’t mean non-Muslims in Dubai aren’t free to do so. Perhaps the fact that pork is banned in some Muslim countries has made people rule out pork in Dubai too but that’s not true as there are shops that sell pork in Dubai. Asides that, there are also some restaurants and hotels licensed to serve pork on their menus.

6. It’s too expensive to live in Dubai

Affordability is one of the most appealing aspects of moving to Dubai. A lot of people use the extravagant lifestyles of some residents as a yardstick to measure the affordability of the city, assuming that living in Dubai is only for the rich. The truth is, Dubai actually offers fantastic financial benefits to expatriates, with many employers providing financial help that employees in other countries wouldn’t even dream of. This claim is backed by a survey that shows that over 75% of people moving to UAE found they had more disposable income than they did in their home country and almost a quarter were able to purchase a property as a result.

7. You can’t drink alcohol in Dubai

This is another common misconception that discourages many people from visiting or moving to Dubai. It is true that the Muslims don’t drink alcohol for religious reasons, but there is a thriving community of non-Muslim residents for who alcohol is accessible. A plethora of bars, restaurants and hotels do possess the license to sell alcohol to non-Muslims from all over the world. There are also a number of liquor stores available in the city.

8. Dubai is not tolerant of other religious beliefs

Although Dubai is an Arab country where the most practiced religion is Islam, there has always been a freedom to practice your own religion here, a value that is innate to one of UAE’s core principles which is tolerance. The first churches and temples were built in the late 50s and early 60s in Dubai, and religious celebrations have always been well respected and represented, all of which add to the sense of culture and spirit.

9. Lack of workers welfare

In Dubai, there are mobile courts that drive around to local workers’ accommodation and construction sites to help workers who have issues with their employers. In addition to that, the government has also insisted that all salaries are paid through a bank so that companies can be monitored and fined if salaries are delayed. There is also a heat law during the summer that makes sure it is illegal for workers to work during the hottest hours of the day, and a number of social initiatives ensure workers are supplied with more food, water, and hygiene products.

10. Lack of women empowerment

A lot of people believe women empowerment in the UAE as a whole and this is another common misconception about the country. HE Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi became the first woman to hold a ministerial post in the United Arab Emirates in 2004, and in 2015, Dr. Amal Al Qubaisi was made the first female leader of the Federal National Council, not only in the UAE but in the entire Arab world; that’s to show how not just Dubai, but generally UAE, respects its women. President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s decree to increase women’s representation in this month’s Federal National Council (FNC) elections to 50%, shows that there is a drive for gender equality.

11. All the food in Dubai is imported

While it is true that the majority of produce has traditionally been imported, the number of farms has grown from 4,000 to over 35,000, over an area of 105,000 hectares since 1971, according to the Ministry of Agriculture. Given that there are deserts in Dubai, food importation is expectedly necessary but lately, there has been increase in locally grown crops and produce, as well as dairy and poultry products in the emirate.

12. You must always speak in Arabic in Dubai

It is essential to learn the basic Arabic greetings and phrases because they would certainly come in handy but you really don’t have to speak the language fluently except if you have special interest in it. English is a generally spoken language in Dubai and around the United Arab Emirates, so you don’t have to worry about communicating with citizens and expatriates.

13. Dubai is not a safe place to live in

One of the safest Arab cities, Dubai welcomes tourists and expats every year and the numbers don’t lie, that figure keeps skyrocketing because asides from being a beautiful city, it is somewhere you can stay without always looking above your shoulders. Well, maybe the only thing that could get you into trouble is if you break a few laws, which is most likely to be sorted out if properly investigated and judged. Dubai police are quick to respond to emergencies and the crime rate here is very low so generally, the city is a safe and peaceful place to be.

14. There is no sense of permanence

Recently, the UAE government introduced renewable 10-year visas for investors and special talents and this has paved way for possibility of expats to commit their long term future to Dubai, and the UAE generally, while allowing them to set up businesses here without the need for a local sponsor. This will make Dubai even more comfortable for those who refer to it as home.

15. Too many strict laws

It is not news that there will certainly be some cultural differences between this city and other cities. However, the same structures that make Dubai strict also make it safe and give it the freedom to change laws just like the recent creation of fast courts and fines over prison sentences for bounced cheques. In recent months, attempted suicide has been decriminalized and drug addicts can now be sent to rehab without prosecution.

16. Dubai is not sustainable

The simple truth is that Dubai has all it takes to sustain on its own. Driverless electric trains and trams now roam the city, while there is still a call for fast cars, the call for electric car has made the region one of Tesla’s (Tesla is a local car manufacturer) markets with over 40,000 electric vehicles expected on Dubai’s roads by 2030. Jebel Ali currently produces 10 gig watts of electricity and half a billion gallons of desalinated water a day from the same process of burning natural gas. There is also an ongoing project named “The Sustainable City” which is a zero energy development that will surely become the blueprint for things to come.

17. Dubai is an oil-rich entity

Dubai originally made its name as pearl diving and trading hub, but the biggest sources of income today are real estate, tourism and finance. For the record, oil only accounts for one percent Dubai’s income. Therefore, it would be wrong to associate Dubai’s survival in the long run with a resource as finite as the oil that industry specialists predict only has around 50 years left before it runs out, or internal combustion engines for transport becomes history.

18. The locals in Dubai are hostile

The Emiratis are probably some of the friendliest people you’ll ever come across, they are also sociable and respectful people. Sometimes, they even invite foreigners to events so they could feel at home and loved. These people do all they can to make sure visitors have a great stay in the city.

19. Everybody is rich

Dubai is full of exuberance and blinding lights to outsiders both of which have caused people to think everybody living in the city is rich. Like any other country or city, Dubai requires you to work smart and hard, maybe even more than in your home country because that’s all you need to do to acquire wealth. People who live comfortably in Dubai have a strong work ethic, which is the best way to live a comfortable life.

20. Women need to be covered from head to toe

As mentioned earlier, being a Muslim city, you are required to always dress decently. You need to be smart with your attire knowing you can’t wear revealing clothes in public places but that doesn’t mean you are required to wear something that will cover you whole body.