Lady looking at the view across the water in Abu Dhbai to Etihad Towers and Emirates Palace

What to Wear in Abu Dhabi: Demystifying The Abu Dhabi Dress Code

by Abu Dhabi Travel Planner

A major concern many tourists have when planning their first trip to the UAE is around the dress code in Abu Dhabi.

As you no doubt already know, Abu Dhabi is the capital of a Muslim country, and as such, a degree of modesty is needed in the way you dress and the way you behave.

The United Arab Emirates as a whole is nowhere near as conservative when it comes to dressing standards as other parts of the Gulf, but nonetheless, it pays to get yourself acquainted with what is legal and socially acceptable when it comes to how to dress in Abu Dhabi.

The standard of dress in Abu Dhabi varies considerably depending on your setting, so we will run you through several different locations and scenarios below. Whilst it’s important to dress for the climate, always bear your setting in mind and display cultural sensitivity when deciding what to wear in Abu Dhabi.

Dressing for Religion and the Heat in Abu Dhabi

Although daytime temperatures throughout the year range from mild to scorching in the peak of summer, you must remember at all times, you are in a Muslim country. It is possible to dress conservatively in Abu Dhabi which helps you deal with the weather but remains respectful.

There are a few basic rules tourists should look to observe:

  • 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

Yes, you will undoubtedly see someone who is wearing less than you or someone who claims they wore whatever they wanted when they were in Abu Dhabi. Don’t be THAT tourist. It doesn’t take much to show a little respect, even if it’s slightly beyond your normal wardrobe choices.

And it is true that it’s a little more conservative in Abu Dhabi (or more so, there are fewer tourists and more expatriates, so you will see the dress code in Abu Dhabi is better adhered to).

You can learn more about religion, laws and customs in Abu Dhabi here

Local Dress in Abu Dhabi

Most locals in Abu Dhabi dress in a traditional regional outfit. For men, this is:

Traditional Emirati dress for women in Abu Dhabi is:

  • A long black abaya
  • Black Shayla (head covering)
  • Very occasionally, you will still see some women with a metal burqa, but this is uncommon. Full niqabs or burkhas are extremely uncommon these days in the UAE.

What to Wear in Abu Dhabi As A Woman

The Abu Dhabi dress code for female tourists and expats can be tricky to navigate, but you’ll soon get the hang of it.

Non-Muslim females in the UAE are not required to have their heads covered – though carrying a shawl or pashmina with you is always a good idea to cover up if you feel awkward – and for a bit of sun and dust protection! – but not essential.

Women may also like to wear leggings under a dress if they feel it is too short, but as a general rule, avoid anything too tight, clingy, transparent or revealing.

What Should Men Wear in Abu Dhabi?

For men, you will find that despite the heat, nearly all gents wear full-length trousers. Male tourists are not expected to do the same all the time. It might be an idea to pack some light chinos when you are in public places, or if you go with shorts, try and keep them knee-length. Avoid singlet tops and sloganned t-shirts that may be in any way offensive.

The best thing to bear in mind is “am I dressed with modesty?” If in doubt, a helpful hotel concierge may be able to guide you.

Comprehensive Abu Dhabi Packing List

To help you prepare for your Abu Dhabi trip, you can download a complete packing list for Abu Dhabi, including clothing advice and all the extra documents, electronics and toiletry items you might want to pack.

Dress Code in Abu Dhabi – FAQs and Different Settings to Consider When Deciding What to Wear in Abu Dhabi

Now let’s take a look at some frequently asked questions about the dress code in Abu Dhabi and what to wear in Abu Dhabi in some different situations you may find yourself in:

What should I wear to the beach in Abu Dhabi?

You will no doubt see everything from itsy bitsy bikinis to full-length burkinis worn by women at the beach in Abu Dhabi. Some beaches are more conservative than others, particularly if they’re considered a family beach, such as on the Corniche.

It’s up to your personal style, but something that is more modest and doesn’t disappear up your bottom is considered more respectful. Topless bathing is considered a strict no-no (in fact, its against the law).

For men at the beach in Abu Dhabi, long shorts are better than speedos. It’s OK to have your top off.

At a resort beach and pool, the dress standard is a little more relaxed, you will see mostly skimpy swimwear, especially if there is a pool bar. This is absolutely fine, just make sure you bring something appropriate to cover yourself when moving through the public areas of the resort or if heading into a restaurant for a meal.

If you are asked by security to cover up a little, do so without argument. Security officers are well within their right to call the police if you do not cooperate or become abusive – remember, this is a big no-no in Abu Dhabi.

Beach front Jumeriah at Saadiyat

What should I wear to Yas Waterworld?

Again, you will see a wide variety of outfits, from bikinis to burkinis, at Yas Waterworld. Given the activities you will be undertaking and being out in the sun all day, it really is sensible for women to wear something more comfortable.

We would suggest a rashie top is a good idea for a waterpark, or at the very least, once-piece bathers that won’t come flopping off on any of the rides. If you’ll be hanging out by the kiddy pool, a nice kaftan pullover is sensible (you can see a few more ideas over on our Abu Dhabi packing list page)

For men, as per the beach, it’s better NOT to wear your skimpy speedos and wear shorts. Local lads will probably have T-shirts on as well as knee-length or three-quarter shorts, but tourists will be OK with shorter shorts and topless.

What should I wear to the Grand Mosque?

This popular tourist attraction – along with any religious or Government building in the UAE – has its own set of unique rules that are far more conservative and must be abided by at all times.

For women, unless you have all parts of your skin covered from ankles to the wrist, and a head covering, you will be asked to borrow an abaya and Shayla for your visit to the Grand Mosque (NB since COVID restrictions, you can no longer borrow this abaya for free, they will direct you to the nearby strip of shops to buy something appropriate).

This dress code is expected from teenagers (of those who have reached puberty) upwards.

For men, long trousers and covered shoulders are required. If you do not have trouser legs down to your ankles, then they will request you wear a kandura.

Here is a more detailed guide on what to wear for the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

What is the Qast Al Watan dress code?

The Presidential Palace in Abu Dhabi (Qasr al Watan) does not have as strict a dress code as the Grand Mosque, requiring women to be fully covered from ankle to wrist. There’s no need for a head covering as it’s not a religious building.

Visitors are, however, asked to dress in a modest manner – so follow the guidance on covered shoulders and knees as a minimum and skip anything that could be mistaken for beachwear.

What do I wear on a desert safari?

If you are headed into the desert on a popular Abu Dhabi desert safari, it is sensible to wear a closed-toe shoe if you’ll be participating in sand sports like sandboarding. Sand will inevitably get everywhere but it is safer than wearing your flip flops!

You will also want something to tie back long hair and sunhat and sunglasses for during daylight hours. In the middle of winter, it can be chilly overnight so we suggest you also pack a sweater.

You can find further advice for packing for an Abu Dhabi desert safari here.

What are children expected to wear in Abu Dhabi?

The dress standard for pre-pubescent children is much less stringent than for adults. Children should feel free to dress to the weather conditions.

You will find Muslim boys and girls on the whole dress a lot more conservatively – even at the peak of summer, they will still be in long trousers and long sleeves on many occasions. There is no obligation for your children to follow suit. If you have active little girls, then leggings under dresses may be sensible, but otherwise, dress as they please.

Do I need a Hijab in Abu Dhabi?

Non-Muslim women do not need to cover their hair in Abu Dhabi. Only if you enter a religious building this will be required, and one can be provided for you if you did not pack one.

Can I wear a bikini in Abu Dhabi?

As we covered above, yes, wearing a bikini in Abu Dhabi is acceptable in the right poolside or beach setting.

Can you wear shorts in Abu Dhabi?

Yes, it is absolutely fine for women and men to wear shorts in Abu Dhabi in most settings. You may feel more comfortable in longer shorts to your knees, but mid-thigh is OK in most situations.

What sort of footwear is suitable in Abu Dhabi?

Anything from flip flops to trainers is perfectly acceptable. Locally, men tend to wear sandals with their kanduras and sandals or slip-on leather shoes are pretty standard casual wear.

For women, sandals, heels, flip flops take your choice; while there’s a bit to think about covering your upper body, pretty much anything goes on your feet.

The only setting you may need to really think about is dining out and nightlife. Some venues won’t let you in with flip flops or shoes considered ‘beach wear’ or trainers, men and women.

If you are hitting the theme parks, walking the museums or taking a desert safari, think comfort first.

Is the dress code different in Dubai?

The dress code for Dubai is the same as Abu Dhabi. Although you will find there are more tourists in Dubai and the rules are stretched more often, the core principles are the same.

Dress for the heat but try to remain modest and consider your surroundings at all times in Dubai; What you wear to the Mall or Souqs is quite different to what you can get away with wearing at some beaches or in a private resort.

You can find our complete dress code advice for Dubai here.

If you head over here we have a complete guide to everything you need to pack for Abu Dhabi, plus a downloadable packing list so you don’t forget any essential items.

Before you go… Important things to consider when planning a trip to Abu Dhabi

Take me back to Abu Dhabi Essential Planning Information

Please note we are not a travel agency. This site is a travel blog to help newcomers to the UAE self plan their trip, we cannot book your flights, hotels, visas or connections for you. We may make a small commission if you click on any of our hotel or tour recommendation links.

Abu Dhabi Travel Planner

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