As great of a city as Dubai
is, it's also a set of contradictions. On one hand, it's among the most forward-thinking metropolises around, arguably even more than many of its Western counterparts. But on the other hand, it's still in the UAE, one of the most conservative countries in the Middle East and the entire world. The city continuously teeters between conservative values and contemporary views, especially regarding how people ought to dress. Some parts of the city require you to cover up, while others are much more liberal in people's apparel. Let this guide teach you all about the basics.
Nudity is Strictly Forbidden
Though this is obvious, it's still worth noting. Many of those who have moved to Dubai
are Europeans. The countries they've come from have places where nudity is allowed. But here in Dubai (or anywhere else in the UAE, for that matter), there's no place where nudity is allowed. On the contrary, they're even strict about exposing skin, no matter how little of it is exposed. What more when you try to go out in the buff? Before you let the daredevil in you take over, know that you face heavy repercussions if you even attempt to go out in public without any clothes on.
Cover Your Shoulders, Arms, & Legs in Public
Though it's not an outright requirement, you're better off covering three specific body parts—shoulders, arms, and legs—when you're out and about. No matter what you're doing in Dubai
, covering these up lessens the risk that you offend the locals. But then again, since the city has become more Westernized over the years, people have been less strict when it comes to skin exposure in people's everyday wardrobes. You can still go out with your shoulders, arms, and legs out, it's just that the more covered up you are, the less hassle you'll face.
Men Should Cover Their Knees
Islamic culture is more notorious for its clothing restrictions on women. Many of the female population in this region are covered from head to toe, even when they go out in fairly open and more lax cities like Dubai. With that said, there are also a few clothing restrictions on men too. For example, men are encouraged to cover their knees as much as possible. As such, short shorts on men aren't just weird, sometimes it's downright illegal. Men are better off wearing pants or long shorts when they go out in Dubai.
Women Should Wear Head Coverings When Visiting Mosques
Contrary to popular belief, women aren't required to wear hijabs in Dubai. At the very least, not non-Islamic women. If you're a woman of another faith and of foreign blood, you can still go around Dubai without covering your head. But if you want to visit any of the city's magnificent mosques, however, you'll need to wear one. Not a hijab, per se, but anything to cover your head. Remember that these are places of worship, thus, they impose the strictest dress codes. Apart from the head, women must also cover their shoulders, arms, and legs.
Only Wear Swimsuits in Pools or Beaches
In a country as conservative as the UAE
, can you still wear a stereotypical swimsuit in Dubai? Or are you required to wear a burkini? Don't worry, it's the former! As long as you stay near the beaches or pools in Dubai, you can wear a contemporary swimsuit. Women can wear bikinis while men can wear trunks and stay shirtless. But while this is allowed, you're better off to have a cover-up handy just the same. Just because you're allowed to wear skimpy swimsuits, it doesn't mean that the natives are welcoming of such skin exposure.
Dress Appropriately for Nightlife
The UAE's conservatism towards clothes doesn't just stem from its Islamic culture. They also consider social norms and proper dress etiquette important too. For example, going out at night ought to have you dressed to the nines. Gowns and cocktail dresses for women and suits for men. Although going for a more casual look for nightlife is a huge trend nowadays, don't expect that it'll go well if you go that in Dubai. Consider them old-fashioned all you want, but the natives here appreciate when people dress up when they go to events, party at night, and more.
If you plan to travel to Dubai soon, you'd do well to follow the city's proper dress etiquette. As modern a city as Dubai is, don't forget that it's still located among the most conservative countries in the world.