What should I wear in Abu Dhabi & the UAE?

If you are a first-time visitor to the United Arab Emirates it can be confusing to know what advice to follow on dress code and acceptable clothing in this forward-thinking Muslim country.

Abu Dhabi What to Wear

Dress standards for men and women in the UAE

Although not as conservative as some countries in the Middle East region, the United Arab Emirates is a Muslim country, and there are dress standards that tourists are expected to observe.

The standard of dress depends on what setting you are in and if you are in a private or public place.  In a private beach resort, the rules differ quite significantly from if you are in a Mall, for example, but the line seems to blur these days when it comes to public areas such as beaches.

On the whole, Abu Dhabi is slightly more conservative than Dubai, but this is largely due to there being fewer tourists. Everything we discuss on this page is equally applicable to visitors to Dubai.

Dressing for the weather in Abu Dhabi

Daytime temperatures in the UAE vary from mild to extremely hot throughout the year, but it’s important to remember at all times, you are in a Muslim country.

Most locals dress in traditional regional clothing. For men, this is a white kandurah and gutrah (headpiece), and for ladies, a long black abaya with a Shayla (head covering). You will see some women wearing a Niqab (full face covering except the eyes), but it’s not common.

Western visitors are by no means expected to dress in this manner, nor do women need to have their heads covered. However, we do suggest, at a minimum, you should look to cover from shoulders down to your knees and avoid over-revealing or clingy clothes – for both sexes.

Note that the winter can be cool, especially in the evening. You will likely need a jacket. It is always recommended to take a warmer layer in the summer, too, as visitors will find the malls and indoor spaces are freezing with the air conditioning at full blast!

Women’s dress code in Abu Dhabi

Things to avoid in public places:

  • Any clothing that is tight or too revealing – skip the cleavage showing or midriff tops.
  • Anything that completely shows your shoulders – skip the spaghetti strap tops or boob tubes.
  • Short shorts, hot pants, or mini skirts – wear leggings underneath if you think you’re showing too much leg.

It is wise for visiting women who may be coming in and out of public buildings to carry a shawl or pashmina with you. Not only is it great sun and dust protection, but you can also always cover up a bit more if you are feeling awkward.

If you are visiting the Grand Mosque or any religious or government building, you will need to hire a full-length abaya and cover your head (in most places, these can be borrowed without charge). Note that the rules are even stricter during Ramadan; I would suggest ladies wear full-length clothing on arms and legs during the Holy Month.

Men’s dress code in Abu Dhabi

You will find nearly all men wear long trousers, even in the peak of summer. Light chinos or cargo trousers are a good idea for visiting men, or if wearing shorts, make sure they are at least knee-length. Skip the sleeveless tank tops and avoid slogan t-shirts that may in any way be offensive. Men wearing sandals is very common.

What should I wear to the beach in Abu Dhabi?

If you are at the beach or a waterpark in the UAE, you will see a range of attire, from full-length burkinis to fairly skimpy bathers. Topless is an absolute no-no for ladies – in fact, it’s illegal.

Although bikinis, even g-strings, seem to be becoming increasingly commonplace in this setting, it is still a little disrespectful. Go for something that’s a happy medium with not too much skin on display, and keep yourself covered when away from the poolside or beach; cover-up when heading through the hotel.

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 sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses; you will want these pretty much year-round.

Swimming Pool at Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi
The dress standards for a resort or beach in Abu Dhabi vary significantly to the malls and religious buildings

If you are ever challenged over what you are wearing, by security staff or a member of the public, don’t argue. Just apologise and move on.

What are the dress expectations for children in Abu Dhabi?

Until the age of puberty, children have no restrictions on what they wear; they should dress for the weather. You will find Muslim children dress more conservatively, though long trousers are generally seen on boys, and girls wear tights or leggings underneath skirts and dresses.

You shouldn’t let your little ones run around nude at the pool or beach, and swimming in undies is not accepted; they need to be in actual bathers.

Teens should look to dress in the same manner as adults and avoid overly clingy or revealing clothing.

An Abu Dhabi packing list for families

If you are planning a trip to the United Arab Emirates with kids, you’ll want to download our PDF family packing list for the UAE.

We cover all ages tots to teens on here so there may be a few items you can cross off if they’re not relevant to your age group.

Packing for the seasons, remember even in summer the air conditioning can be cold – and if you’re heading into the desert especially, overnights in the winter can be cold!

Dress Code in the Middle East

If you will be heading beyond the UAE and exploring more of the Middle East, you may also want to read our country-by-country dress code guidance for:

BAHRAIN | EGYPT | ISRAEL | JORDAN | OMAN | QATAR | SAUDI ARADIA | TURKEY


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This post was written by Keri Hedrick, an avid family traveller, and writer based in the UAE. You can see more of her adventures on Instagram at Our Globetrotters.  This page contains affiliate links that may earn us a small commission at no additional cost to you. Our full terms of use can be found here. 

1 Comment

  1. hannah carim
    29/03/2019 / 11:58 am

    Thanks for sharing this post,
    I totally agree with you keep posting stuff like this
    Thanks