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What To Wear In Dubai and Abu Dhabi

Before heading over to the United Arab Emirates many people wonder what they should pack. Not only do you have to keep in mind the weather, but more importantly the cultural and religious aspect, as it is a Muslim country. The last thing you want to do is offend the locals. So here is some insight on what to wear in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

What To Wear In UAE  © 2015 HollyDayz

Dubai in particular, is the most lax of the seven emirates that form the United Arab Emirates. Still it is important to remain respectful. While I was there I saw many people who either weren’t aware or simply didn’t care what they wore. Your clothing could warrant unwanted attention or something being said to you by a local. This doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy an entire new wardrobe or dress like the locals.

Malls, Marina, and Souks

While walking around at The Dubai Marina I saw many tourists from all over wearing many different types of clothing. Some were covered up and others not so much at all. I wore a capped short sleeve shirt and capris that almost looked like pants. I also had a light jacket I kept wrapped around my waist in case it got a little too chilly.

At The Dubai Mall I wore jeans, a t-shirt, and a light jacket. Walking around with a tank top, short shorts, and tight clothing is frowned upon. Shorts should be at least down to the knee. Shoulders should also be covered. The same goes for men, who are better off wearing t-shirts rather than tanks.

dubai-mall-courtesy-policy-sign-small

In the winter months, taking light jackets or a long sleeve button up would do well. It also helps in the summer time when you are inside and the AC is blasting.  I am not really a fan of short sleeves. I had both a light jacket and a button down shirt I used to cover up, as most of my shirts are tank tops.

One time I did take off my button down shirt at the gold souks. The area is bit more rundown and old. I didn’t get a bunch of stares, but I did get unwanted attention from one gentleman. As humid as it became, I put my button down right back on!

Pool, Beach, and Hotel

If you are headed to the pool, beach, or hanging out at your hotel your clothing choices are a bit more lax. Swimming trunks, one piece, and bikinis are allowed. They are however not allowed on the way to the pool or beach. You must be covered up at those times and not with a towel! Bring a coverup or some actual clothes. There are many locals walking around many hotels so keep that in mind.

Nightlight and Restaurants 

Heading out to explore the nightlife allows for you to wear what you would normally wear out. Again just keep in mind where exactly it is your going and how your getting there. Restaurants will typically alert you to their dress codes. Most are casual or as they call it “smart casual.” You will see many Emiratis in their national dress, which is welcome everywhere.

Mosques

Many mosques don’t allow non-Muslims, but there are a couple that do, including the very beautiful Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. As a woman, your arms, legs, and hair must be covered. I was completely covered and I still had to wear an abaya. I believe it was because my hair is long and was hanging down. My mom was also completely covered, only had to cover her hair with a shayla (headscarf) rather than wear an abaya. Abayas go over the clothes, and will be lent to you at the mosque.

Dress Code from the Sheikh Grand Mosque © 2015 HollyDayz
Dress Code from the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque © 2015 HollyDayz

Men are to wear pants. No shorts! When entering the mosque shoes must come off. Clothing for both men and women must be conservative. If you aren’t comfortable walking around barefoot you can keep your socks on. There is also no intimacy allowed on the grounds. That includes kissing, hand holding, or even putting your arm around the opposite sex. I wouldn’t be too surprised if during Ramadan wearing anything to tight or short would be even more highly offensive.

Desert Safari

On a desert safari you can wear shorts and tank tops if you wish. Once the sun goes down it can get cold. When I went it was very cold! I had on long capris, sneakers, 2 shirts, and a fleece. I was still cold with all of that on! People wearing shorts weren’t too happy at that point. The summer months I’m sure are much warmer at night than in the winter. It is still good to bring at least a light jacket with you.

Ultimately it is your choice what you wear, but if you are going to travel to other countries with a conservative culture, then you should respect it.

How do you feel about the “dress code?”

28 Comments

  • kp3reloaded

    Very informative post! I need to refer to this if I ever go to Dubai or Abu Dhabi, they’re definitely on my list.

    Kasi |

    Reply
    • Holly Dayz

      Thanks. I hope you get there soon!

      Reply
  • ntbrewer

    Yes you have to be respectful of the culture over here. You’d be surprised though of what you’ll see at the malls smh.

    Reply
    • Holly Dayz

      I was wowed by the outfits I saw. Made me shake my head…

      Reply
  • lawswrites

    Thank you for this informative article. Sometimes we forget the importance of respecting other’s culture, making time to do some research before travelling is important!

    Reply
    • Holly Dayz

      Very welcome! Yes, it is very important to not only respect others cultures, but to research.

      Reply
  • thesophislife

    Very good and useful info!! I believe in being respectful in someone else’s country. I can’t wait to read about the safari!

    Reply
    • Holly Dayz

      Thank you. I believe the same. I was trying to be very mindful. Yes! That is coming soon!!

      Reply
  • Rattles and Heels

    Thank you for this super informative post. I always wonder what to wear if I travel to Dubai and this is a really good breakdown of appropriate dress for different occasions thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    • Holly Dayz

      Very welcome, glad it was helpful for you.

      Reply
  • Snugglez

    I’m all for dressing like the locals to get the whole experience. Their “dress code” isn’t anywhere near as strict as I would have imagined it. Fascinating nonetheless.

    Reply
    • Holly Dayz

      I agree. I don’t feel it is that strict or that bad. It was very fascinating.

      Reply
  • Vashti@veepeejay.com

    This is a very helpful post Holly. The last thing I would want to do is accidentally be in violation of the dress code in Dubai

    Reply
    • Holly Dayz

      Glad to be of help.

      Reply
  • Lauren @ ELC (@Expat_Love)

    This is helpful for those of us who aren’t exactly sure what to wear! The photos of the signs were a good touch to really know what they’re looking for.

    Reply
    • Holly Dayz

      Yea I wish I had saw something like this before I went, so I am glad to help others.

      Reply
  • diningtraveler

    Great tips! My friend is headed there in July, will share this with her.

    Reply
    • Holly Dayz

      Thank you! I know she is going to have an amazing time! I am excited for her.

      Reply
  • Erin

    I’m going in October and I have capris but they’re fitted and stretchy. Would these be ok? They’re denim and look like skinny pants as they can be rolled down.

    Reply
    • Holly Dayz

      Yes those would be good. I wore some capris as well. If anything bring something to wrap around the butt area like a long sleeved shirt in case you go into an area where you are deemed as too revealing. Such as the souks or if you go to the camel races.

      Reply
  • PriVin

    Very helpful and informative post, saving it! Always good to be respectful of cultures when travelling.

    Reply
    • Holly Dayz

      Thank you. I am glad you found it helpful!

      Reply
  • Matheus

    Hi!
    I am grateful for all tips that you have mentioned. I will be visiting Abu Dhabi in the begining of May so I have a few questions about appropriate and descent dress code there. I am aware that rules for clothing is stricter than in Dubai and I want to respect the locals culture and to not have any problems with authorities or locals. I just want to feel relaxed and not to be distressed with judgmental looks. I am used to wear pretty tight cloths from jeans to shirts so I have big dilemma what can “pass” as descent from their point of view. So here are my questions:
    Is it ok to wear skinny jeans and loose blouse with slives till elbows or shorter slive which covers my shoulders? These blouses will be long just to cover my behind? Almost all my jeans are skinny so I taught to buy some loose t-shirt, shirt or blouse which will cover only my behind.
    Also, is it ok to wear loose trousers with high waist and to put blouse into trouser? In this way my waist is exposed and my behind to some extent but everything is covered…Will this be inappropriate?
    Is it ok to wear tight t-shirts with high cut cleavage?

    Sorry for a lot of questions but I am in big dilemma and I have a little time to prepare for trip!
    Thanks for your help!

    Reply
    • Holly Dayz

      I am glad your finding the tips helpful. Skinny jeans and high waisted jeans are fine. It is going to be pretty hot in May though so I would suggest lose fitting clothes to breathe honestly. Sleeves are better than tank tops, but you can wear sleeveless and long as you have something to cover yourself with in case. I had a situation and I put a light jacket on. Also inside everywhere is AC so it will be cold. Souks I def put my jacket on to cover my chest and arms. The mosque you must be covered. Let me know if you have any more questions.

      Reply
  • becksplore

    Great advice, thank you! I will have a two day stopover in Abu Dhabi this summer and I was wondering what clothes I needed to bring, this was really helpful! 🙂

    Reply
    • Holly Dayz

      Glad it was helpful. I hope you enjoyed your trip.

      Reply
  • jacqui

    Thank you so much for the insight. I’m heading to Abu Dhabi on Thursday for the F1 Grand Prix. I’m just a little concerned as I’ve got a couple of evening dresses that are strappy and off the shoulder. I’m also taking wraps etc, do you think this will be okay? Many thanks for your great read. x Jacqui

    Reply
    • Holly Dayz

      I am glad it was helpful for you! The wraps should be great. Keep one on you just in case. Have fun!

      Reply

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