Dressing Appropriately in Dubai: A Handy Guide to What to Wear in the Emirate

Dubai is a popular tourist destination that welcomes visitors from all over the world. With its iconic skyscrapers, luxury hotels, and shopping malls, Dubai has established itself as both a cultural and fashion center in the Middle East.

As a cosmopolitan city, Dubai is generally open and accepting of different cultures and styles of dress. However, it is still important for visitors to respect local customs and dress appropriately, especially when visiting religious sites or more conservative areas.

In this blog post, we provide a handy guide on what to wear during your stay in Dubai. Whether you are a first-time visitor or frequent traveler to the emirate, these tips will help you dress respectfully and avoid any cultural misunderstandings.

Importance of dressing appropriately in Dubai

While Dubai has a reputation for being glamorous and modern, it is essential for tourists to dress modestly and respectfully during their visit. As an Islamic society, concepts of dignity and decency are very important in the local culture.

It is courteous for both men and women to cover up shoulders, knees, and midriffs when out in public areas. Clothing should not be too tight or revealing. These guidelines apply especially strongly when visiting mosques or other religious sites.

By following these recommendations on appropriate attire, visitors demonstrate cultural sensitivity and avoid the possibility of causing offense. Respectful dressing enables tourists to have the most enjoyable and meaningful experience possible while exploring all that Dubai has to offer.

Dress Code for Men

The traditional dress for Emirati men is the kandura – an ankle-length white robe, often paired with a white or red checkered headdress known as a ghutra. This flowing garment is well-suited for Dubai’s hot climate and protects against heat, sand, and dust.

For tourists, while wearing traditional Emirati clothing is not required, dressing modestly and covering shoulders and knees is appreciated. Lightweight pants or jeans paired with short or long-sleeved shirts or polo shirts make suitable choices.

Western attire guidelines for men

  • When it comes to Western-style clothing, male visitors should follow these guidelines:
  • Opt for loose, lightweight pants rather than shorts
  • Wear shirts or polo shirts rather than tank tops or sleeveless shirts
  • Cover chest, back, and shoulders
  • Avoid clothing with offensive images or slogans

Following these simple rules will prevent overexposure of skin and demonstrate respect for local cultural norms.

Dress Code for Women

Emirati women traditionally wear the abaya – a long, loose black robe that covers the whole body except the face, feet, and hands. The abaya is often worn over other clothing like dresses or pants.

Women also wear a headscarf called a shayla along with the abaya. This conceals the hair and neck when in public.

For female tourists, while not mandatory, modest dress is culturally appropriate. At religious sites, respectfully covering hair and limbs is appreciated.

Guidelines for modest western attire for women

When choosing Western clothing, women should opt for outfits that:

  • Cover shoulders, chest, and knees
  • Are loose rather than tight-fitting
  • Conceal the midriff
  • Feature longer sleeves and higher necklines
  • Avoid sheer, see-through fabrics
  • Prevent exposure of undergarments

Modest dresses, skirts, pants, and tops make suitable options. Having a scarf or wrap on hand provides extra coverage when needed.

Discussion of clothing items and styles to avoid in Dubai

When packing for a trip to Dubai, there are certain clothing items and styles visitors should avoid wearing publicly out of respect for cultural norms:

  • Shorts – Men’s shorts should cover to just above the knee at a minimum.
  • Mini skirts and short shorts on women.
  • Tight, body-hugging dresses or skinny jeans.
  • Low-cut tops or dresses and deep necklines.
  • Midriff-baring crop tops.
  • Beachwear like bikinis should be confined to pools/beaches.
  • Sheer, see-through fabrics.
  • Clothing with offensive language/images.
  • Clothing that exposes undergarments.

Avoiding these revealing, provocative clothing options prevents embarrassment or misunderstandings while visiting public places.

Explanation of the cultural significance of modesty in dress

In Emirati and Islamic culture, modesty in how one dresses reflects deeper values of dignity, self-respect, and morality. Covering the body is seen as a way to protect one’s inner spirituality.

By dressing conservatively, visitors demonstrate sensitivity towards local cultural beliefs. Respectful attire enables tourists to show courtesy as guests in Dubai and prevent any issues.

Understanding these cultural motivations behind appropriate dress makes it easier for visitors to make suitable wardrobe choices.

Attire recommendations for different occasions and locations in Dubai

Dress code recommendations can vary depending on the occasion and location while visiting Dubai:

  • Mosques and religious sites: Modest, conservative clothing covering all limbs is required. Women must wear headscarves.
  • Shopping malls: Avoid revealing outfits. Dress respectfully as families frequent these spaces.
  • Souks (markets): Cover shoulders and knees. An abundance of fabrics can make these areas feel warmer.
  • Desert safaris: Light, loose long sleeves and pants to protect from sun and sand.
  • Beaches and pools: Swimwear is acceptable but cover up with wraps when going to public areas of hotels.
  • Hotels: Most have a smart casual dress code for lobbies and restaurants. Avoid swimwear and cover up in these common spaces.

Emphasis on respectful and appropriate dressing in various settings

No matter the occasion or venue, the best approach is to err on the side of modesty and cultural respect when visiting Dubai. While some places like hotels and beaches do allow more revealing swimwear, it is advisable to cover up between these venues and when going out in public around the city.

Packing a lightweight cardigan, scarf or shawl ensures shoulders and cleavage can be covered easily when needed. Having longer items of clothing in breathable fabrics can allow visitors to stay cool while also dressing appropriately.

By taking cues from those around you and asking questions if unsure what to wear, tourists can enjoy Dubai to the fullest while adhering to cultural dress code norms that preserve the region’s values around modesty.


Dubai welcomes visitors from around the world to experience its impressive architecture, cuisine, entertainment options and more. However, it remains an Islamic society with expectations around appropriate, respectful dress code. By covering shoulders, knees and cleavage, avoiding tight/revealing clothing, and dressing conservatively at religious sites, tourists can show consideration for Emirati cultural values. Packing lightweight scarves and cardigans allows quick modifications when needed. While Dubai is open and tolerant as a global hub, adhering to its cultural dress code earns the respect and appreciation of locals. By following these guidelines, visitors can immerse themselves in Dubai’s offerings without causing any cultural misunderstandings about appropriate attire.

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