As you’re planning and packing for your trip to Dubai, you may discover the challenge of finding outfits that are both suitable for the heat of the desert and respectful of Islamic culture. Dubai is known to have looser reigns on its dress code and way of life than the other six emirates, but a little sensibility and research into Dubai’s dress code for tourists will go a long way.
There is no fashion police who will materialize and arrest you. I noticed some women travellers at the Dubai Mall who were dressed in denim shorts (think Laguna Beach) and tank tops. No attention was paid to them, but for everyone’s sake, show a little respect for the local culture!
I visited Dubai in December and the climate was very comfortable – high of 26°C (79°F) during the day and low of 15°C (60°F) in the evening. There can be a lot of rain from December – March; luckily we had all dry days. Keep in mind the desert nights are much cooler with a light desert breeze so a light cardigan is highly recommended, as even my pashmina failed to keep me warm.
Top Tips For What to Wear in Dubai:
What Men Should Wear in Dubai Public Areas
In public areas such as major attractions, shopping malls and souqs, shorts to the knee are completely acceptable. In the cooler months, slacks can be worn. T-shirts and polo shirts are more respectful in public areas than tank tops. Many finer restaurants have a smart elegant dress code, so be sure to pack a dinner jacket and a dress shirt. Open toe sandals are fine, but avoid wearing flip-flops outside of beach areas and the hotel pool.
What Women Should Wear in Dubai Public Areas
As a rule of thumb, women should cover the knees and shoulders whenever possible. Avoid low cut tops and tight fitting clothing – that rule applies to bottoms: leggings are not pants! Wear a tunic over leggings to cover your butt. Outfit suggestions:
- Bottoms: capris, knee-length skirts, knee-length dresses, pencil skirts, palazzo pants, wide-leg light-weight fabric pants, harem pants, (you can make the call on drop-crotch pants!)
- Tops: tunics, kaftans, T-shirts, cap-sleeves, ¾ sleeves
- Cover ups: pashminas, cardigans, scarves, sarongs, shrugs, bolero cropped cardigans
- Shoes: open toe sandals are completely acceptable
What to Wear in the Desert
In the desert, tank tops and shorts can be worn. Bring an article of clothing to keep warm, especially if you plan to have dinner in a Bedouin camp. If you plan to go dune surfing, closed toe shoes are best. I wore long patterned pants and a racer-back tank top.
What to Wear to Restaurants & Nightclubs
Women in Dubai are very well dressed. We noticed many beautiful Russian women at Cavalli Club dressed impeccably in gowns (which way to the wedding reception?). Pack a few good outfits for dinners and nightlife activities!
Shoulders and knees can be shown once inside the restaurant/nightclub. En route to the venue, especially if you’re taking a taxi, it’s a good idea to still cover up your shoulders with a scarf or cardigan. I always err on the side of caution!
What to Wear to Mosque
Visitors in the presence of an Arabic tour guide are more harshly scrutinized. Sheer tops of any kind (even if it covers your legs/arms) do not suffice as cover-ups. Here, ankles, wrists and hair (women only) need to be covered. I wore a 3/4 sleeve tunic and that didn’t meet code.
If you fail to pass the dress code, you may rent an abaya free of charge from the mosque. The rental booth is located on the lower level of the entrance. You need to leave your passport/identification in exchange for an abaya. The rental lineup gets long and you need to lineup again to return it and retrieve your passport so dress appropriately to avoid the hassle.
What to Wear at the Hotel Pool & Beach Clubs
As with any hotel, it’s always a good idea to dress modestly as you walk through public areas until you get poolside or to your hotel room. Once poolside or beachside, bathing suits (1-piece or 2-piece for women) and flip-flops may be worn.
Have fun with fashion but a little respect and modesty will set you apart as an informed traveler rather than a tourist.
Have you travelled to Dubai? Did I miss anything?
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