Travelling to the Middle East? If it’s your first visit to the region you may be confused over the dress code. We travelled to Dubai and Abu Dhabi with George when we was 10 months old, and picked up some do’s and don’ts. In this post, I’ll share what you need to pack for you and your family to adhere to UAE etiquette.
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WHY IS THERE A DRESS CODE?
The United Arab Emirates is a Muslim country. In comparison to other countries it is less conservative. However, there are expected standards of tourists. But the Emirates dress code can vary depending on what situation you are in.
Private beach and holiday resorts are viewed differently to public spaces like play parks or the theatre. The same applies when visiting any of the malls, the dress code is different. On the whole, Abu Dhabi is slightly more conservative than Dubai. This is largely due to fewer tourists visiting the area. Everything we discuss on this page is equally applicable to visitors to Dubai.
DRESSING FOR THE WEATHER
Although daytime temperatures are warm to hot (and ridiculously hot!) for most of the year, it’s important to remember that you are in a Muslim country.
Most locals dress in traditional attire. Men wear a long white kandurah and gutrah (headpiece). Whereas local women may wear a long black abaya with a Shayla (head covering). With recent changes to laws in UAE, it is less common for women wear a burka.
Western visitors are by no means expected to dress in this manner. Nor do women need to 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 – for both sexes. Especially if you are visiting 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.
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DRESS CODE FOR WOMEN
Things to avoid in public places:
- Any clothing that is tight or too revealing – skip the cleavage showing or midriff tops.
- Anything that completely shows your shoulders – skip the spaghetti strap tops or boob tubes.
- Short shorts, hot pants or mini skirts – wear leggings underneath if you think you’re showing too much leg.
It is wise for visiting women who may be coming in and out of public buildings to carry a scarf or pashmina with you. Pick one up in the malls and keep it in your bag. Not only is it great sun and dust protection, you can always cover up a bit more if you are feeling awkward.
If you are visiting the Grand Mosque or any religious or government building you will need to hire a full-length abaya and cover your head (in most places these are given out for free to visitors). Note that the rules are even stricter during Ramadan, I would suggest ladies wear full-length clothing on arms and legs during the Holy Month.
DRESS CODE FOR MEN
You will find nearly all men wear long trousers, even in the peak of summer. Light chinos or cargo trousers are a good idea for visiting men, or if wearing shorts, make sure they are at least knee length. Skip the sleeveless tank tops and avoid slogan t-shirts that may in any way be offensive.
WHAT SHOULD I WEAR TO THE BEACH?
When you’re at the beach or playing at the waterpark, you’ll see a range of attires. From full-length burkinis, swimsuits to bikinis. Going topless is illegal so keep them covered! 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.
DRESS CODE FOR CHILDREN
For babies, toddlers and children up to the age of 12, there are no restrictions on what to wear. Dress them for the weather and don’t forget the sunscreen. However, you will find Muslim children dress more conservatively. Long trousers are generally seen on boys and girls wear tights or leggings underneath skirts and dresses.
Don’t let your little ones run around nude at the pool or beach. Swimming in undies is not accepted, they need to be in actual bathers or a rash suit. Teenagers should look to dress in the same manner as adults and avoid overly clingy or revealing clothing.
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