The Abu Dhabi dress code is something we get a lot of questions on. Having lived in Abu Dhabi we know the country intimately and know all the rules about what to wear in Abu Dhabi, and of course what not to wear in Abu Dhabi. In this guide we answer your most burning Abu Dhabi dress code questions whether you are coming on a long layover or for a longer trip.
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Frequently Asked Abu Dhabi Dress Code Questions
How do people dress in Abu Dhabi?
Before we get into how to dress as a tourist in Abu Dhabi it is worth looking at how local people dress in Abu Dhabi. The Emirati National Dress is commonly worn by Emirati Nationals in Abu Dhabi and you will definitely see it as you wonder around the city.
Local women in Abu Dhabi will wear the abaya. The Abaya is a black robe worn over clothes alongside the black headscarf known as the shayla.
Because of this a lot of people worry if you have to wear a hijab in Abu Dhabi but we will cover this in more detail below – so keep reading.
Also unlike in its neighbouring country of Saudi Arabia you are unlikely to see local women wearing the Niqab – a face covering which covers everywhere except for the eyes or even a burka which is a full covering without the opening over the eyes, instead it uses a mesh.
The Emirati National Dress for men is also worn frequently and will be seen everywhere around the city. The male national dressing the UAE is a white long thobe (or alternatively called a dish dash or Pandora) with a ghutrah (A traditional head covering) which is secured with a thick black rope.
Abu Dhabi Dress Code VS Dubai Dress Code
Abu Dhabi and Dubai are the most well known cities in the UAE, a country made up of seven Emirates. While both are the most well known cities and most likely to get visits from tourists. However despite being both well known Emirati cities and only being a couple of hours drive from each other the dress codes are different.
Dubai is the tourist capital of the UAE and Abu Dhabi the business centre as such the Dubai dress code is more lax than that, in Abu Dhabi. While I would advise everyone to stick to the UAE dress code, you will see more “rule breakers” in Dubai than you will be Abu Dhabi.
So what are the rules of the Abu Dhabi dress code?
What to wear in Abu Dhabi as a woman?
If you are wondering what to wear in Abu Dhabi as a woman there are four things that you need to keep in mind:
- Shoulders must be kept covered
- Knees must be covered
- No Cleavage
- Clothing should not be too revealing or too tight
Overall I would surmise that as a conservative Muslim country your clothing as a woman in the UAE and Abu Dhabi in particular should be conservative too.
Do you have to wear a hijab in Abu Dhabi as a woman?
When people used to come and visit us in Abu Dhabi the number one question we would be asked is do you have to wear a hijab or head scarf?
I think the reason for this is due to the national dress which is frequently worn throughout the Emirates and most people want to follow “the rules”.
However the good news is that as an expat or tourist in Abu Dhabi you are not expected to wear a hijab, headscarf, burka or any other national dress item with one exception …
That exception is Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Dress Code which requires women to be fully covered. For full information on the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Dress Code check out this post.
However it is worth pointing out that if you are visiting other countries in the region be sure to check out our what to wear in the Middle East post which offers a helpful country comparison on which places head scarves are required.
Can you wear a bikini in Abu Dhabi?
In answer to can you wear a bikini in Abu Dhabi the answer is both yes and no. If you are on one of the many beautiful public beaches or in other public places then I would advise you not to wear a skimpy bikini.
However if you are at a private beach or in a five star hotel you may wear a bikini on the beach or around the pool. I would however still wear a bikini that has more covering than say a thong bikini to be respectful of local culture. For more details on the beach dress code in Abu Dhabi check out this post.
Also please be advised that it is illegal to sunbathe topless in the UAE so absolutely do not do this.
Can you wear shorts in Abu Dhabi as a woman?
The answer to can you wear shorts in Abu Dhabi is yes and no. The reason for this is because it really depends on the shorts you are wearing and the location you are at.
If you are in a public place then you can wear shorts as a woman in Abu Dhabi however the shorts must cover your knees to be inline with the Abu Dhabi dress code.
I personally find it hard to find a pair of shorts that cover my knees that I find fashionable. Therefore I usually opt for a midi or a maxi skirt or dress instead of shorts but that is personal preference.
However there is even an exception to this which is at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. For full information on the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Dress Code check out this post.
However if you are at one of the 5* star resorts then you of course can wear shorts of any length though again I prefer to air on the more conservative side even at the resorts.
Can you wear jeans in Abu Dhabi?
Yes you can absolutely wear jeans in Abu Dhabi. However I don’t recommend it especially if you are visiting Abu Dhabi in summer when the temperatures skyrocket.
The only place I would personally consider wearing jeans in Abu Dhabi is in a mall or at the cinema where the air conditioning can be very strong.
Can you wear ripped jeans in Abu Dhabi?
The question of can you wear ripped jeans in Abu Dhabi is a controversial one because it depends on where the rips are to whether or not it would be against the rules.
If the rips on your jeans are above the knees then this would definitely be against the Abu Dhabi dress code rules. However you will probably see people wearing them in Abu Dhabi but it wouldn’t be my choice.
Can you wear skinny jeans in Abu Dhabi?
Now we know you can wear jeans in Abu Dhabi – what about skinny jeans? I would say you can wear skinny jeans in Abu Dhabi but it is against the ethos of the rules.
I personally would opt for jeans other than skinny.
Can I wear leggings in Abu Dhabi?
Similarly to the question of wearing skinny jeans, we also get asked ‘can I wear leggings in Abu Dhabi?” As they are tight fitting I probably wouldn’t wear them out in more conservative public places and they can feel quite hot but you will definitely see them in the city especially if people are exercising.
What is the Abu Dhabi dress code for men?
If you are wondering what the Abu Dhabi dress code for men is the answer is that it is very similar to the Abu Dhabi dress code for women.
For some reason many people think that the Abu Dhabi dress code rules and. conservative dress only applies to women in Islamic countries (check out our guides on what not to wear in Qatar and what not to wear in Dubai for comparison), however this simply isn’t true.
The Abu Dhabi Dress code for men says that
- Men must keep their shoulders covered
- Men must keep their knees covered
Can men wear shorts in Abu Dhabi?
Bearing the above in mind any short a man wears in a public place should cover the knee. However if you are in the 5* hotel resorts then this is an exception to the rule.
What to wear in Abu Dhabi for Children
Specific Abu Dhabi Dress Codes
Although the rules above are a great rule of thumb to stick by we will now examine some of the biggest Abu Dhabi attraction and cultural sites dress codes.
What to wear in Abu Dhabi Airport
What to wear in Abu Dhabi Airport will largely depending on whether you are just transiting through or if you are clearing customs.
If you plan to clear customs and enter the UAE from Abu Dhabi then all regular Abu Dhabi dress code rules apply i..e keeping shoulders and knees covered, no overly tight or revealing clothes etc.
However if you are only transiting say onto Asia or as part of the Kangaroo route to Australia then your dress doesn’t have to be as strict. However having said that, I always like to respect the culture of the countries I am transiting through.
What is the Louvre Abu Dhabi Dress Code
The Louvre Abu Dhabi is one of the newish museums on the cultural scene in Abu Dhabi. It is an absolutely stunning building and contains some absolutely jewels in the collection it has borrowed from its sister site, The Louvre Paris.
Perhaps surprisingly the Louvre Abu Dhabi does not have a dress code other than making sure you stick to general UAE dress code.
However having been to the Louvre in Abu Dhabi there are two things I would consider packing. They are
- Comfortable Shoes – there is lots of walking involved in a day at the Louvre and the floors are very hard and slippy. Having good shoes is a must for a day at the Louvre.
- A Pashmina or top layer – the air conditioning at the Louvre is fierce so be sure to have an extra layer with you to protect you from the chill.
For more information on what to wear to an art gallery check out this post.
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Dress Code
Of all the places in Abu Dhabi the place with the strictest dress code is unsurprisingly the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
The dress code at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is that:
- head must be covered at all times
- you must be covered wrist to ankles
This is the only place in Abu Dhabi where a head scarf is required. And while an abaya is not a requirement many people will find this easier. If there is any risk that you will have flesh on show you will be asked to cover up with an abaya.
But fear not they are very readily available at the Mosque and as an added bonus the abaya rental is free of charge.
My outfit on out visit did adhere to the dress code requirements however I still did do the abaya rental. I felt personally this was part of the experience of the Mosque but if your outfit does comply with the rules you won’t be forced to wear one if you don’t want to.
For men you will also be expected to stay covered from ankles to wrists. I recommend men wear long loose trousers and long length cotton shirts.
Please note: this dress code is enforced for teenagers upwards. Children will not be expected to adhere to the dress code rules.
For further information on what to wear to Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque check out this post.
Note: Currently Covid restrictions been that abaya rental is not currently available. If your outfit does not meet the strict dress code requirements you will be asked to go the mall to get a cover.
Yas Water World
At Yas Water World you will see a whole range of swimwear on show. This is from burkhinis to skimpier bikinis.
Now I would personally not choose to wear a bikini because I don’t feel as comfortable wearing one in the Middle East. Also many of the rides are quite wild and couple that with the sun we recommend covering your self up a bit more.
We recommend pairing a pair of shorts as well as a rash vest to protect yourself from the sun as well as ensuring your modesty on the rides.
And for men I recommend the rash vest also along with longer length short style bottoms rather than revealing speedos.
Abu Dhabi Presidential Palace Dress Code
The Abu Dhabi Presidential Palace, otherwise known as Qasr al Watan. Unlike the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi the Abu Dhabi Presidential Palace does not have a super strict dress code.
You will have to adhere to the regular UAE dress code rules with modesty but there are no other specific rules that you have to adhere to.
What to Wear on a Desert Safari in Abu Dhabi
For me no visit to the UAE is complete without doing a desert safari. Which leads us to the questions “What to wear on a desert safari in Abu Dhabi?”
The trick to dressing for the desert is to dress for the heat, but also knowing that the sun is fierce so your skin needs protecting.
Also if you are staying in the desert overnight it is important to know that the temperatures in the desert do drop at night so you will need an extra layer if you are camping.
Also while it may be tempting to just bring sandals, if you are planning to do some desert sports such as sandboarding or camel riding it will be better to have a closed toe shoe with you.
For more information on what to wear on a desert safari check out this post.
Have we missed your burning question about what to wear in Abu Dhabi? Then leave us a comment below and we will happily answer anything else you want to know about the Abu Dhabi dress code.