Many vacationers worry about the dress code before traveling to Dubai. Since Islam is the state religion of the Arab emirate, you might have a very strict dress code in mind. This is because it requires comprehensive veiling – especially for Arab women.
Strict dress code in Dubai
Thinking of an Arab country, you might imagine veiled women in their black burkas. The men are not so heavily veiled, but they also usually wear long, white robes.
In Dubai, however, it is clear that the dress code is under stricter scrutiny for women compared to men. That is why female tourists are usually more insecure than their male companions. One thing is certain: as a tourist, of course, you don’t have to wear a veil.
But what is appropriate and what is not?
Fortunately, the emirate is now more modern and open than it was a few years ago.
There are just some guidelines that should (or could) be followed to show some respect for the locals and their culture.
Dress code for tourists
The most important guideline to remember is: cover your shoulders and knees.
So, if possible, women should not wear tops, off-the-shoulder tops or spaghetti straps. Likewise, belly or backless tops should be avoided. Deep necklines, skin-tight or see-through clothing is also not welcome. What might be surprising is that the same principle applies to men: cover shoulders and knees.
So what kind of clothes remains?
For the temperatures in Dubai, simple t-shirts or light blouses are perfect. If it gets a bit chilly in the evening, longsleeves or shirts are ideal. Longer shorts, skirts or dresses can be worn during the day, while pants are great for the cooler evening.
But what is the reality?
In reality, not all tourists adhere to the guidelines; and contrary to what one might assume, there are no consequences for doing so. There are plenty of female tourists as well as immigrants who wear hot pants, mini dresses or revealing tops.
Occasionally, you might notice some locals looking puzzled. However, there is no finger pointing and you won’t be approached by anyone. As a woman traveling alone, you don’t need to worry about that either. Dubai is considered a safe destination – especially in this regard.
So the clothing topic is no big deal! At the end of the day, it’s just a matter of having an appropriate level and respect for Arab culture. It is up to the individual to decide if they want to follow the guidelines.
Dress code in the mall
At the entrances to the shopping centers there are signs indicating the recommended clothing. Thus, it is pointed out that both women and men should keep their shoulders and knees covered. Many tourists do not adhere to this. How would you even know if you didn’t do your research beforehand?
If you show too much shoulder or leg, you will still not be denied entry, even if this is often claimed. At least I have never observed anything like that. In my opinion, the revealing clothing of tourists is willingly tolerated.
Nevertheless, it is advisable to wear longer clothing in the malls, because there is proper air conditioning. Without a cover, such as a light jacket or sweater, it quickly becomes chilly there.
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Clothing in the mosque
In Dubai tourists can visit the Jumeirah Mosque, which is located near Jumeirah Beach. Likewise, the doors of the magnificent Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi are open to visitors from all over the world.
In order to enter the mosques, one must of course veil oneself accordingly. Men must wear long pants and at least a T-shirt. Any tattoos must also be covered. For women the rules are even stricter. You must wear loose clothing that completely covers the arms and legs as well as a headscarf.
If the outfit does not comply with the regulations, you can unfortunately no longer borrow an abaya for free on site. Instead, you can buy this long dress for about AED 45 in the store and then cover the entire body.
Appropriate swimwear on the beach and at the pool
When it comes to swimwear, men and women do not need to overthink it. The regulations are pretty straightforward. In most cases, you can wear the same bathing suits as usual. Only topless bathing and wearing thongs are strictly prohibited. In addition, men are advised to wear loose swim shorts rather than skimpy Speedos.
Other than that, sunbathing and swimming on the beach, at the hotel pool as well as in the water park is casual. But if you leave the beach or the pool, you should put something on again. A sarong scarf or a loose summer dress is perfect for women. Men should also not walk around the beach promenade or hotel with their upper body naked.
Suitable clothes for the Burj Khalifa and the Burj al Arab
Men should by no means appear in shorts or a T-shirt, but at least wear a neat pair of long jeans or, even better, cloth pants and a shirt. For women an elegant dress is recommended – doesn’t matter if it’s short or long . If you don’t like dresses, you can wear long cloth pants and a nice top.
In case you’re dressed inappropriately, you could be denied entry. That’s why the rule here is: It’s better to be overdressed than dressed too casually.
My personal choice of clothes
Before the Dubai trip I was faced with the following dilemma: I own almost no summer clothes that go over the knee. This is mainly because such a medium length does not suit me particularly. And dress myself up in new clothes for the vacation? Nah, I didn’t feel like doing that either.
So what to do? Find a compromise that I feel comfortable with! For example, if you show knees, you can at least cover your upper body. So light summer dresses with longer sleeves were a perfect solution for me.
If you’re more of a shorts type, you don’t have to go for hot pants right away. Slightly longer shorts can also be airy and make you look “dressed” at the same time. Add a simple t-shirt or blouse and you’re decently dressed for the day.
So it is necessary to find a compromise between your own style and the given guidelines. However, feminine and elegant clothing is always a good choice in Dubai, even if it shows a little more skin. You should simply avoid “disreputable” outfits.
My conclusion about the dress code in Dubai: It’s no big deal
You don’t need to think too much about your choice of clothes. No one will arrest you because of a more revealing outfit. Nevertheless, as a tourist you should be as respectful as possible towards the culture and dress accordingly. After all, you want to feel comfortable among the veiled locals. A good measure should be the goal.
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