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What NOT to Do if You Study in the Gulf Countries

What NOT to Do if You Study in the Gulf Countries main image

Recent years have seen the countries surrounding the Persian Gulf – such as the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar – emerge as growing study destinations. Dubai alone is home to the campuses of about 72 foreign and local universities. These countries are considered good for business and investment, and their governments have made education a high priority.

Foreign universities have also invested heavily in the region, including renowned institutions such as the University of Wollongong and Harvard University. So far, studying in the Gulf countries looks like a worthy investment. But as a student from another part of the world, there are some things you may find quite different to your own culture – including strict laws, no drinking in public, and scorching summer temperatures!

I’ve experienced this myself when travelling in the Gulf countries, to cities including Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Mecca, Medina and Jeddah. My most recent visit was to Dubai, around three months ago.

Based on my experience and research about the region, here are seven things you should definitely NOT do while studying in the Gulf countries… 

1. Insult the government

Loyalty is something the government expects from the people at all costs. If you make derogatory remarks against the government or share anti-state slogans, you could be arrested and imprisoned or worse.

2. Disrespect the monarch

Many of the Gulf countries are run by monarchs. But while in Europe most monarchs are ceremonial, those in the Persian Gulf region often have total control over the affairs of their country. The royal family must be respected; showing disrespect is a major crime and can carry a strong punishment.

3. Drink in public places

While drinking alcohol may be very common in the United States or any other Western country, it is a big deal in the Gulf countries. Although the Emirate of Dubai has legalized public drinking recently, many other Gulf countries consider public drinking without a permit to be a criminal offense.

4. Insult anyone’s religion

Blasphemy laws are common in the Gulf countries. Disrespecting someone’s religion, whether s/he is a Muslim, Christian, Hindu or of another faith, could land you in jail.

5. Take your job for granted

Some Gulf countries have come under criticism for their working conditions. International labor laws may not always be fully enacted. If you’re working part-time while studying, bear in mind that an employer may terminate your job contract before it legally expires.

6. Walk in the sun during the summer

Today the Gulf countries look quite different than they did 60 years ago. You will find artificial vegetation, palm trees and hedges everywhere, but this has not impacted the climate of the region, which remains hot and dry throughout the year. In summer the temperature may rise up to a 50°C – but thankfully everything from the bus stop to the taxi stands are air-conditioned. Walking on the streets in summer may result in heat stroke, which can be fatal.

7.  Steal anything

This may sound irrelevant – why would you be involved in theft? – but it’s important to note that a conviction may carry a very heavy punishment. In Saudi Arabia, for example, it’s still legal for hands to be amputated as a punishment for theft.

To conclude, the Gulf region has its good and bad points (like every part of the world), but overall it’s a great place to study. To find out more about what the region has to offer, check out these seven reasons to study in Saudi Arabia.

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Written by Walied Ali
Walied Ali is a graduate of a Naval High School in Pakistan's largest city, Karachi. Aged 17, he is currently applying for a place in medical school. 

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