You could go to jail for showing your belly button.

We live in an advanced, prosperous Western culture. Globalization has resulted in an abundance of cheap travel. Lands that once seemed out of reach and exotic are now available at the end of a 17-hour flight.

But there are rules. The incredible diversity of ethnicity and culture is something to be celebrated – and respected. Dubai is one of these places.

Dubai is known for its incredible architecture and sprawling wealth. Oil has made it rich, and Arabian princes have turned it into a lavish, fascinating place to travel to. However, to respect the religion and culture of the UAE, there is a stringent dress code in place. This applies, particularly to women.

Let’s take a look at what you should know about the Dubai dress code.


What to Wear when you’re in Dubai

When thinking of what to wear in Dubai, it’s good to remember the word “conservative.” The more conservative you aim to be, the less likely you’ll violate the dress code.

Alex of Travel Fashion Girl points out two important things to remember when dressing as a woman. Dubai is famous for its large, expansive malls. Most, if not all, of them, enforce the dress code rigorously. They require you to have no cleavage showing and to cover shoulders. Knees are also a no-no – making sure all skirts reach below the knee is essential.


Getting to Know your UAE Women’s Rights

Women in the UAE enjoy some of the most advanced fundamental rights in the Middle East. Due to Dubai being a progressive, innovative hub, women are slowly becoming more valued in society. Let’s break up UAE women’s rights into three categories.


1. UAE Women’s Rights and the Government

Women are slowly catching up to men in the UAE. Louise Redvers of the BBC interviews 31-year-old Farha Alshamsi. She says “we have women working in all sectors, and the government does a lot to support women…there are many women in government ministries.”


2. UAE Women’s Rights in Relation to Family

Lonely Planet mentions that traditionally, women in the UAE are fulfilled in their roles as mother and wife and are matron of the house. However, there are numerous accounts of families encouraging the female members of their family to pursue an education and ultimately a career.


3. UAE Women’s Rights and the laws of Marriage

Dubai dress code

One common myth when traveling to Dubai about Abu Dhabi women is that their clothing reflects their marital status. It is believed that only married women wear full coverage. However, according to Ali Al Saloom of The National, an Abu Dhabi woman has the right to wear the Shayla and Abaya whether she is single or married.

While the dress code may seem archaic, it’s worth remembering that it doesn’t necessarily reflect the rights of women. The average Abu Dhabi woman dresses in an appropriation of her culture and religion – whether she is matron of her household or head of a governmental department.


Preparing for the Dubai Dress Code

The better prepared you are when getting ready to travel to Dubai, the less you’ll have to stress when you get there.

Expat Woman notes some essentials that will make sure you’re covered and in keeping with regulation.

  • Pashminas: a simple, silky piece of material that is the perfect cover-up if keeping your shoulders out of sight has slipped your mind. You can even have one in your handbag at all times to reach for in emergencies.
  • Capri Pants: these are a great alternative to committing to full-length jeans. The heat in Dubai can be unforgiving at times, but you still have to keep your knees covered. Compromise with pants that allow you to keep your lower legs cool.
  • Leggings: this wardrobe staple will be a lifesaver as you try to remember each criterion of the dress code. They’re a great way to keep your legs covered if you have a dress that’s just a little bit above the knee.


What else you should know about the Dubai Dress Code

Because Dubai is a hot house all year round, it’s hard to pack for a place that requires so much clothing.

This is where you get creative, and remember it’s not all ankle-length dresses. In fact, one significant loophole found in the Dubai dress code is your right to wear what you want when you swim. They can’t enforce a super conservative approach in the pool, so this is one place to let it all out.

Remember, when traveling to Dubai, you’ve got to know what you’re going to wear in advance. Think of light, breathable materials that you don’t mind wearing around your shoulders and knees.

The more conservative your approach, the safer you’ll be. Dubai is a brilliant destination with a rich cultural history, so it’s worth hiding those shoulders and legs for a few days.

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