What To Wear in Dubai
The first thing that hits you when you enter the city of Dubai is the buildings. So many of them, so gleaming, so tall. So…futuristic. In this relatively new city, its as if Dubai was racing to win some contest on who can build the most luxury in the shortest amount of time. Concrete jungle is putting is mildly. I lost count of the skyscrapers at about one hundred. As we sped down the multi-lane motorway to the hotel, they seemed never-ending.
Of course, with luxury comes decadence. Many people who live here are wealthy, yet hard-working expats. And when they’re done working? They want to play. They want to shop. And they want the very best of all of it.
You wouldn’t think this level of extravagance would reside smack dab in the Middle Eastern desert. Dubai is like Las Vegas, only much more humid. When you walk down the street, women are dressed conservatively. You will generally not see anyone showing their knees, shoulders, and certainly not a hint of cleavage.
On the surface, Dubai may feel like a cosmopolitan playground, but you are still in a Muslim country. Reminders to cover up are posted in many public areas. My first day in Dubai, I was wearing a sleeveless blouse, and I was at the receiving end of several disapproving stares. Very uncomfortable!
Later on, the hotel concierge told me that in other areas, such as the beach, a hotel pool, or in a nightclub, the conservative rule flies out the window. Women can show as much skin as they feel comfortable when clubbing. No need for traditional cover-ups (although many women still wear them while they are sunbathing!) And if you have to go through the hotel lobby to get to the pool, you will need an easy cover-up such as a kaftan.
Ironically, when men go to nightclubs, there is a bit of a dress code. Generally, shorts, jeans or flip-flops are discouraged. They want you to dress up! So a nice fancy shirt and trousers are advisable. And on the way to the club ladies, wear the cover-up over that revealing top until you get there!
As far as shopping, Dubai runs the gamut. From traditional souks to literally the largest shopping mall in the world. You would be hard-pressed not to find anything and everything you could possibly desire. Which brings me to our topic: what to pack for Dubai.
My main advice? Try and pack as little as you possibly can. Because you’re going to want to buy stuff in Dubai. A lot of stuff. That is unless you plan on spending every waking hour at the beach or pool. But my first rookie mistake when visiting Dubai was that I felt like I had to bring with me everything I needed – Boy was I wrong. One of the reasons that residents of Dubai tend to be on the wealthier side is because they enjoy tax-free status!
However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be somewhat prepared, at least clothing-wise. I did my research before arriving and packed a few pashminas (a wide scarf you can drape over your shoulders like a sweater or over your head.)
If you plan to visit a mosque, men definitely should be wearing long pants, sleeved, collared shirts. For women, wear something covering your shoulders, knees and a scarf over your head. If you don’t, the mosque will provide cover-up for you.
Wearing sturdy walking shoes is generally not needed. Dubai is notoriously un-pedestrian-friendly. You will no doubt be taking a cab or the metro to get where you want to go. That said, if you plan on spending some time in the world’s largest mall, then yeah, walking shoes!
And I highly recommend going to Dubai Mall. You will see a lot of shops and eateries found in the U.S., including high-end designer boutiques, but there is so much more! To get a real sense of Dubai culture, also visit one or two local souks. Again, dress conservatively and bring that trusty pashmina or shawl to throw around you should your blouse be a little too revealing.
What To Pack Wear in Dubai
- Ladies, pashminas are your friend! When out in public it is very handy to throw around your shoulders or over your head for the necessary cover-up. Pack a couple for the journey, but also leave room in your suitcase to buy some when you get to Dubai. Makes a great souvenir and is very fashionable! ALWAYS have one with you. The advantage of this is two-fold: to keep you modestly dressed in public AND to protect you from the hot desert sun.
- Low-cut tops, mini-skirts and other revealing clothing are a major no-no when out and about. Pack a couple of maxi dresses with short sleeves that cover the shoulders for the gal. Nice jeans, khakis and button-down shirts for both men and women will do.
- Only at poolside, on beaches and in nightclubs can women be less conservative in their dress. Bring a couple of kaftans for a stylish swimsuit cover-up. For the guys: wear a shirt with your swim trunks on the way to the pool.
- Men, you must dress conservatively on the street as well! No tank tops or ripped jeans. Shorts should be at knee-length. Flip-flops are okay. When in doubt, always be dressy casual.
- And ladies, if you want to bring that hot, revealing outfit, go for it! Just save it for the nightclub. Likewise, also pack a tasteful, dressy outfit for that fancy dinner, brunch or other social occasions.
- To get through the hot, sticky days, pack sunglasses, sunscreen and lip balm. I saw many women using folding fans to provide a little breeze on their face.
How Hot is it in Dubai?
Year-round, Dubai temperatures range from warm to down-right hot. Many people like to leave the city on a day trip to go on a short safari or for stargazing at night. For these activities, you should pack colder-weather and wind-breaking clothes. Long pants, hooded jackets, and UV-protection collared shirts are great.
August is the hottest month in Dubai with an average temperature of 96°F (36°C) and the coldest is January at 66°F (19°C) with the most daily sunshine hours at 12 in June. The wettest month is February with an average of 40mm of rain. The best month to swim in the sea is in August when the average sea temperature is 91°F (33°C).
Good Luck and Enjoy Your Trip