Kuwait is an Islamic country and as such, there is a strict standard of dress expected from tourists and resident expats, even if you are not Muslim. The dress code in Kuwait is stricter than in other parts of the Gulf, though a violation of dress standards isn’t against the law.
Dress Code for Men and Women in Kuwait
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 to public areas such as shopping malls, parks or beaches.
If you have visited Abu Dhabi or Dubai before, you will find the dress code is stricter. You are asked to show respect in the way you dress.
Kuwait Traditional Dress
Kuwaiti locals largely dress in traditional clothing. Although their outfits from the outside look quite simple, the Kuwaiti’s are very fashionable people and take great pride in their neat and clean appearance.
For men, this is a long white dishdasha (thobe) with a centre opening. On their heads, they wear a keffiyeh (skull cap), with a ghutra/ghitraa (a white cloth) and agal (the black cord that holds it in place!)
For Kuwaiti women, traditional dress is a full length and full-sleeved abaya covering whatever clothing they are wearing underneath. Hair is also covered using a hijab. Some women will additionally wear a black veil of niqab covering the entire face. On special occasions, more colourful Jalabiyas are popular.
You will find Kuwaiti children even from a young age wearing traditional clothing, particularly on special occasions. Boys will wear long trousers at all times and girls are likely to wear tights and leggings and long arm sleeves under a dress. On special occasions, girls wear colourful dresses and a Buknik headpiece (scarf trimmed with gold and sequins).
Women’s dress code in Kuwait
Non-muslim women are not required by law to wear a hijab or head covering but should take the situational setting into account. Whilst covering shoulders and knees at a minimum is a must, you should also take the following guidelines into account so as not to draw unwanted attention:
- Skirts and shorts are acceptable, but avoid anything in a sheer material and keep it below the knees.
- 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 (spaghetti straps and boob tubes absolute no-no’s!)
- Avoid anything that is too tight, clingy or see-through.
Do bring a scarf or pashmina with you. Even if you do not fully cover your head you may find it convenient to pull over your shoulders, or as a shield from the fierce airconditioning indoors!
The best materials to stick with are silks, cottons and linen for the heat. Long, loose and flowy skirts and maxi dresses are great, along with three-quarter trousers or culottes.
Men’s dress code in Kuwait
You will find 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 do prefer shorts in the heat, make sure they are at least knee-length; three-quarter cargos can be a good option in the heat. Men wearing sandals is very common, flip flops would be fine as well.
What to wear in winter in Kuwait
Kuwait isn’t hot year-round! With a subtropical desert climate, winter temperatures drop to a very mild 19c (66F) in the day time in January, but overnight the lows can drop to as low as 8c (46F).
Kuwaiti men can often be seen in different colour dishdashas in winter such as grey and blue in thicker material. Women simply wear more under their abaya
You will find the indoor airconditioning is fierce as ever, even mid-winter! For visitors, jeans and a sweater or cardigan for evenings should suffice.
You can see more on what to expect from Kuwait’s climate here.
What should I wear at the beach or resort pool in Kuwait?
Despite the country’s strict dress code, there are private beaches and resort hotel pools and beach clubs where western-style swimwear is acceptable. You will still find a fair number of women in these private clubs wearing full-length burkini’s.
Public beaches are a fair bit more restrictive. There are no laws prohibiting a woman from wearing her bathers to the beach but it will draw undue attention and comment, no matter how covered of skimpy. A suggestion is shorts and a T-shirt over your bathers should draw less attention
Don’t forget a hat, sunscreen and sunglasses too, pretty much year-round these are necessary packing essentials for Kuwait
If you are every challenged over what you are wearing, by security staff or a member of the public, don’t argue. Apologise, offer to cover up and move on.
What are visiting children expected to wear in Kuwait?
Before the age of puberty in Kuwait, the rules are far less restrictive. From puberty onwards though, both males and females should look to the guidelines above.
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.
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 Kuwait? Feel free to leave them in the comments below or ask in our Family Travel in the Middle East facebook community.