08/08/2009 12:05 AM
Dubai: Dubai's shopping malls don't just combine the awesome collections of international brand labels, but go further to enlighten newcomers on Emirati cultural rules and what's the acceptable general behaviour.
The rules are on signs at the main entrances and distributed by security personnel as well.
It includes no smoking in the mall, wearing of respectable clothing and no kissing or public displays of affection, no consumption of alcohol in the mall and few other don'ts.
Sabina Khanvwani, Head of Public Relations and Marketing Department at Burjuman Centre, said despite the signs, there are still visitors who still need to be reminded of what is and what is not acceptable.
"Burjuman has already fixed stickers on the main entrances in order to deliver the message directly to them, some of them adhere and others don't. We cannot enforce them to comply but we keep reminding them that Dubai is part of the UAE and it's a Muslim country with a conservative society and must be respected."
Most expatriates Gulf News spoke to say they didn't do things on purpose or to annoy the Emirati community. They just grew up dressing that way.
Tania N. a 29-year-old Russian businesswoman, said she got confused when a security guard at the Mall of the Emirates handed her a brochure on how to dress appropriately.
"I respect Dubai, its religion, culture and people, I come here frequently for business and pleasure, and I was never asked to cover my shoulders or my knees until recently," she said.
"I used to wear a sleeveless short gown or miniskirt and according to my background it is a decent outfit and doesn't cause any kind of embarrassment. But lately a security approached me and in a polite way handed me a brochure that includes the mall's courtesy policy regarding dress code and general behaviour."
Asked whether she will adhere to the mall's dress code, she said: "I really don't find it necessary, besides I don't have long or covered outfits, and the most importantly I didn't do something bad to Dubai or its people."
Katayoon Tahmoress M, an Iranian writer based in Dubai agrees with Tania.
"I love Dubai and I like its style. But the way I dress is completely a personal matter and I don't allow anybody to educate me on what to wear and what not to wear."
Gabriel and Elena, both Americans, said the visitors and expatriates should've been informed of the dress and behavioural rules before they fly into the country.
"Such instructions should be informed before we enter the country not while we are shopping. Besides the weather in Dubai is truly hot," they said.
Mariam Al Salem and her Emirati companions said visitors and expatriates should tow the line.
"Our rules must be strictly followed," Mariam said.
Khulood Ahmad, a 23-year-old Emirati and a college student said the situation has become uncontrollable.
"Majority of shoppers don't adhere to our style's policy, and we don't think a sticker or leaflet will make them pay attention," he said.
Khalid Al Hammadi and his friends Nawaf and Majed, all of them Emiratis, said an aggresssive media campaign should be launched to deliver the message.
Najla Al Awadi, Federal National Council member, Deputy CEO of Dubai Media Inc and General Manager of Dubai One TV, said awareness of the rules should be done as early as while a visitor is processing his entry visa.
"I don't want to generalise and say that all expats behave in that inappropriate way. However, certainly many expats who come to our country are either not aware of our cultural norms or are just not respectful of them and choose to behave any way they want to.
"I believe what we need is to create awareness among all communities visiting our county. This should be done upon going through the visa process possibly by distributing pamphlets which explain our culture to those receiving a visa into our country.
"Also through media by launching programmes and regular campaigns, we as the UAE will always be welcoming and tolerant society but we will also demand that our culture be respected," she said.
Are you aware of the dress code in Dubai? Do you know who to speak to in order to clarify your doubts?