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.
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.
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.
Nightlife 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 you’re going and how you’re 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.
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.
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.
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?”