Life in Dubai

Islam is an Arabic word meaning peace and submission to God’s will.  Muslims accept the teachings of God (Allah) as revealed to the Prophet Mohammed (Peace be upon Him), who was born around 570AD in Mecca (Makkah).   His parents died when he was young, so he grew up poor and illiterate.   When he was eight he went to live with his uncle, Abu Talib, who was a merchant.    At the age of 25 he married Khadijah, a rich widow and for many years he travelled the desert buying and selling goods.   He gained a reputation as an honest and learned man.

When he was 40, Prophet Mohammed received his first message from God.   The revelations were in Arabic and Prophet Mohammed memorised them.  God’s instruction to Mohammed was to spread the word of Islam far and wide, and to fight a Holy War (jihad) against those who opposed him.   Mohammed asked his scribes to write down the words that God revealed to him over 23 years of his life.   This record is the Koran (Qur’an) and it instructs Muslims in what they must and must not do in order to gain their reward on the Day of Judgment.

In AD622 Prophet Mohammed called on his followers in Mecca to oppose the powerful, idol-worshipping rulers.   Prophet Mohammed was harshly treated and forced to cross the desert to Medina, where he established the first Islamic community.   The Islamic calendar dates from Prophet Mohammed’s flight to Medina (Hijrah).   Following the death of Mohammed in AD632 Islam continued to expand as a religious and political force.

There are five pillars of the Islamic faith which all
Muslims must follow:

Faith, Prayer, Charity, Fasting and Pilgrimage.  Every Muslims is expected to make a  pilgrimage (Hajj) to the holy city of Mecca at least once in their lifetime.
Muslims are required to pray five times daily, which are at set times.  The call to prayer (the adhan) alerts Muslims of the prayer timing and can be heard from the many mosques throughout Dubai and the United Arab Emirates.  Prayer times can also be found on the internet, in the daily newspapers and even their mobile phones.  Other than timing, there are certain requirements of prayer, for example, Muslims must be in a state of purity (performed ablutions) beforehand and be facing towards the Ka'aba in Mecca, during prayer.

For more information and understanding, why not visit the Jumeirah Mosque tour or take a cultural awareness course where many of your questions will be answered.  Contact:  Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding

Ramadan:  A month of fasting, spiritualism, meditation and abstinence from food and drink between dawn and dusk.   Visitors to the UAE should note that it is inappropriate (and in some instances, illegal) to eat, drink or smoke openly in public during the daylight hours in the Ramadan period. 

Most cafes, fast food outlets and restaurants close during the daylight hours during Ramadan.   Some of the large hotels open small, discreet eating areas for non-Muslims.  The Ramadan period changes each year and its commencement is determined by a special committee depending upon the observation of the new moon.  Alcohol will be served to non-Muslims in Dubai after 7pm in selected hotel outlets.

Eid Al Fitr:  Breaking of the holy fasting month of Ramadan – time of celebration.

Pilgrimage:  During the Hajj period – Muslims make the pilgrimage to Mecca

Eid Al Adha:  Day of festivities concluding the pilgrimage.   Muslims observe this day by participating in the ritual of sacrifice and distribution of food.

Islamic New Years Day

The Holy Prophet Mohammed’s (Peace be upon Him) Birthday: A modest ceremony of remembrance.

LOCAL TIME -  GMT + 4 hours

Fridays are when the Eid Al Juma prayers are held.  A ‘kutba’ or speech is held in the mosque just before the midday prayer and most Muslims will make a special effort to attend the Friday’s prayers as these are considered to be one of the important prayer gatherings of the week.

Business may resume in the afternoon, however most offices will remain closed.  Parts of the retail sector only open after 4pm.  Selected cafes are also open in the morning e.g. The Lime Tree, Starbucks, Dome, More.  Most major food outlets serve ‘Brunch’

Government offices and schools operate on a Friday/Saturday weekends.

Month:            Daily Maximum   Daily Minimum
January                    24                  14
February                   25                  14
March                      30                   17
April                         34                  19
May                         38                   23
June                        43+                  29+
July                         43+                  29+
August                     43+                  29+
September                38+                  26+
October                    37+                 24+
November                  30                   20
December                  26                   15

Driving:  Until you acquire full residency, you can drive a hire car, provided   you have a valid Aus/NZ driving licence.  To drive private or company vehicles you must first apply for a temporary Dubai licence from the Traffic Police.   “Essential Documents” (see Dubai Explorer) are required along with a charge for a one month licence (licences for longer periods are also available).

If you are in the unlucky predicament of an accident, you will  require a police report to give to your insurance company to get the vehicle repaired.

Taxis:  There are good, reliable taxi services available e.g.  Dubai Transport.When taking a taxi from the Airport there is a Dhs 25 surcharge.

Public Transport: Regular bus services are available and inexpensive.Timetables can be obtained from the main bus stations in Deira near the Gold Souk and Bur Dubai near the Plaza Cinema.

The Dubai Metro started operating in September 2009 and is an excellent way to get around the city.

Remember - If you drink alcohol, it is forbidden for you to drive a car until your blood alcohol level is at zero.  The penalty for even the smallest amount of alcohol in your system is one month in goal.

Currency:  The UAE Dirham is divided into 100 fils.

Changing money:  Money changers will change travellers cheques or foreign currency for a commission – are mainly situated in the large shopping malls and souks.

Automatic teller machines:  Are widespread in the UAE, are readily accessible and accept a wide range of cards.

Credit Cards:  The usual credit card companies are represented in the UAE (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Diners, etc) There is often surcharge when using credit cards in the souks.

Tipping:  Some restaurants will include a service charge in the final bill, however it is unlikely to reach your waiter.Otherwise ten  per cent is the usual.

Bargaining:  Bargaining is an accepted practice in the Arab world and  particularly in the souks (markets) and some shops.  Supermarkets and department stores generally do not bargain, but why not give it a try?  You never know!

The Australian Government has an embassy in Abu Dhabi and a Consulate General in Dubai.

Australian Government on-line Registration System for Australians living and working in the UAE

The Australian Embassy in Abu Dhabi encourages all Australians living in the UAE or travelling overseas to register on Smartraveller.  The registration information provided will help the Embassy to find you in an emergency situation – such as the recent events we have seen in Egypt, Libya or Japan.  It is also a way for us to pass on other relevant information to you, such as advance notice of consular visits to countries where there is not a permanent Australian mission, updates to our travel advisories and notification regarding elections.

Once you register with us your information is strictly protected by the Privacy Act 1988 and will only be used for the purposes outlined above.

To register visit: or

Australian Embassy Abu Dhabi

The Australian Embassy, Abu Dhabi is located at:

8th Floor,
Al Muhairy Centre
Sheikh Zayed the First Street, Abu Dhabi

Tel: +971 2 401 7500
Fax: +971 2 401 7501

Australian Consulate-General Dubai

The Australian Consulate-General, Dubai is located at:

Level 25, Bur Juman Business Tower
Khalifa Bin Zayed Road, Dubai

Tel: +971 4 508 7100
Fax: +971 4 355 1547

Services for Australians Overseas

Abu Dhabi

For consular and notarial services, or for passports appointments please contact the Australian Embassy in Abu Dhabi on +971 2 401 7500; or at  The Embassy is open between 0800 and 1630 hours Sunday to Thursday. An emergency after office hours service is available by calling the Embassy switchboard, +971 2 401 7500 for a recorded message and prompts to be connected through to the 24 hour Consular Emergency Centre in Australia.


For all enquiries relating to trade, notarial services for Australian citizens, or for passport appointments, please contact the Australian Consulate General in Dubai on +971 4 508 7100 or at

The Australian Consulate-General in Dubai is open from 8am to 3:30pm, Sundays to Wednesdays, and from 8am to 2:45pm on Thursdays. The Consulate is closed on Fridays and Saturdays, and relevant public holidays.   Australian citizens requiring emergency consular assistance, can call the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre in Australia on +61 2 6261 3305 (from outside Australia) or toll-free on 800 0610 1060.”

For all enquiries relating to visas, immigration and citizenship, please contact the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship at the Australian Consulate General in Dubai on 04 508 7200 or at

Visit: or

Australian Passports

Apply for a passport renewal online at

If you plan to lodge an application in Dubai:

All Australians wishing to apply for or renew a passport are requested where possible to ring or email the Consulate-General in Dubai in advance to make an appointment.  Appointments are available between 8am and 12.30pm and can be made by calling +971 4 508 7100 or by emailing an appointment request to  This will ensure that you receive immediate attention at the appointed time.

All Passport costs are payable in UAE dirhams at the nominated exchange rate (which is subject to variations) in exact cash or by credit card (that does not require a pin to be entered).  No other currency or form of payment is acceptable.

If you plan to lodge an application in Abu Dhabi:

All Australians wishing to apply for or renew a passport are requested where possible to ring or email the Embassy in Abu Dhabi in advance to make an appointment.  Appointments are available between 8am and 3pm and can be made by calling +971 2 401 7500 or by emailing an appointment request to  This will ensure that you receive immediate attention at the appointed time.

All Passport costs are payable in UAE dirhams at the nominated exchange rate (which is subject to variations) via courier or in person, by bank draft or bank cheque, made payable to "Australian Embassy, Abu Dhabi". Credit cards and personal cheques will not be accepted, and no other currency is acceptable.

Please note that ten working days are required for the issue of passports in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Several Australian States operate trade offices here in Dubai:
Victorian Government Business Office 04 321 2600    Commissioner John Butler

West Australian Trade Office  04 343 3226   Commissioner Pankaj Savara

Queensland Government Office - located in Abu Dhabi

NSW Government Office - located in Abu Dhabi

The New Zealand Government has an Embassy in Abu Dhabi and a Consulate General in Dubai

Assistance & Advice for New Zealanders Living in the UAE


1)             Passport Applications

Neither the New Zealand Consulate General in Dubai nor the New Zealand Embassy in Riyadh are able to issue new or replacement New Zealand Passports.  Full details of procedures and forms that are necessary to make an application to Wellington, London or Sydney can be found on the Department of Internal Affairs website at

2)             Registration of Births/Citizenship

Children born of New Zealand parents in the UAE must be conferred with New Zealand citizenship in advance of applying for a passport.  Citizenship and passport applications for newborns can be dispatched and processed at the same time with full details of procedure and requirements found at

3)             Getting Married

New Zealand citizens who wish to marry in the UAE will require a “Certificate of No Impediment”.  This is issued from the Department of Internal Affairs in New Zealand and can be found under Births, Deaths & Marriages on

Services of the New Zealand Consulate General in Dubai


The NZCG Dubai is able to offer the following advice and assistance to New Zealand citizens living in the UAE:

1)     Procedures for dealing with a death of a New Zealander in the UAE

2)     Assistance in co-ordinating with New Zealand authorities for lost and stolen passports

3)     Ensuring the wellbeing of New Zealanders arrested or imprisoned by local authorities in the UAE

4)     Notary and witnessing services (for which a fee of between AED 70 -200 per transaction will be charged).

5)     Provision of voting services in the event of a General Election.

Working Hours


The NZCG can be contacted on (04) 331 7500, Sunday – Thursday from 8.30am to 5.00pm.  Notary and witnessing services are available during the following times:

Sunday             9.00am – 12.00 midday

Tuesday           9.00am – 12.00 midday

Thursday          9.00am – 12.00 midday

For emergency consular assistance, for New Zealand citizens only, outside of normal office hours, the Consular duty phone number is 050 475 7916.


We encourage all New Zealand citizens to register their presence in the UAE and keep these registration details current.  Please note that registration is not shared with any external agency including New Zealand Inland Revenue.  The details you provide when you register will help the New Zealand Consulate General contact you in an emergency (e.g. natural disaster, civil disturbance, family emergency etc.), or to pass on information that we wish to alert you about.

Please visit and click ‘register’.  You will be able to create your own login and password and can amend your details at any time, should your circumstances change.

The Australian Business Council is a non-profit organisation with the broad objective of providing a networking forum for ABC members to develop their business activities, promote trade, and in turn, deepen the relationship between Australia and the Gulf countries. Originally conceived as The Australian Business in the Gulf Group in 1993 by the then Australian Consul General and Senior Trade Commissioner, Robert Sheppard.

Australian Business Council
c/o The University of Wollongong,Knowledge Village
Address :  Block 15, room 1-16, Dubai UAE
Postal code :  P.O Box 20183
Tel :  +9714 367-2437
+9714 390-0467
Fax :  +9714 367-8640
Email :

The Australian Business Group in Abu Dhabi (AusBG)
AusBG has been formed with the purpose of bringing together business executives with the same underlying principle of seeing and receiving friendship and camaraderie coupled with an opportunity to learn from each other of major development and business opportunities within the business sector of Abu Dhabi.  Their website is still under construction.  Contact:  Melissa Molnar, Group Administrator, Australian Business Group (AusBG) Abu Dhabi Tel: +97150 264 1134 Email:

Dubai has excellent medical facilities  - both under the public health service and within the private sector

If you are involved in an accident and ambulance services are needed please note that you will be taken to the nearest Dubai Ministry of Health Hospital.  These are:

  • Rashid Hospital   Bur Dubai near Maktoum Bridge
  • Dubai Hospital  Hamriyah
  • Al Wasl Hospital  Women & Children only, close to the Wafi Interchange on the Zabeel Side

Medical assistance is very expensive, so residents to Dubai are strongly advised to have adequate health insurance.  The following clinics have Australian/NZ connections:

Doctors with Australian and New Zealand qualifications may be found at various Hospitals and Clinics throughout the Emirate.  Please refer to the Professional Lists on this website. 


Dubai Explorer
Zappy Explorer
Street Map Explorer
Off-Road Explorer
Lonely Planet

All available from all good bookstores around Dubai (ie Magrudy’s)

Arabic Pronounced English
Al-hamdu lillah Al-hamdoo leela Praise be to God
(Example of when this term would be used: when someone sneezes; after something good has   happened e.g. Australia won the cricket – praise be to God)
Insha’allah Inshar-arllar God willing
(Example of when this term would be used: When someone wants something to happen e.g.     New Zealand will win the cricket -  God willing)
Marhaba Marhaba Welcome
Ahlan wa sahlan Ahlan wa sahlan Hello
Shokran Shookran Thankyou
Afwan Arfwun You’re welcome
Zein/tayyib Zane/Tie-yib OK
Sabaaah al-kheir Sabbar al-keer Good morning
Maa’as-salaama Ma as-salarma Goodbye
Aasif Aasef Sorry
Laa Lah No
Naam Na'am Yes
Min Fadlak Min fadlak Please (to male)
Min Fadlock Min fadlick Please (to female)
Min fadlkom Min fad le kom Please (plural)
Tasharrafnaa Tasha-rafnar We are honoured
Shwaya shwaya shwaya shwaya Take it easy, go slowly

Cotton and cotton mixes are ideal.   Beachwear is acceptable at hotel pools, on the beach and at clubs.   Modesty in dress is advised in other public places, especially in rural areas.   Short, revealing clothing will attract unwanted attention and bring disrespect to yourself.  Simple: If you would like to be taken seriously, dress accordingly!

Men:  Traditional dress is the dishdasha, which is a long, white shirt-dress.   It is worn with a white or red-checkered head-dress (gutra) secured with black cord (agal).

Women:   In public, Arabic women wear the black abaya and headscarf.  Some older women wear a mask (burqa) which covers the nose, brow and cheekbones.  The burqa comes from a Bedouin tradition.

Restaurants:  There are many quality restaurants in Dubai to suit all tastes and budgets.   Most of the large hotels have good quality, but moderately expensive licensed restaurants.

European fast food outlets:  Many!! McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut, etc.

Arabic Food:  Cheap and delicious.
· Hommous (Chickpea dip); Moutabal (Eggplant dip) with Arabic bread
· Chicken Shish Tawouk (Chicken Kebabs)
· Chicken or lamb Shawarma (like Yiros/Doner meat)
· Tabouleh salad (parsley/tomato salad); Fatoush salad (lettuce salad)
· Umm Ali –traditional Arabic dessert – like bread pudding
Suggested restaurants:  Automatic Café (Jumeirah); Beirut Restaurant (Satwa); L’Auberge (City Centre)

Water:  local water is considered safe to drink and comes from desalination plants with some artesian.   Generally, though residents purchase bottled water for drinking

Alcohol:  Alcohol is forbidden to Muslims but permitted for non-Muslims.   Alcohol can only be sold in clubs, restaurants and bars attached to hotels.   (Exceptions:  alcoholic drinks are also sold at Hard Rock Café, Planet Hollywood, The Irish Village).  Resident non-Muslims can apply for a liquor licence which enables them to purchase a limited amount of alcohol for home consumption.

Drinking alcohol and driving is absolutely forbidden.

Drinking alcohol in public is strictly forbidden.

Eating out in Dubai can be expensive.  Most of the hotels offer ‘Loyalty Programs’ which can reduce the cost of your meal.  They also offer fixed price meals with drinks on particular nights of the week, so check this out before you make a booking.

Arabic is the official language of the UAE, but English is widely spoken and understood.

Domestic supply is 220 volts, using UK sockets
Adaptors are available, for international appliances, at supermarkets

The range of shopping outlets in Dubai and the UAE is extensive and there is so many choices that they are hard to list.  However, Spinney’s, Choithrams, Carrefour, Union Co-op, Waitrose, Emirates Co-op, Geant, Hyper Panda and Park N Shop  have supermarkets located throughout Dubai & the UAE selling most of the food products we are used to. 

Cosmos Lane in Bur Dubai is also very good for fabric and tailoring.

Also in Satwa you will find businesses who make soft furnishings, new upholstered furniture and re-upholster your old.