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What to Wear in Dubai: Tips for Women Travellers

Author: Posted on: November 30, 2010 at 10:36 pm

When travelling to Dubai, dressing for the desert heat while respecting Islamic traditions can be a little challenge. Although this Emirate is considered to be a little more liberal than others, it is still an Islamic state that adheres to traditional values.

As any visitor who respects a host country’s traditions, it is best to ensure that your choice of clothes to pack and wear in Dubai would not offend local sensibilities.

M for Modesty

Respectful Clothing - Mall of the Emirates Sign
Signs at Mall of the Emirates

In Shopping Malls and Souks

Signs at the entrance to the gargantuan Mall of the Emirates remind visitors to dress modestly. Women are to be covered from their shoulders to their knees. No tight, revealing or see-through clothing should be worn. This means no tank tops, spaghetti straps, singlets, shorts and mini skirts. Naturally, midriff and cleavage should not be on show so no plunging necklines, low rise jeans or slit skirts. Three quarter trousers, long sleeve tops and short sleeve T-shirts are acceptable.

For the Traditional Souks such as the Gold Souk, Fish Souk and the local Food and Date Markets, it is best to dress a little more modestly and avoid attracting attention.

Inside Mall of the EmiratesNear the traditional Souks of Dubai
(L) Inside mall of the Emirates – (R) Traditional clothing seen near the fish souk and food markets

At the Jumeirah Mosque Visit

If you’re planning to visit Al Jumeirah Mosque, the dress code is strictly enforced. Women should wear long sleeve tops, loose clothing, and ensure their knees are covered. A head scarf should also be worn so it is best to bring one with you. If your dress code is not deemed suitable, they will happily lend you a long black gown to wear over your clothes and a black headscarf.

What to Wear on Dubai Mosque
Inside the Jumeirah Mosque

At the Hotel Pool

You can lounge around your Dubai hotel beach or swimming pool in a bikini, Speedos or board shorts but topless bathing is not allowed. If you need to walk through the hotel lobby to get the pool, it is best that you are suitably covered out of respect to other guests. Wrapping a towel around you is not sufficient.

At Le Meridien Mina Seyahi hotel resort, the lift had access to the lower ground floor which by-passing the hotel lobby and connected to the beach area. Of course, one is also likely to encounter other guests in the lift so a little discretion is wise.

Le Meridien Mina Seyahi Beach in Dubai
Beachside at Le Meridien Mina Seyahi

In Dubai Restaurants

For restaurants in Dubai, you may be dressed in evening wear that bares your shoulders. Take a pashmina with you to cover your shoulders until you arrive at the restaurant. It will also keep you warm as many establishments have their air conditioning set to low temperatures. If you’re having afternoon tea at Burj Al Arab, the hotel will send you advice on what to wear when you make your reservation.

For the Desert Safari

If you’re planning to go on a Dune Bashing and Desert Safari, the advice was that you can wear anything you like, including shorts and singlet tops. The safari trip begins in the middle of the afternoon to combat the heat and lasts into the early evening. Temperatures can drop a little in the desert but nothing that necessitates a cardigan. For footwear, it is best to wear open sandals or thongs (flip-flops) instead of sneakers as you’ll be walking on fine sand which gets everywhere.

With these tips, you can choose what to pack and be reassured that what you wear in Dubai would not be deemed offensive.

Traditional Clothing at Mall of the Emirates
Al-Motahajiba boutique at Mall of the Emirates

Visiting Dubai? Don’t miss our Top 10 Things in To in Dubai.

Corinne

Corinne is the founder and editor of Gourmantic. An avid scribe, she has taken pen to paper since the age of five. Her repertoire includes long works of fiction, short stories and travelogues.

She is a winner of the GT travel writing competition, has judged the Australasian Whisky Awards for 2013 and several cocktail competitions. She is also named in the Australian Bartender Most Influential List for 2013.


This article is posted on Gourmantic.com. All rights reserved. Copyright © 2014

What to Wear in Dubai: Tips for Women Travellers was last modified: June 13th, 2014 by Corinne

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29 Comments to “What to Wear in Dubai: Tips for Women Travellers”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ms Gourmantic, Ms Gourmantic. Ms Gourmantic said: [New on G] What to Wear in #Dubai: Tips for Women Travellers http://bit.ly/ecYOnX #traveltips #uae #lp [...]

  2. Dianne says:

    My husband and I travelling to Dubai in January and I wondered what they meant by modest clothes. Thanks for the tips!

  3. Tuula says:

    Great tips! Funny enough, I really knew no one who had ever been to Dubai, and then this year had two friends travel with their partners – came back with very interesting opinions & think they weren’t 100% prepared for what they experienced. Now can guide future visitors to your travel suggestions, great advice :)

    • Gourmantic says:

      I don’t think anyone can be fully prepared for any country they haven’t visited before. Dubai is one of those that you either like or don’t. We loved our stay and are planning to make it a regular stopover to Europe.

  4. Nicole says:

    Great post, Corinne! So interesting that it’s different for different occassions.

  5. Great tips Corinne. I had never thought about going to Dubai before this year. One of my good friends went. She loved it and had nothing but great things to say. I know now where to come when I need travel tips for Dubai — I hadn’t seen all your previous posts on Dubai until now. Wow, this and those are very helpful!

    • Gourmantic says:

      Thanks Kathy. I fell in love with Dubai the moment we arrived there. Spent four days and did a lot but only skimmed the surface. For us, it’s a great stopover on the way to Europe, so we’ll be back! I hope you get the chance to go :)

  6. Cultural sensitivies aside, it would really be hot to have to wear so much dark, covered clothing in a desert town. I wonder why white burkas aren’t a craze?

    In any case – thanks for the handy tips – you’re a tome of knowledge on all things travel!

    • Gourmantic says:

      At the Jumeirah Mosque tour, they explained that the national dress was black for women and white for men, yet they made studies which showed that black was the cooler of the two. Not sure about the findings but one thing is for certain, everywhere you go, it’s air conditioned!

  7. [...] beach a sarong wrapped to cover top and bottom was the norm. (Gourmantic has good information on what to wear for women visiting Dubai.) I also wouldn’t recommend getting romantic in public if you know what I mean.The Wild Wadi [...]

  8. [...] prevented us from travelling this year, popular articles such as where to eat in Paris, what to wear in Dubai, afternoon tea at Burj al Arab in Dubai and the Passe Navigo Découverte continued to attract [...]

  9. Jess says:

    Hi,

    I just got back from my first visit to Dubai and I wanted to pitch in my advice from my travels because I found sites like this one extremely helpful in deciding what to buy/pack for my trip. I stayed at a friend’s house while I was out there and in terms of heat I was told the May I experienced was relatively mild to how it normally is. That said, it was still very hot, 30C+.

    Walking around the streets, visiting shops and the Mall I wore either full length cotton trousers or an ankle length skirt with thin, loose fitting tops and a long sleeved cardigan. Once I had adjusted to the heat I felt very comfortable in a t-shirt and cardigan.

    On the streets I did see a lot of women wearing shorts and camisole tops however so if that is more your style don’t feel worried that you’ll be the only one wearing those kinds of clothes. What I would say though is that the sun is pretty brutal and staying covered will keep you safer from skin damage – no one wants sunburn to ruin a trip.

    When I went to Abu Dhabi to visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque (A must-see because it is breathtaking) the family I was staying with loaned me an Abaya (the long sleeved, full-length black dress) and a head scarf. I’m pretty sure these would be available at the mosque though. At the very least, take a head scarf because you won’t be allowed in without one. The guards are VERY strict at this mosque.

    With regards to staring (I’m a 19 y.o blonde girl) I found it to be the worst at the outdoor bazaars. If I can recall the name of the one we visited I’ll let you know but I felt extremely uncomfortable there. I was very happy to have the guy I’m friends with and his family around me as I felt a lot better. That said, don’t be afraid to visit these kinds of places because it is a truly amazing experience. The way they sell their products (mostly scarfs and shoes) was so new to me. However, be very aware that if you look like the typical tourist they will try to charge you extortionate prices. Prepare to haggle!

    That’s about all I can say I think. Enjoy your trip out there and make sure you see everything :)

    • Corinne says:

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment and for sharing your experiences.

      I found it a little different in the souks. As a couple, I was rather ignored and all the men/sellers approached my other half trying to sell him products for me! We loved Dubai and hope to make it to Abu Dhabi next time. I agree that the mosque is a must-see! :)

  10. Karen says:

    We are off to Abu dhabi and Dubai in October and although the information everyone has posted has been very helpful, there is no mention of footwear. Can anyone offer any tips about sandals or open toe shoes. I wouldn’t wear flip flops. Thx.

    • Corinne says:

      Hi Karen, I wore flat sandals during the day and peep toe shoes and it wasn’t a problem. The only time we were told that we could wear thongs/flip flops was during the desert safari because sand gets everywhere.

  11. Karen says:

    Thx Corinne, very helpful!

  12. Kiara says:

    Hi,
    Im am hoping to go to Dubai next month,and am just wondering does anyone know if the dress code is still as strict for bars & nightclubs?

    • Corinne says:

      Hi Kiara – We didn’t get to bars during our visit, but I was told by an expat living there that if I were to show bare shoulders, I should have a shawl or pashmina with me just in case. Maybe another reader can shed light on the subject?

  13. Hi there! Thanks so much for all of this information! We are stopping in UAE in June on the way to Africa with our four kids. I have been researching a bit on what to wear while we’re there and this is all helpful. Do you know, are non-Muslim women allowed to wear a hijab (with acceptable clothing of course)? They are so beautiful and I would like to wear one while there and possibly on into Africa.

    • Corinne says:

      Hi Carman, and thank you for the lovely comment. I don’t see why it would be a problem. There are many shops such as Al Motahajiba in the Mall of the Emirates that sell beautiful and traditional fashion items. And if you’re planning on visiting the mosque, you can also wear it there. Have a great time on your holiday :)

  14. [...] other information, refer to our comprehensive Guide to Dubai which includes Ski Dubai, What to Wear in Dubai, Shoo Fee Ma Fee Moroccan restaurant, Al Khaima Restaurant at Le Royal Meridien and [...]

  15. Emma says:

    I’m a 15 year old girl and I’m going to Dubai for four days in my February half term and I know you’ve mentioned a lot before but I was just wondering that would my shoulders defiantly have to be covered when I’m out of the hotel and going sight seeing, I think we were going to have a look at the really big fountains by the tallest building in the world?? Would it be necessary to cover my shoulders there??

    • Corinne says:

      Hi Emma. If you’re out and about, short sleeve shirts/tops are fine provided they’re not body hugging and tight. I’d avoid spaghetti strap tops, no matter how hot it gets.

  16. Vicki says:

    Hi Corinne thanks for your advice you have answered all my questions about dress code in Dubai that others could not. Thanks again

  17. Jackson says:

    I’m currently in Abu Dhabi but have not really been out and about much. I did make it to Mushariff Mall where I did get quite a few stares. I am very pale and blonde so I kind of expected it especially from women with children. I was pretty modestly dressed. I wore baggy linen pants and 3/4 length sleeve shirt but I think next time I will try to wear the hijab to cover my hair and neck. After all I think it is respectful to their culture to follow their traditions. After all when in Rome as the saying goes.

  18. Emma says:

    I am an expat living in Dubai for 18 years i.e my whole life. In terms of dressing for malls, you needn’t worry as long as it is fairly modest. (I have seen plenty of people in spaghetti tops.) That being said, you should remember that the air conditioning is very strong indoors. For that reason alone, I would not recommend wearing spaghetti tops. But if you are comfortable with it, go for it! I would recommend wearing clothes covering knees and your shoulders in places such as Abu Dhabi and Sharjah(It is against the law to wear shorts and skirts above your knees in Sharjah). I would also advise against crop tops. Wearing shorts or skirts above your knees is a big no-no in mosques. Also going topless in a beach is strictly prohibited. Other than that, I see no harm in wearing any kind of clothing as people in other places do. (I study in USA so I have a fair idea.)

  19. Nadia Ovalles says:

    Waow the comments and all ur advised have been really help full .. im going to dubai for 20 days and I beem worry a lot about the dress code. Also their my be possibility that y fiance and i we get marry their.

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