How to 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 the Abu Dhabi and Dubai dress code.
Our Insider Guide is here to help you make the right packing decisions for you and your family and understand what to wear in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
What to wear in Dubai and Abu Dhabi for women and men
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 the Emirates 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. Likewise the Dubai mall dress code is going to be very different to the dress code for an Abu Dhbai mosque, for example.
Read on for all our tips for dealing with the dress code in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Dressing in Dubai and Abu Dhabi 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.
However the Abu Dhabi and Dubai dress code for female tourists is by no means expected to be the same, nor are you expected to have your head covered.
We do however 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 when it comes to clothes to wear in Dubai or Abu Dhabi.
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 you do wear 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 for your Dubai beach dress code – 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 when it comes to clothing rules.
Topless bathing is strictly not allowed – in fact, it’s 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 wear what they please when it comes to dressing in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Once they are teenagers however, they have the same dress requirements as adults.
Our 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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