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What not to wear in Abu Dhabi

What not to wear in Abu Dhabi

Wondering what to wear in Abu Dhabi? Concerned about the Abu Dhabi dress code? In this guide we round up what not to wear in Abu dhabi and the best alternatives to make sure you don’t offend. 

Note: If you are traveling to the UAE you may also be interested in are what not to wear in Dubai guide also. 

Important Note: This post may contain affiliate links which means if you click through and make a purchase I will make a small commission at no extra cost to you. 

Are there any dress restrictions in Abu Dhabi? Abu Dhabi dress code rules

Yes there are dress restrictions in Abu Dhabi and there are strict Abu Dhabi dress code rules. They can be summed up as 

·      Do not show your knees

·      Do not show your mid riff

·      Do not have your shoulders on show 

It is also worth noting that these rules apply to both men and women. Most people assume that Abu Dhabi dress code rules applies to women alone however that is not true and they are equally applicable to men. 

With these rules in mind there are certain things on the what not to wear in Abu Dhabi.

And if you are visiting other countries in the region be sure to check out our wondering what to wear in the Middle East post which offers a helpful country comparison.

What do locals wear in Abu Dhabi

There is a strong national dress in the UAE and men and women in Abu Dhabi will wear it.

For women the local traditional dress is 

·      A black abaya

·      Black shayla (a head covering)

Male Emirati tradional dress is

·      Long white dishdashi

·      Ghutrah with black igal. Basically a white headscarf with a black tie securing. 

However tourists will not be expected to wear these and it is really only citizens and other Gulf citizens that wear this rather than expats or tourists. 

What not to wear in Abu Dhabi


Although the weather is hot in Abu Dhabi, do not be tempted to wear short shorts. 

Any shorts you. Wear in Abu Dhabi should cover your knees to adhere to the Abu Dhabi dress code. This is true for both men and women. 

Strappy tops

One of the fundamentals of the Abu Dhabi dress code is that your shoulders should be covered at all times. Therefore strappy tops including spaghetti straps and tank tops fall out of permissible Abu Dhabi clothing requirements. 

Be sure to swap out your strappy tops for t shirts and tops that have at minimum cap sleeves that cover the complete shoulder. 

Crop Tops

Crop tops and sports bras (Unless doing a sport) are a big no no in Abu Dhabi. Midriffs, like. Shoulders and knees should be kept covered by tourists at all times in Dbu Dhabi. 

Although It is hot switch out the crop tops for loose flowy tops.


Although in other parts of the world swimwear may be worn in a variety of locations, in Abu Dhabi swimwear is only permissible at beaches, beach clubs, pools and water parks. Anywhere else leave the swimwear at home. 

Mini skirts

In the same way that shorts are not acceptable, neither are mini skirts. If you wish to wear a skirt as a tourist in Abu Dhabi then you should look at nothing shorter than a midi or a maxi skirt. 

Mini skirts aren’t respectful or appropriate in Abu Dhabi. 

Synthetic fabrics

Whatever time of year you are visiting Abu Dhabi it will be hot. However Abu Dhabi in July or August is HOT HOT HOT. 

Although it can be tempting to wear skimpy clothing it isn’t appropriate and you definitely will not want to be wearing synthetic fabrics. 

Synthetic fabrics will make you hot and sweaty quicker than natural fabrics. When traveling to Abu Dhabi stick to natural fabrics like linen and cotton as they are more breathable and more comfortable from traveling around Abu Dhabi. 

Tight clothing

While nothing is explicit in the rules about itghness of clothing it is not in the spirit of the rules to have something super tight fitting. 

Also given the heat in Abu Dhabi really tight clothes will make you sweat much more. The best Abu Dhabi capsule wardrobe will be made up of flowy pieces rather than tight fitting ones. 

See through clothing 

Anything that is overly revealing is a strict no no in Abu Dhabi where you should follow all modesty rules. See through clothing is strictly against the Abu Dhabi dress code and should be left at home. 

How strict is Abu Dhabi re clothing

If you are wondering how strict Abu Dhabi is re clothing the answer is pretty strict. 

If you have been to Dubai you may see the what not to wear in Dubai rules being flaunted. I do not recommend doing that in Dubai and certainly not in Abu Dhabi. 

It is not respectful and you could get into trouble for doing so. Play it safe and keep your attire to respectful and modest wherever you are traveling in the UAE. 

Abu Dhabi is more conservative than Dubai and tourist should eb aware of this when picking out their Abu Dhabi clothing. 

Top tip for what not to wear in Abu Dhabi

Whenever I am traveling in Abu Dhabi or the rest of the middle east I always carry a pashmina with me. I do this for a couple of reasons. 

Firstly, if you ever find yourself underdressed and need to cover yourself more a Pashmina can be used to give oyu a bit more modesty. 

Secondly, being such a hot country everywhere you will go to in Abu Dhano will have air conditioning. Pashminas are great for being an extra layer in places like Dubai Mall and cinemas. 

Exceptions to the Abu Dhabi Dress Code.

5* Hotels and Beach Resorts / Abu Dhabi Beach Dress Code

What to Wear in Abu Dhabi - beaches and hotels
What to Wear in Abu Dhabi – beaches and hotels

The big exception to the Abu Dhabi Dress Code rules is at 5* Hotels and beach resorts.  I would sum the Abu Dhabi Beach Dress Code as being  less strict than other locations in Abu Dhabi especially religious sites however still not as free as the West. 

Although you will see skimpy swimwear at these locales, I would still recommend being more modest. 

I personally do not recommend wearing string bikinis and thongs even at 5* Hotels and beach resorts in Abu Dhabi. 

If you visit a public beach then your swimwear and clothing should be more conservative. 

Also if oyu do get asked to cover up by a security guard or member of staff please do so immediate without argument or protest. Police can be called to enforce dress code rules. 

Religious Sites

While a female tourist in Abu Dhabi does not have to wear a hijab there are exceptions to the rule. Namely religious sites. 

One of the best things to do in Abu Dhabi is visit the Grand Mosque. Here you must be covered from ankle to wrist., If your clothing doesn’t comply you will be given a hijab and abaya to wear. 

Woman at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque - Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Abu Dhabi Dress code
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Abu Dhabi Dress code

For a full guide on what to wear to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Abu Dhabi click here.

Or why not check out our other UAE travel style guides including our guide to the Burj Khalifa Dress Code.

FAQS on what not to wear in Abu Dhabi, UAE

Is it ok to wear shorts in Abu Dhabi?

It is ok to wear shorts in Abu Dhabi with an exception. The exception is if those shorts are higher than knee length. 

Modesty rules say your knees should be covered at all times so if you want to wear shorts make sure they are covered. 

Do I need to wear a Hijab in Abu Dhabi?

Good news is that you do not need to wear a hijab in Abu Dhabi as a women. This is not part of the Abu Dhabi Dress code for females. 

The only exception to this is if you are visiting a religious setting such as the Grand Mosque. 

Here you will need a hijab and also need to be covered from wrist to ankle. 

But do not worry about packing a hijab. Religious tourist attractions like the grand mosque will usually have hijabs and abayas available for rent or to borrow. 

Can I wear a bikini in Abu Dhabi?

You can wear a bikini in Abu Dhabi in certain settings such as pools and beaches. However they are unacceptable outside of these settings

Have you been to Abu Dhabi? What would you add to the what not to wear in Abu Dhabi guide? What would you leave at home next time

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