Amazingly Dubai has been open to tourists since July despite Covid, unlike many other countries. So if you’re planning for some Winter sun this 2020, Dubai is the perfect option! If it’s your first time visiting Dubai. You may be wondering, what exactly do I wear as a woman? What clothes do I pack for Dubai? What is the Dubai women dress code? I’ll explain everything below!
Want to know more about Dubai, check out my other articles:
All your Questions about Dubai answered
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How to spend all your money in Dubai in 3 days
Getting between Dubai and Abu Dhabi
If you look online you might get many different answers about what to wear in Dubai as a woman and it can be confusing. The honest answer with Dubai is…. It depends on where you are!
Though even with it being a Muslim country. It is a very liberal city and a massive tourist destination. So you’ll frequently see a whole range of fashion worn by all kinds of different Dubai women.
I first moved to Dubai in 2013, so I’ve seen a lot of different situations over the years and lots of different fashion choices! So I’ll break everything down into places and what is typical to be worn where.
Do I have to cover my hair and dress modestly?
Ok so first of all, wearing a hijab or shayla as it’s called in Dubai. No you do not need to have your hair covered anywhere in Dubai unless you choose to. There is only one exception to this rule and this is if you visit a Mosque such as the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.
Now to dressing modestly. Officially according to the rules of the country and public places you should dress modestly. This means shoulders covered and skirts or shorts that reach to just below the knee. However, there are very few places where this is enforced. The malls do have this dress code on signs placed at every entrance but I’ve lost count how many times I’ve seen hot pants in the malls.
Do I advise to wear hot pants? Of course not! It’s better to respect the rules and dress with respect to the country you are in. However in the last few years, it has become a lot more liberal when it comes to clothing and I’m sometimes shocked by the outfits I see.
If you want to take some modest outfits just in case, check out some nice modest outfits here with worldwide delivery!
What to wear as a woman in Dubai when visiting the beach?
Do not worry! You do not need a Burkini or to buy modest swimwear! You can wear your bikini. Whether it’s a public beach, a hotel beach or a private villa beach. Swimwear is acceptable in those areas.
However, if you walk towards the shops or towards the promenade then you need to put clothes on which cover your swimwear. This can be a t-shirt and shorts or a dress. Most hotel staff or workers on the local beaches will normally politely tell you to put something over your swimwear if you do walk into an area of shops or cafes close to the beach. This doesn’t just apply to Dubai women, men will also be told to wear appropriate clothes.
Another thing to note is that depending on the style of swimwear you prefer but in hotel resorts, there is a bit more freedom. For instance, if you prefer wearing a smaller bikini to limit the tan lines! Hotel beaches and resorts are your best option.
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What do I wear in a Dubai hotel or resort?
Dubai hotels are very similar to what you should wear on the beach. The swimming pools and beaches are fine for bikinis or other types of swimwear to be worn. You will need to cover yourself when you head into the lobby and other parts of the hotel. Again a t-shirt and shorts are fine.
Also, you may find some beach clubs or places where after a certain time, typically as it gets to sunset. They request people to get dressed, typically by security even though it’s a beach bar or club.
Most hotels in Dubai are giant complexes with bars, restaurants, entertainment and more! So here you’ll find more liberal policies for what’s acceptable to wear.
Years ago, Dubai women used to take a modest dress or even an Abaya to wear over their clubbing outfits. You’d then take it off once you got to the hotel resort. Though these days, a lot of women go out and get a taxi in their clubbing outfits.
What do I wear in a Dubai Mall?
So yes there is a modest dress code in Dubai Malls, which is shoulders covered and skirts below the knee but these days it is very rarely enforced.
Interestingly, part of the culture in Dubai is the women love to get dressed up. Even to go to the mall! In fact, typically you can tell who the tourists are since they’ll be walking around in tank tops and shorts, looking very summery while Dubai residents have chic casual outfits, full makeup and high heels.
Local women will wear a traditional outfit for Muslim women called an Abaya and a Shayla, like me below:
I want to visit Abu Dhabi Grand Mosque, what do I need to wear?
For men and women you both must dress modest to visit! For women this includes covering your hair and an outfit that covers your legs and arms fully. For men, this is a top which covers the shoulders and shorts that are to the knee or lower. It is a place of worship after all!
If for any reason you forget to take a modest outfit to Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi, then you can get an abaya for free from the visitor office. You just give your ID and then return the abaya after you’ve finished visiting.
They’re not the most glamorous of Abayas and most of the fabulous photos you see. Women have bought their own more fashionable Abaya and Shayla! For them to wear and take photos of course!
For more on Mosque (Masjid in Arabic) etiquette check out this article!
What do I wear for going out and for nightlife?
The majority of women going out to a bar or restaurant, wear exactly the same kind of outfits they would wear back home. There isn’t really a dress code per se and you’ll see women in dresses and skirts of all varieties.
Areas like Dubai Marina are the most touristy and again because most of the clubs, bars and nightlight are within hotel resorts. It’s mostly tourists or other Dubai residents that want to party. So the dress code is a lot more liberal here for women.
Are there any other dress code rules I should know as a woman?
In certain areas and attractions, it’s more common for Emiratis and people from the Gulf to go to these areas. In these areas, it is better to be more respectful of the dress code. It is unlikely for you to get into trouble but I have before seen a woman being told what she is wearing is not appropriate and that she should respect the country she is in.
These areas are; Jumeirah Beach Walk (JBR), Jumeirah, Umm Suqeim, Deira, Mall of Emirates, Al Barsha, City Walk, La Mer, Downtown, Dubai Mall & Global Village.
Other areas where you will probably get stared at if you don’t dress modestly:
Satwa, Garhoud, Gold & Spice Souqs, Naif, Jebal Ali & Deira
I’d definitely recommend if you’re planning to visit the more historical places to dress modestly such as the Gold & Spice Souqs.
The most relaxed areas, in general, are Dubai Marina and Palm Jumeirah, although JBR and JBR The Walk are very popular for gulf nationals. It tends to be more Gulf nationals who are on holidays themselves along with expatriates. So while other parts of the Marina are pretty liberal, for JBR I always recommend being more modest due to the volume of Gulf nationals typically staying in the area. Though there are a lot of hotels here and you really will see a mix of fashion!
What happens if I don’t dress modest?
In the unlikely event that someone approaches you about your outfit, the most likely would be someone from mall security. They will ask if you have any other type of clothes you could wear or request you to come back once you have more appropriate clothes.
The best thing to do is apologise and go back to your hotel to change your outfit. However this is really unlikely and I’ve never heard of it happening to anyone. As long as its not a mosque of course!
So I hope that cleared some things up for you and what to wear or not wear as a woman in Dubai! Many women visit Dubai every year and Dubai is such a safe city for women. It’s amazing that you can walk around late at night on your own and not need to worry. Crime is very low in the United Arab Emirates.
To find out more about the United Arab Emirates check out this article!