Help me stay out of trouble (and jail!) in Dubai! Help with Islamic customs

posted 5 years ago in Honeymoons
Post # 3
1508 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: June 2013

DubI is fairly accepting in the city from what I understand. Below is from Wikipedia On Dubai.

Dress and etiquette

The Islamic dress code is not compulsory. Most Emirati males prefer to wear a kandura, an ankle-length white shirt woven from wool or cotton, and most Emirati women wear an abaya, a black over-garment covering most parts of the body.[168] On an average a UAE male national would have up to 50 kanduras as they keep changing their clothing to ensure the dress being kept clean.[169] This attire is particularly well-suited for the UAE’s hot and dry climate, the reason being that the white cloak reflects back the sunlight, for the same reason the UAE men wear white cloaks throughout the summer season while colorful cloaks are seen during the winters.[169]Conversely, the black clothing that women are obliged to wear absorbs and concentrates the sunlight. Western-style clothing is, however, dominant because of the large expatriate population, and this practice is beginning to grow in popularity among Emiratis.

Prohibitions on “indecent clothing” are an aspect of the UAE to which visitors are expected to conform. Recently, many expatriates have disregarded the law and been arrested for indecent clothing, or lack thereof, at beaches.[170] Western-style dress is tolerated in places such as bars or clubs, but the UAE has enforced anti-indecency prohibitions in other public spaces.

Post # 4
1177 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: June 2013

Are you talking about a layover in the airport, or actually spending time in country?

I’ve never been there, but I do have a friend whom was a consultant there for years, and according to him, all the Westerners dress pretty normally, no head covering for women. There’s not a lot of social mixing of the local population and the Westerners. But that’s just one person’s experience.

Post # 5
7234 posts
Busy Beekeeper
  • Wedding: October 2015

@DeeWee:  Virtual Tourist has some good tips on Dubai. Here is a forum about dress particularly. If you haven’t done much traveling in general, I’d recommend Virtual Tourist. It’s chock full of great info from experienced travelers. 

Post # 6
424 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: July 2012

I travel to Dubai about 7 times a year.  Don’t stress out so much 🙂  Dubai is not as conservative as you think.  In fact, I’ve gone out in mini skirts (though it was to expat bars, I wouldn’t wander around like that-you’ll get stared at).

When are you going? It does make a difference to what you should wear, especially if its Ramadan. 

It’s also stinkin hot in Dubai for a lot of the year, so I’d like to give suggestions that will work.

The outfit you posted above is super conservative.  It would be fine.  But I also think you will melt.  You can wear t-shirts. It’s fine. The basic rule of thumb is cover your shoulders and cover your knees. No one will side eye you if you do that.

You can talk to anyone you want. Also, for touching, you can touch people. They frown on the making out aspect. If you and your Fi walk around holding hands, no one will care. Especially if they know you’re married.


Relax. It’ll be fun. It’s a good place and if you want recommendations for places to see, let me know.

Post # 7
332 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: January 2014

I have also been to Dubai , and intend on living there come next year! Really no need to worry,Dubai is a very cosmopolitan place.Just be sure to not to dress as if you are on the beach (although there is a beach there! )so longer shorts, tops that cover your shoulders, or a tank with a cardigan . Also, no cleavage.And you should be fine 🙂 

Post # 8
9142 posts
Buzzing Beekeeper
  • Wedding: November 2013 - St. Augustine Beach, FL

Why? There are so many other places you can go that are not nearly as conservative.  I know people go and say it’s awesome but I refuse to spend a dime in a country where women are treated as third class citizens.

Post # 9
5892 posts
Bee Keeper
  • Wedding: October 2010

@beachbride1216:  It sounds like a layover to get to her ultimate destination. I dont think she specifically is going to dubai. 

Post # 10
71 posts
Worker bee
  • Wedding: February 2013

I was there for a few days 2 years ago, and didn’t have any issues. I wore 3/4 length capris and a t-shirt and that was fine. Basically don’t be affectionate in public, and short-shorts and singlet tops are inappropriate (but I saw people wearing them, you won’t get arrested), apart from that you should be good.


One thing I did notice was that most questions got directed to my husband, not me, but there wasn’t any issue with me answering them, or talking to men. Also, technically you’re not allowed to share a hotel room with a male who isn’t your husband or family member, but if someone asks just say you’re married (I wasn’t at the time, and we didn’t get questioned, but good to know about).

Post # 11
3215 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: April 2015

I went to Dubia for a beach vacation a few years ago. It was breathtaking!


I honestly wore what I’d wear if I was going on vacation to Cuba. Tank tops, shorts, dresses, etc. while I was in my resort. If you’re in the airport or the mall, you would be fine in a knee-length skirt and a tshirt. No one would bat an eye. Anywhere that’s full of expats (bars, restaurants, etc), you’re fine wearing whatever you’d wear in a Western country. Keep in mind that while the climate is hot and dry, most places indoors are air conditioned. Seriously, I was cold all the damn time, and quickly adjusted to wearing thin cotton or linen tank maxidresses, with a thin sweater tucked into my bag. That way, you’re prepared for the heat, and can quickly adjust for the cold a/c indoors (and even in taxis).

Post # 12
4687 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: June 2013 - Upstate NY

All I can think about is Samantha in SATC II.

Post # 13
1022 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: July 2013

@DeeWee:  Dubai is fiarly modern. you do not need to cover your hair, and you can wear what you have picked.

Post # 14
909 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: July 2013

I had a 5-hour layover in Dubai, and wore jeans and a t-shirt. It was flipping hot, but since I wore jeans on the plane, I didn’t have a choice. I didn’t cover my head, either. I was by myself (25 y.o. female) and didn’t have any issues in getting to where I wanted to go.

Post # 15
3226 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: September 2013

I wear ankle-length maxi dresses and pashminas around my shoulders when I visit Islamic states. Depending on the country, I sometimes slide it up over my hair a little (doesn’t truly cover it, but shows the point that I at least tried to be respectful). Never had a problem. 

Post # 16
7992 posts
Bumble Beekeeper
  • Wedding: July 2013 - UK

If I am travelling to an Islamic country, I always wear at least 3/4 length trousers or skirts which reach well below the knee. I tend to wear loose tops which come down to my elbows at least, and don’t show too much neck or back. Looser clothes are cooler. I would say your outfit is fine, modesty wise, although I would go for looser styles in general because of the heat.

I judge whether to wear hijab or not depending on the “feel” of the place, but I usually take a few with me to match to different outfits (just like the local ladies do). You will generally need to wear hijab to visit religious sites, burial sites, and some historical sites.They can also help to keep the sun off your head.

You won’t get arrested for not covering up in Dubai (except in highly unusual circumstances) but you don’t want to get stared at, either, and you don’t want to encourage the stereotypes that some local men will have about Western women (*sigh*).

When asking for directions, or sitting on buses, remember that men usually speak to men, and women usually speak to women, so if you are sharing a public space where a lady is seated, it would be better for you to be seated next to her and your husband on the other side of you, for example. If you wish to ask for directions or a favour (“can you take a picture of us, please?”) then you should ask local ladies, and your husband should ask local gentlemen.

If you wish to swim or bathe in a public (mixed gender) place, do so whilst fully clothed… the other local ladies, if they swim at all, will usually also be fully dressed. You will soon dry in the sun.

The answer is that you are unlikely to be arrested, but good manners and respect for the customs of others go far beyond what you will or will not be arrested for… and I  am appalled by the disrespectful behaviour of many expats I meet in my travels. Go with an open mind and a respect for others, and you’ll be just fine.

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