Expat Life in Dubai
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Clothing Guide: Acceptance and Tolerance in Dubai, Sharjah, and Abu Dhabi

New in UAE? Read our comprehensive clothing guide to find out how you can dress up appropriately in various UAE cities.

Published on
July 22, 2023

When it comes to clothing in the UAE, it is essential to take into account the cultural norms and expectations, particularly in more conservative cities like Sharjah and Abu Dhabi. While Dubai is relatively more liberal in terms of clothing choices, certain guidelines should still be followed to ensure respect for local customs and traditions. In this guide, we will explore the accepted clothing styles for both men and women in Dubai, Sharjah, and Abu Dhabi.

Dubai: A Blend of Modernity and Tradition

Dubai is known for its cosmopolitan and multicultural environment, where a wide range of clothing styles is accepted. As a global city, it embraces a more liberal approach to fashion compared to other UAE cities. Western-style clothing, such as jeans, t-shirts, dresses, and skirts, is commonly worn by both men and women in Dubai. 

However, it is important to maintain modesty in dress. While there is no specific dress code, it is advisable to avoid excessively revealing or provocative clothing, particularly in public areas. When visiting religious sites, such as mosques or during Ramadan, it is respectful to dress more conservatively, with women covering their shoulders and wearing skirts or pants below the knees.

Sharjah: Embracing Traditional Values

Sharjah, known as the cultural capital of the UAE, follows more conservative standards when it comes to clothing. The dress code in Sharjah is generally more traditional, reflecting the city's commitment to preserving its cultural heritage. Visitors should be aware that, in keeping with Sharjah’s decency guidelines introduced in 2001.

Women are expected to dress modestly, wearing loose-fitting clothing that covers their shoulders, upper arms, and legs below the knees. It is common to see women wearing abayas, long black cloaks, and headscarves. Men are also expected to dress modestly, wearing long pants and shirts that cover their shoulders. When in public spaces, it is important to respect local customs and adhere to these conservative clothing guidelines.

Abu Dhabi: Balancing Tradition and Modernity

Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE, strikes a balance between traditional values and modern influences. While it is relatively more conservative than Dubai, it still allows for some flexibility in clothing choices. 

Traditional Emirati clothing, such as the kandora for men and the abaya for women, is commonly seen in Abu Dhabi. However, Western-style clothing is also accepted as long as it adheres to the guidelines of modesty. Women are expected to dress modestly, covering their shoulders and wearing skirts or pants below the knees. Men are generally seen in long pants and shirts. It is advisable to dress more conservatively when visiting religious sites and during important cultural events.

In general: 

  • Aim to cover shoulders and knees
  • Avoid showing midriffs and cleavage
  • Avoid anything transparent or overly clingy
  • If someone does ask you to cover up – do so without protest

General Tips for Dressing in the UAE


Regardless of the city you are in, it is important to prioritize modesty in your clothing choices. Opt for clothing that covers your shoulders, upper arms, and knees.

Cultural Sensitivity

Respect the local customs and traditions by avoiding clothing that may be seen as offensive or disrespectful. This includes clothing with offensive slogans, images, or excessive skin exposure.

Religious Sites

When visiting mosques or other religious sites, both men and women should dress more conservatively, with women covering their hair and wearing long dresses or pants.


While swimwear is acceptable at private beaches and resorts, it is advisable to cover up when leaving the beach area and respect the local culture.

Business Attire

If you are visiting for business purposes, it is recommended to dress in formal or business attire. Men typically wear suits or smart-casual clothing, while women opt for modest and professional attire.

The Bottom Line

To sum it up, while Dubai embraces a more liberal approach to clothing, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi follow more conservative guidelines. Understanding and respecting the cultural norms and expectations in each city is essential to ensure a harmonious and respectful experience. By dressing modestly and adhering to local customs, you can roam around UAE with ease and show appreciation for its rich cultural heritage.

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