Despite its glossy western veneer and apparently liberal ways, it’s important to remember that Dubai is an Islamic state, and that visitors are expected to comply with local cultural norms or risk the consequences. Surveys have shown that Britons are more likely to get arrested in the UAE than in any other country in the world, mainly for the sort of actions – public drunkenness, “lewd” behaviour, or “offensive” hand gestures – which would be considered unexceptional back home.
In terms of general etiquette in Dubai, except around the hotel pool, modest dress is expected of all visitors – although many expat women do pretty much the exact opposite. Dressing “indecently” is potentially punishable under law (even if actual arrests are extremely rare), although exactly what constitutes indecent attire isn’t clearly defined – though obviously the shorter your skirt and the lower your top, the more likely you are to attract attention. Even men who wear shorts can raise eyebrows – to the locals it looks like you’re walking around in your underwear.