Last updated : 04 January 2003 By Grandmaster Suck
Rangers head to Dubai shortly and there's still time to get yourself over there - the team play one game - against Al Shabab on Saturday the 18th January and leave the UK on the 13th.

If you hold a UK passport you don't need a visa for Dubai and the website has plenty of flights for around the £300 mark.

If you are going to Dubai the Belfast Duncer tells you all you need to know.

When out and about in the Emirates it is not unusual to see two local men stopping to greet each other, not just with a handshake but by kissing each others cheeks several times. They tend to greet each other enthusiastically and may even walk a short distance together holding hands. Don't let your impressions be ruled by homophobia as this is nothing more than a traditional Arabic custom and means no more than a gesture of friendship. Although it can admittedly be difficult, try not to stare too much as there is really nothing to it.

For Rangers fans visiting Dubai I can predict a wonderful if slightly expensive time as long as we behave with a modicum of decency and decorum.

Firstly, Dubai is very hot and humid, and after a seven hour flight involving mucho free alcohol I would advise all bears to take it easy initially as I've seen more than a few folks collapse through dehydration out there. I would expect the temperature to be somewhere between the high 80's to the mid 90's at the time of year, and expect sunshine as more than 4/5 days rain a year is very unusual. Most hotels have a beach resort where you can lie out and fry while sipping the most wonderful cocktails, all served by nubile young ladies. If this resort is any distance away then they usually lay on free transport to take you there and back and they generally have a similar service in and out of town for residents.

Hotel accommodation is quite expensive but of an amazingly high standard as is the service and customer care. The locals are very friendly if you are friendly to them but take offence rapidly at rude and ignorant behaviour. The sort of Bear who likes to shout at foreigners for not speaking "Proper English", as I witnessed in Prague recently, would be doing themselves a favour staying at home as ignorance just isn't tolerated, and they'll only end up nicked, sooner rather than later.

English is widely spoken, and spoken well, and as I've already said, if you make an effort then you'll be made to feel more than welcome.

The indigenous population of the United Arab Emirates amounts to about only 8-10% of the total population with the rest being made up of expatriate workers. A large number of these are British and Irish but the vast majority are Indian, Pakistani, and Phillipino, and all of these ethnic groups are very friendly towards westerners.

The Emirates is perhaps the most Westernised of all the Gulf States but it is still a culture shock to the uninitiated. Some amazingly beautiful mosques are dotted all over the main cities and prayer call is rigidly adhered to. During prayer call all the shops close and the city come to a halt so DON'T be out and about drunk during this period. There will be a mixture of traditional and Western dress on view and it is something you should quickly become accustomed to after the initial shock.

The weekend consists of Thursday and Friday in the Gulf, and that's when you'll find the ex-pats out en masse in the pubs and clubs. Clubs are like pubs in that they are mostly to be found in hotels although they are a tad more expensive if you're having a few.

Drinking is acceptable but the bars are all in hotels and sometimes they will require to see your passport as proof of your eligibility to be in the bar as technically you need a licence to drink in the UAE. Don't be offended if asked as it is nothing more than a matter of routine although I'll be surprised if anyone is these days due to their huge increase in tourist trade.

Prices are slightly dearer than an Edinburgh or Glasgow pub but the beer is excellent. Getting drunk is okay but drunken behaviour such as slobbering all over the waitresses and behaving lasciviously will see you looking at the inside of a rather primitive cell, as will abusing the locals and adopting a little Englander/Scotlander mentality. If you are legless then make sure to get a taxi from the hotel back to where ever it is you are staying as you cannot wander about Dubai pissed. Taxis are cheap and reliable and can either be phoned from the hotel, advisable when drunk, or picked up easily as you walk around when out and about, hopefully sober.

Food is available in all the hotels if you're after Western food but I would recommend highly that you try the local and Indian restaurants where you'll soon find that the Indian food you eat here isn't really traditional Indian. These restaurants aren't licensed but they are incredibly cheap, and again, civility is paramount and always rewarded with wonderful service and good humour.

The stadium, if the rest are anything to go by, will boast the most modern state of the art facilities as no expense is spared when it comes to these things.

The currency is the Dirham and ranges from 4-6 Dirhams to the pound. Banks are widespread and used to dealing with Westerners but queues are painfully slow. Recommended watering holes are the Highland Lodge at Al Nassr Leisureland and the Red Lion, both in Dubai, although there are many, many more to choose from.

The neighbouring Emirate of Sharjah is worth a visit but is a dry Emirate so is perhaps only for a cultural visit, or a shopping trip. The garden city of Al Ain, about an hour from Dubai is also worth a visit for the local watering holes, the amusement park called Hilli Fun City, and the excellent pubs at the Horse & Jockey and The Filajh, in the Intercontinental and the Hilton respectively.

Please be on your best behaviour as the Arab locals will reward it with nothing but friendliness and courtesy. It is their country after all. Take care and enjoy yourselves, and I'll see you there.

For cheap flights and hotels try the or websites.

For information about Dubai check out these websites:-