Although not as conservative as neighbouring countries in the Middle East region, Bahrain is an Islamic country and there are dress standards that tourists and residents are expected to observe.
Dress Code for Men and Women in Bahrain
The exact standard of dress depends on what setting you are in and if you are in a place that is private or public. In a private beach resort, the rules differ quite significantly than if you are in a shopping mall, for example. The line becomes blurred in public but touristy places such as the beach, but you should consider public beaches to be more conservative than private resort beaches (where tourists are most likely to visit).
If you have visited Dubai before, you will find the dress code of a similar standard. But do remember, you are in a country where Islamic culture is upheld and you should show respect for this in the way you dress.
What are considered traditional or public areas in Bahrain?
When visiting the Al Fateh Grand Mosque as a tourist, the dress code is much stricter than other public places with women needing to be completely covered head to toe in loose-fitting clothing. If you are not sufficiently covered and abaya and hijab can be borrowed. Men should have full-length trousers and shirts to at least their elbows.
Other traditional and public areas such as souqs and shopping centres, the dress code is far less strict.
Bahrain Traditional Dress
Most locals dress in traditional regional clothing. For men, this is a long white thawb / throbe or dishdasha, (though in winter you will see some darker colours too, greys and blues in heavier materials). The traditional head covering is a Keffiyeh (skull cap), worn with a ghutra/ghitraa (generally a white cloth) and agal (the black cord that holds it in place!
Bahrani ladies wear a long, loose-fitting black abaya over their usual clothing when out in public, along with a black hijab (head covering). On special occasions, they will wear a much more colourful and delicately embroidered Jalabiyas.
It is uncommon but you may see some Bahrani ladies wearing a Niqab (full face covering except for the eyes).
Non-muslim visitors are NOT required to dress in this manner, nor do women need to have their head covered at all. A hat would, however, be a sensible suggestion in the heat and a pashmina is always handy!
Dressing for the weather in Bahrain
Daytime temperatures vary from a rather mild (21c/70F) in winter to an extremely hot (46c/115F) in summer, but it’s important to remember at all times you are in a Muslim country. There are plenty of ways to dress for the heat whilst remaining conservative.
Bahrain women’s dress code
Non-muslim women should look to follow these basic guidelines to remain conservatively dressed (though you will no doubt see many flouting these standards these days):
- Cover shoulders and knees.
- Skirts and shorts are acceptable, but avoid anything too high or skimpy.
- Leggings can be worn underneath anything you feel might be too short.
- An ordinary T-shirt or blouse is fine, but nothing with too low a neckline revealing cleavage or showing your midriff.
- Absolutely no spaghetti straps or boob tube style tops!
- Avoid tight and clingy clothing. In the heat, you will likely prefer lose cotton anyway, just make sure the material isn’t see-through.
- Bring a shawl or pashmina with you just in case. It can be good for the wind and if you ever feel uncomfortable or out of place.
- The best materials to stick with are silks, cottons and linen. Long, loose and flowy skirts and maxi dresses are great, along with three-quarter trousers or culottes.
Men’s dress code in Bahrain
You will find nearly all men – local or expatriate workers – wear long trousers, even in the peak of summer.
Light chinos or cargo trousers are a good idea for visiting men, or if you prefer shorts in the heat, make sure they are at least knee-length. Men wearing sandals is very common, flip flops would be fine as well.
Men should skip the sleeveless tank tops and avoid slogan t-shirts that may in any way be offensive.
What to wear in winter in Bahrain
Don’t be mistaken to thinking it’s always hot in Bahrain! The winters can be cool and overnight temperatures drop to around 15c in winter. For most, this is definitely cool enough for jeans and a sweater!
If you’re prone to being chilly, we’d suggest taking some sort of cardigan or sweater with you throughout the year. Even in summer the airconditioning indoors can be strong.
What should I wear at the beach or resort pool in Bahrain?
At the beach in Bahrain, you will see anything ranging from ladies full-length burkinis to fairly skimpy bathers. One-piece bathers are ideal but bikinis are most definitely commonplace. Topless is an absolute no-no, public nudity is illegal.
As soon as you are back in a hotel or walking through a public place, it’s polite to cover up again.
Most pools or beaches will have signage up stating the expected minimum standard of dress. Always obey these rules and follow the instructions of any security staff to avoid finding yourself on the wrong side of the law.
Don’t forget a hat, sunscreen and sunglasses too, pretty much year-round these are necessary packing essentials.
If you are every challenged over what you are wearing, by security staff or a member of the public, don’t argue. Apologise and move on.
What are children expected to wear in Bahrain?
There are no restrictions on what children, before the age of puberty should wear in Bahrain. Teens should look to dress in the same manner as adults and avoid overly clingy or revealing clothing.
For younger children, they should dress for the weather and activities you will be undertaking. If your little girls are climbing in playgrounds, you may prefer them in leggings under any skirts of dresses but generally speaking, western-style clothing is absolutely fine.
You will find Muslim children dress more conservatively though. Long trousers are generally seen on boys rather than shorts and girls will generally wear tights or leggings under any dresses or skirts.
Don’t let your little ones run around nude at the beach or pool, and no swimming or splashing in fountains in just your undies.
Do you have any more questions about appropriate dress in Bahrain? feel free to leave them in the comments below or ask in our Family Travel in the Middle East facebook community.