Are you visiting Dubai for the first time and worried about the Dubai dress code?
There is a lot of conflicting information on the web regarding what is appropriate and what can land you in a lot of trouble. Some sites say wear what you want, and others advise strict measures.
Dubai is the best known, and most tolerant, of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates. Its economy may rely increasingly on tourism but let’s not forget that it’s still a Muslim country. There is a simple Dubai dress code to follow if you want to be respectful of local Emirati culture and tradition while still making the most of this unique destination.
WHAT TO WEAR IN DUBAI – MALLS AND SOUKS
Dubai is famous for its large malls, and they have an official policy on what constitutes as appropriate dress code. For women that means wearing tops that cover the shoulders and trousers or skirts that cover the knees. For men that means no muscle tanks or short shorts. Yes- men have to cover their knees too.
They’re also the places where you are most likely to see the dress code blatantly disregarded. There have been stories of security guards ordering you out of the malls for not adhering to dress code.
Also, be aware that the air conditioning in the malls can be really chilly so you will want to cover up anyway, probably with a scarf or cardigan.
It is advisable for women to dress conservatively in the gold, spice and textile souks that are in the old part of Dubai, in Bur Dubai and Deira to help avoid making yourself uncomfortable with people staring.
WHAT TO WEAR IN DUBAI – PUBLIC PLACES
Women do not have to cover their heads, faces or hair with a scarf or something similar when in public, although Muslim women, particularly Gulf Arabs, do cover their hair, faces, heads with scarf for cultural and religious reasons.
To be respectful of the UAE culture, it is best to remain covered from shoulder at least to the knees. For instance, although t-shirts -preferably with sleeves covering at least upper arm are fine- as long as they are not too tights or low cut, strapless or strappy tops aren’t appropriate
Keep the skirt length above the knee level.
Do not have bare chest out and ensure shorts cover the knee.
WHAT TO WEAR IN DUBAI – BEACH, POOL AND AROUND HOTEL
Swimwear at the pool and beach are completely fine, just cover up when you walk through the hotel to get to the pool or beach, and ensure the bottoms aren’t thongs. It is also deemed unappropriate to have a wet swimsuit under your clothes. Do not sunbathe topless as this is illegal. Men- wear loose fitting shorts, they don’t approve of tight ‘budgie smuggler’ types.
WHAT TO WEAR IN DUBAI – RESTAURANT/ BAR / NIGHTCLUB
Most nightclubs, bars and restaurants are located within hotels (as only hotels can have a liquor licence). Apart from walking through the hotel lobby where you will be required to cover up, you will see people dressed as you normally would, with partygoers in short dresses and mini-skirts. You may see those with cleavage on show, but it is still a good idea not to reveal too much. Men should dress in suits and buttoned up shirts and closed shoes, and no jeans.
While the dress code is generally looser there usually are security at the door and you can be turned away if dressed inappropriately. Five-star restaurants expect their guests to arrive in smart dress — and that means no flip-flops, shorts or tank tops.
WHAT TO WEAR IN DUBAI – AT THE MOSQUE
If you want to go inside a mosque, there are very strict rules for your entrance. You might not be allowed in the mosque in the first place if you are a non-Muslim.
However, to ensure you are dressed appropriately then men should wear long trousers and long-sleeved tops, or shirts. Women should be covered from head to wrist to ankle- their hair will have to be under a headscarf- which will be provided if you don’t have one, tops must be long sleeved and not low cut, and skirts and trousers but reach the ankle. Everyone is required to remove their shoes before entering a mosque.
You may also be provided with clothing you can put over your clothes, called an abaya for a woman and kandourah for men.
WHAT TO WEAR IN DUBAI – ON A DESERT SAFARI
As this is a tour and out with the normal surroundings, it is acceptable for both men and women to wear anything they feel comfortable in, including strappy tops, short shorts, tank tops. In the cooler months also bring a jumper or jacket.
Just be aware of how you’re dressed in your hotel lobby while you’re waiting for your pick-up, you may want to cover up a little.
WHAT TO WEAR IN DUBAI – DURING RAMADAN
Ramadan, is a month of reflection and prayer for Muslims and is a wonderful time to visit Dubai and experience the local culture. Dress code during Ramadan is the same as other public places but just be a little more conservative and be respectful.
WHAT TO WEAR IN DUBAI – FOR CHILDREN
Swimsuits are fine on the beach and by the hotel pool. Dubai is a very family-friendly destination and many hotel pools have shaded areas for young children. Kids who haven't reached puberty can ignore the code until they are older and became young adults.
WHAT TO WEAR IN DUBAI – GYM
At the hotel or private gym, it’s fine to wear your usual work out gear. If you are running outdoors, then men can wear shorts and a lightweight top. Women should have running leggings covering to the knee.
Handle criticism well. You may find that various people, ranging from security guards to locals might suggest your dress is offensive. Sometimes such people are trying to help you by providing advice.
It’s best to remain calm and apologise and fix the offending item
The problem with getting angry or resisting this change is that the police could get involved
Now the truth is, you will see people blatantly disregard the dress code, wearing mini-skirts in the mall, strapless tops at the souk, or a revealing outfit in the street etc. Though these outfits will not get you arrested but they are disrespectful to local culture. Also, it will not draw any unwanted stares or attention. The local Emirati are stylish and will be covered, but as Dubai is now estimated to be around 70% expats, you can see why the culture is shifting to more western style.
WHAT TO WEAR IN DUBAI- SUMMARY
Swimwear is acceptable at the pool and beach
Do not wear low cut tops
Do not wear revealing or see through clothes
Legs to the knee should be covered
Cover your head with a scarf when visiting Mosque
Wear shorts to the knee any time (apart from at high end restaurants)
Wear t-shirts (although do not have obscene language or gestures)
Do not wear tank tops or sleeveless tops
Do not show bare chest, don’t unbutton shirt to show chest hair
Do not reveal back or midriff
Note that the climate in Dubai can be ridiculously hot, so go for natural fabrics such as cotton and linen and try light colours over dark ones.
Below are some of the clothes we have sported in Dubai on our two stop overs en-route from one side of the world to the other. Note that the first time we went Pam knew only that she had to have shoulders and legs covered but didn’t know what to wear so ended up very very hot and sweaty in black leggings and black long top! And Shannon thought he had to be covered too so opted for a thick cotton shirt!
Have you visited Dubai and adhered to these rules or do you perhaps think it is acceptable to not be as strict?