When you first arrive in Dubai, the juxtaposition of tradition and modernity can leave you confused. You might see Emiratis and other Arabs from around the Gulf region dressed in long robes, the men in white kanduras and the women in black abayas. Then there are the expats who flaunt figure-hugging dresses, spaghetti straps, thigh grazing shorts, and backless gowns. So you begin to wonder, where do you fit in?
Dubai, undoubtedly, is one of the most modern cities on this list and is famously tolerant of other cultures. This is a natural evolution resulting from the city having become a melting pot of diverse nationalities. Many expats feel comfortable dressing in Dubai exactly as they would back home, but the fact remains that this isn’t always the right thing to do. While Western attire is predominant and always appropriate, maintaining a certain level of modesty is key, depending on the setting.
For formal situations, bring tailored trousers, smart blazers, fitted shirts, and dresses that do not show cleavage. For casual wear, skinny jeans, tops, cool t-shirts, knee-length summer dresses, and long flowing dresses and skirts work really well, especially during the warmer summer months. If you want to wear a mini-skirt, do so with leggings underneath that aren’t transparent.
For summer, pack light and breezy fabrics that don’t cling to your skin, so you aren’t uncomfortable. Shorts are appropriate in summer but shouldn’t be too tight or above the knees to avoid disapproving looks or worse, being asked to cover up in public areas such as shopping malls or the cinema.
At clubs and bars, you’d see people dressed up as they would in European cities, but use your discretion when you decide how much is too much. Pack at least one pair of glamorous heels as some venues insist on a dress code barring flat footwear and sneakers.
Both bikinis and swimsuits are appropriate on public beaches but bikinis shouldn’t be overly skimpy. Beachwear isn’t acceptable anywhere except the beach or pool.
Bring scarves, hats, and beautiful jewelry to add a little color or sparkle to simple outfits. For the cooler months, from November to March, bring one or two light jackets that can go from day to night.
Pack at least one pair of comfortable walking shoes, as you’ll find yourself taking the metro often, considering that it’s the most affordable and convenient form of public transportation. Finally, don’t forget a pair of cute sunglasses- they’re indispensable regardless of where you are in the UAE.
Bear in mind that Dubai is a fashionable city and people are generally well put together, both in business and social settings. Appearances and presentation play a huge role in the quality of your interactions here, so bring a few statement pieces that you can use to dress to impress.