Thursday, March 1, 2012

What exactly is the dress code in UAE?

My parents and two of their friends are coming to visit in a couple of weeks and one of the questions that came up is 'what's the dress code in UAE?' and I thought it might make an interesting blog post (but, of course, you'll need to be the judge of that! :)

As some of you have heard or read or maybe even experienced, UAE is a Muslim country and is well known for their National Dress which for women is a long black robe and black head scarf that covers the hair and sometimes with an additional black scarf covering most of the face. For the men, it is a white robe with a head scarf loosely covering the head and sometimes wrapped around the head turban-style. With such conservative national dress, it's easy to understand how visitors might be worried about what they are allowed to wear in public.

The great thing about the UAE, however, is how open they are to other cultures and styles. The 'rule' is to dress modestly, which is loosely translated as keeping your cleavage, shoulders and knees covered. There's no need to wear long sleeves or a head covering, but it's also respectful not to wear low cut, sleeveless or shorts. Other than that basic guideline, most anything goes.

Punishment has been highly overrated in the media. I don't know of any legitimate police cases based solely on how someone is dressed. I'm sure there are some, but it's probably the extreme like streaking, which would be highly offensive here. (wait, that's pretty offensive everywhere, isn't it?) Now, it is possible to be denied entrance to a restaurant, bar or place of business if you are not dressed appropriately. I've seen two examples in our year here. One was a guy denied entrance to a bar because he was wearing shorts, and the second was a woman denied entrance to one of the universities because her dress was too short (above the knee). Luckily, she had some black tights along and once she had those on, she was fine. Had she been out to a bar or restaurant in the evening, I doubt they would have had any trouble with her dress.

It may seem a little harsh, but to me it's not a big deal and seems a small price to pay to show some respect for the local culture. Of course, maybe that's because I gave up short skirts and sleeveless tops a few years and a few pounds ago. :)

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