“No, I do not go to school on a camel or in a Lamborghini” – Misconceptions on the Dubai Lifestyle


As students of IE University, an international institution, we’ve all encountered the surprising misconceptions others hold about our home countries. Moving from Beirut, Lebanon, to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, at age 12, my journey was no exception. This transition led me to confront and dispel many misconceptions about the UAE, which took a few years of living there. 

The first thing I was constantly asked upon my arrival at IE was, “Do you go to school on a camel?” or “Do you go to school in a Lamborghini?” Yes, as ridiculous as that sounds, people used to ask me that all the time. Misconceptions about Dubai usually surround the lifestyle, and although some of them could be true to some extent, they are not the case for most residents. 

One common belief about Dubai is that all residents lead lavish lifestyles. While it is true that Dubai offers a high quality of life and luxury, this is only the reality for some, especially not daily, as many assume. 

All images courtesy of Tatiana Rosa El Hoyek

As a matter of fact, only some people’s homes are villas, not everyone owns four cars, and not everyone frequents the spa. Those who do live such a lifestyle are a minority in Dubai. Most of us lead a balanced everyday life with occasional touches of luxury. Like any other city, Dubai has a range of incomes, and people from various financial backgrounds call it home. Countless activities do not require spending much money, such as going for a drive, camping in the desert, going to the beach, or even biking.

Another misconception about Dubai is that it’s a highly conservative society. While the UAE does follow Islamic laws and traditions, it’s not to the extent that many believe. People often ask me if I was required to cover my hair or if I could wear short clothes in malls or on the street. The reality is that Dubai is a popular vacation destination, always bustling with tourists from around the world, so the regulations are more relaxed than people assume.

Of course, respectful clothing is expected, especially in the less touristy areas of the city, but not in an over-the-top way. The outfits that foreigners see and think are religious are more connected to the culture rather than the religion. The Abaya and Kandura are the traditional clothes of the UAE and go a long way back.

All images courtesy of Jumeira Baccalaureate School’s Instagram – @jbschool_dxb

Video courtesy of Tatiana Rosa El Hoyek

In addition, Dubai’s nightlife is one of the most thriving in the world. There is a wide variety of luscious clubs and parties, including music and alcohol, for individuals over 21. The city has a relatively liberal outlook compared to other parts of the Middle East, with a thriving nightlife and diverse social scene.

The third prominent wrong belief people have about Dubai is that expatriates live a carefree lifestyle. While the city offers a high quality of life, it also comes with challenges, such as cultural adjustments, strict laws and regulations, and the high cost of living. Although Dubai residents don’t pay taxes, many housing fees, visa charges, and VAT on products and services exist. 

The first thing I was constantly asked upon my arrival at IE was, “Do you go to school on a camel?” or “Do you go to school in a Lamborghini?” Yes, as ridiculous as that sounds…

Tatiana Rosa El Hoyek

Also, fines are very common here, and doing something as minor as cussing someone on the road, can get you a fine of up to 10,000 dirhams, the equivalent of 2,700 U.S dollars. The laws in Dubai are, in fact, quite strict when it comes to respect towards others which could take some time to get used to, as there is a very thin line between standing up for yourself and punishable disrespect.  

Every country and city has stereotypes attached to it, which can be somewhat valid. But it’s important to realize that most of these beliefs are heavily exaggerated and don’t necessarily apply to the entire community. Speaking to locals and asking questions is the best way to understand a culture or place better. If you have any questions about the United Arab Emirates or Dubai, I am always open to clarifying any doubts you may have.

Featured image ‘Burj Khalifa’ on Dribbble by Melanie DeSouza

Tatiana Rosa El Hoyek
Tatiana Rosa El Hoyek
I am a Lebanese third year student in Communications and Digital Media. I am an absolute gym rat who is also a fashion enthusiast.

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