Understanding the Dos and Don’ts of a city can sometimes be a bit of a challenge. Culture, weather, location and planned activities can all impact what should go in your suitcase (if you’re travelling) or in your wardrobe (if you live there). This article will give you some friendly advice on what to wear so that you can avoid making some of the common wardrobe mishaps we see in and around Dubai.
Welcome to the desert, where summer temperatures soar to nearly 50°C and winter seldom sees it dip below 20°C. This is not something that’s easy to get used to, it doesn’t matter whether it’s your first time experiencing the summer sunshine or the 10th time. It can be a real struggle.
Public places such as malls and of course work environments encourage a modest dress code. As a rule of thumb, men and women alike should try to cover up to the knees and at least have some sort of sleeves on the blouse or t-shirt. Formal guidelines are published on the Government website.
Of course, as with everything, there are people who will dress as they please with little or no regard for the perception of others. That’s fine. Just bear in mind that if you choose not to follow the dress code guidelines, you may be approached and asked to cover up or leave.
The exception to the rule is at the beach. Bikinis and swimming shorts are everywhere, and that’s fine because of course, Dubai is the perfect place to be working on your tan. That said, topless sunbathing for women is an absolute no-no. If you do happen to be at a beach with a shopping area or restaurants nearby, such as at JBR & The Walk, then the previous guidelines about dress code in public places applies. You’ll be expected to wear appropriate clothing and footwear before you step off the sand. Happily, flip-flops are considered appropriate footwear almost everywhere!
The vibrant and varied nightlife in Dubai is a scene where it seems like almost anything goes. Short skirts and skyscraper heels strut around without a care in the world, and it’s so easy to forget that you’re in Dubai. When the lights go out and Dubai’s young and beautiful hit the town, it seems that the dress code rules don’t apply. Everyone is there to enjoy clubbing and all that comes with it. In fact, going out in Dubai is very much a fashion affair. If you’re not dressed up to the nines, it’s quite possible that many of the high-end clubs will refuse you entry. Men in particular could have a hard time getting into clubs. Increase your odds by looking sharp; wear a shirt, trousers and proper shoes.
Dressing for the desert is a bit of a learned skill. The weather can be quite different amongst the dunes than it is in the city. When it’s hot, it’s really hot. When it’s cold, it’s really cold. Winter temperatures out in the vastness can easily be close to freezing.
If you’re planning a desert dinner or an overnight camp under the stars, then be prepared. You’ll need proper warm clothing and an adequate sleeping bag or blankets to protect you from the chill in the air. What to wear will depend on what you’re planning to do. Proper footwear might also be necessary if you want to scamper around in the wadi (riverbed) or the mountains.
With year-round sunshine, looking out of your window can be deceiving when you’re trying to judge the weather. Blue skies and bright sunshine in winter can still mean temperatures of between 10°C and 15°C outside. It seems crazy to think that it could be necessary to wear a jacket and a scarf in the desert. And for some people it is; they come here for a winter beach break. You’ll see plenty of people soaking up the sunshine at the beach or at the pool. So what to wear in winter? Well, it really depends on how much you feel the cold.
Temperatures do vary, sometimes winter temperatures can get into the mid-20s. It’s best to be prepared with a little bit of everything in your suitcase or wardrobe. Jeans and t-shirts with a light cardigan or a thin jumper will probably be just fine during the daytime. Evenings for some people will be perfect with a long sleeved shirt. You’ll see others out and about wearing boots, jackets and scarves. Personally, I think it’s more about dressing for winter fashion than a real necessity, but each to their own.
Just a final note about the holy month of Ramadan (currently in full swing, June 2016). If you are going to be in Dubai during this time, make special consideration for how you dress and behave in public. It’s preferable for ladies to have a scarf draped around their shoulders and arms if you do happen to have short sleeves or a low cut top on. Clubs are closed during this time and food and drinks are not allowed in public, so even beaches tend to be quiet. There are a selected few restaurants and cafes that will still be open, but blinds will be drawn to hide any sight of people eating inside from passers-by.
*Feature Image by LeFanciulle. Nightlife photo by Dejavu, taken of us in a Dubai nightclub. All other photos are our own.