Religious Tolerance in the UAE

When we lived in Dubai, I had planned to do a post about Christian churches in Dubai after visiting the Catholic church, St. Mary’s.  I thought many people may be surprised to know that there is a degree of religious tolerance in the UAE, and Christians (as well as people of many other non-Muslim religions) can and do worship openly. Unfortunately, the idea lingered in my drafts folder and I never got around to writing it or taking the photos.

When I went to St. Mary’s I was really surprised by how many people attended the church. Parking was difficult to come by and the courtyard was absolutely filled to the brim on a sweltering day with people from all over the world, although the majority seemed to be Filipino or South Asian. Only when the call to prayer came floating through the courtyard did I remember I was in the Middle East. St. Mary’s offers masses in English, Arabic, Tagalog, French, Konkani, Malayalam, Tamil, Sinhalese and Urdu. Confessions can be conducted in all the languages of the masses, plus Kannada, Ukrainian, Polish, Russian, Italian and Hindi. The congregation of St. Mary’s certainly reflects Dubai’s diversity.

I may have never been able to bring my “Christian Churches in Dubai” post to fruition before we left, but I just came across an interesting article (linked below) that seems to do the job for me! In addition to what the author describes, other Christian groups such as Gateway Church or Redeemer Church of Dubai that don’t have their own dedicated space to worship will use hotel ballrooms as a meeting space.

Read the following BBC article to learn more about religious tolerance in the UAE.

Free to Pray, But Don’t Try to Convert Anyone.

About Lynda

Longhorns and Camels is a blog about exploring Dubai from the perspective of an expat from Texas. It features stories about living in Dubai including descriptions of local culture and popular activities in the region. It also includes photography of the UAE and other countries abroad. It has been recommended by several well-known guides for expatriates: InterNations, ExpatWoman and Expat Focus.
This entry was posted in Articles to Read, Day-to-day living in Dubai and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Religious Tolerance in the UAE

  1. The UAE is a fantastic example of religious tolerance. In line with your blog post, Lynda, you should find the following new law interesting:

  2. RachelW says:

    Great post! Love your blog 🙂


  3. whimaway says:

    But what about jews? I have new seen a synagogue in Dubai.

    • Lynda says:

      I’ve heard there is a synagogue somewhere, but then I’ve read repeatedly that there is not – so I”m not sure! Textbooks that contain references to Israel are removed from classrooms or those references are blacked out, Israel does not appear on maps found in the UAE, etc, so I guess it’s no surprise that practicing Judaism openly would be difficult. Thanks for stopping by and commenting! 🙂

      • waterlily716 says:

        Hi Lynda. Love your blog 🙂

        Yes, when I was teaching in Doha they would paste the pages together that showed Israel in our geography books. Of course the kids would open the pages and find the blacked out bits which caused more of a distrubance than probably leaving them alone would have.

      • Lynda says:

        Hi Sarah! Thanks so much. I love your curly hair! 🙂 Ha – that made me chuckle – I can imagine how gluing pages together would make anyone more curious about what is being hidden! Now that I think about it, that would have been a good strategy for me to use when I was teaching when the kids couldn’t care less about looking at a map. 🙂 I think the same thing happened with that book Desperate in Dubai – the book and blog were banned for a while, which I think only made people more interested in it. Now that it’s available again, I think its former “banned” status makes it all the more intriguing.

  4. Mitzie Mee says:

    I was also surprised to see how most religions are being tolerated in the UAE. I’m not religious myself, so I find it difficult to relate to any religious practices, but I think it means a lot to some expats to be able visit churches:)

  5. Diana says:

    Hi Stranger. 🙂

    Ok….first of all…the language options at St. Mary’s made me laugh a lot…..never heard of some of them.

    And I did not know that Israel does not appear on the maps in the UAE. Hmmmm….

  6. Glad to have grown up here and be able to practice my religion (Roman Catholic). I was baptised at St. Mary’s, Dubai and attend weekly sermons at St. Michaels in Sharjah, since I reside there for about twenty plus years. 🙂

  7. I did not know that there was such a religious freedom in UAE. But it’s quite interesting also to know that Israel doesn’t exist on their maps. Says quite a bit, doesn’t it.

  8. Nutan Rathor says:

    An interesting blog and very well written.

  9. Clare says:

    Great post and most if all excellent photography! I love some of the images, the way they have been captured is amazing.

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