How should I dress in Dubai and Abu Dhabi?
If you are visiting the Middle East for the first time it can certainly be confusing knowing what information to follow on dress code. Our Insider Guide is here to help you make the right packing decisions for you and your family before visiting the UAE cities of Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Dress standards for men and women in the UAE
The United Arab Emirates is a Muslim country but not as conservative as some of its Middle East counterparts. There are, however, minimum standards expected of tourists, and dress code can vary depending on what situation you are in. Private resort settings are treated differently to public spaces like malls or the theatre.
Dressing for religion and the heat
Although daytime temperatures are warm to hot (to stinking hot!) for most of the year (see our guide to the best time to visit), it’s important to remember that you are in a Muslim country.
You will see that most locals dress in a traditional regional outfit – that is a long white kandurah and gutrah (headpiece) for men and a long black abaya with a Shayla (head covering) for women. Some women will wear the burka, but these days it’s not as common.
Western visitors are by no means expected to dress in this manner, nor have their heads covered. However, we do suggest at a minimum you should look to cover from shoulders down to your knees and avoid over revealing or clingy clothes, especially during Ramadan.
For women, carrying a shawl or pashmina with you is always a good idea to cover up if you feel awkward – and for a bit of sun and dust protection! If you are entering the Grand Mosque or any religious or government building you will need to hire a full-length abaya and cover your head.
Women can wear leggings under a dress, a great solution if your dress is a little short, but avoid tight, revealing bottoms and showing too much cleavage. Cut off shorts, midriff tops and spaghetti straps are all wardrobe no-nos.
For men, you will find that despite the heat nearly all gents wear full-length trousers. Bringing some light chinos is a good idea, or if wearing shorts try and make them knee length.
The best thing to bear in mind is “am I dressed with modesty?” If in doubt, a helpful hotel concierge may be able to guide you.
What should I wear to the beach in Dubai?
If you are at the beach or waterpark in the UAE some women will wear full-length burkinis, while others will strip down to fairly skimpy bathers.
To be comfortable and not offend those around you, we suggest you stick somewhere in the middle – a one-piece or bikini that fully covers your bottom. Some beaches or pools will explicitly state the minimum standard of dress needed such as t-shirts on adults, and this is strictly enforced (such as Jumeirah family beach).
If you are asked by security to cover up a little, do so without argument. Security are well within their right to call the police if you do not cooperate.
Topless bathing is strictly not allowed – in fact, its illegal! Equally avoid wearing thongs, even at a resort. As soon as you leave a pool or beach area, make sure you are covered up again.
What are children expected to wear?
Prepubescent children should feel free to dress as they please, but teenagers have the same dress requirements as adults.
City Insider Keri Hedrick
Keri is a long-time UAE resident with 3 children. You can read more about Keri and all our City Insiders here.
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