The A-Z link provided for its staff by the Fujairah Women’s College (Higher Colleges of Technology) is most helpful and well worth quoting. Here are a couple of snippets from their more extensive article on D for dress:
Clothes and Climate
“You will be most comfortable if you wear light-coloured clothing made of natural fibres, since they allow your skin to "breathe." The breathability of your clothes is an important consideration, since the hot weather begins in April and continues to November. Even in the "cold" months, a lightweight jacket or a heavy sweater will probably suffice for outerwear. An umbrella can be useful both to protect from the heavy occasional winter rain and to shield you from the sun in summer.”
“A hat and good sunglasses are necessary. Both can be purchased locally, but bring them with you if possible so that you will have them from the first day.”
Clothes and Culture
“Women should take care that their clothing is modestly cut - no plunging necklines, slit skirts, or filmy [is that flimsy? Maybe not!] materials.”
“In your own home and around the hotel swimming pools, you may wear what you like. [Some European women choose to wear very little around the hotel pools, as is their custom] On desert trips or by the seaside you can wear modest shorts and in the shopping malls of Dubai where the dress code is more relaxed.”
The legs, even the ankles, and the shoulders need to be covered according to traditional Islamic custom. I overheard an Emirati man on the Fujairah corniche mutter to his friend the word ‘haram’ (not proper according to Sharia law) as a woman passed them with a sleeveless shirt.
Tourists need to be aware of the stricter enforcement of the dress code in the emirate of Sharjah. An article in 2001 (have they loosened up since?) announced their hard line on improper dress and the consequences for breaches of this code:
“The new Decency Law will make no exceptions whatsoever for women of any nationality wearing ‘indecent dresses that expose the stomach and back, short clothing above the knees, and tight, transparent clothing that describes the body’, said a senior police officer.”
“We have begun implementing the new law throughout the emirate since September 26 according to the directions of His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah,” said the officer.
“Any revealing clothes worn by women will be considered a violation of the new law, whether they are saris or any other types of clothes.”
“The traditional sari can be worn in a way to cover the whole body, stomach and back. It is an Indian traditional dress, but can be worn properly so that it is considered decent. It should cover the stomach and back. All traditional dresses of all countries must be worn in this decent way,” said the officer.
“The new rules and objectives, he added, are aimed at protecting public values and decency and providing a peaceful atmosphere for residents and tourists in accordance with the UAE Federal Constitution.”
“Sharjah Police personnel have been instructed to implement the new rules and objectives in a civilised manner by giving advice to offenders first and helping people understand what is decency and what the new rules are all about.”
“Offenders who fail to respond positively will be penalised. They can be deprived of public service until they respect the rules,” said the officer.
A further consideration for female travelers and residents to the UAE has to do with attracting undue attention because of the exposure of skin. Here is a commentary by a recent British tourist on the scene created by his wife who dressed in shorts while touring the streets of more tolerant Dubai:
“Being a Friday though meant that foreign workers were all off work. Hundreds of Indian men were being bussed into the city, and most were hanging around in huge groups talking or else browsing the shops. Whenever we approached them, all would stare at Angela. If one man spotted her, he would soon tell his companions, until crowds of men were openly gawping at her.”
“Jesus,” I whispered to Angela as we squeezed our way through them. The men moved to allow us past, but every one was staring and smiling. It was as if they had never seen a woman before. One man even leered, showing Angela some blackened teeth.”
“This is what it must be like to be famous,” said Angela, clearly embarrassed, trying to keep her gaze fixed forward.”
“I, on the other hand, was being totally ignored. And this gave me an opportunity to gauge just how much attention Angela was getting. As we walked towards the tunnel, I watched the men watching Angela. After only a few hundred yards, it seemed as if every single man was staring at her, young and old, it didn’t matter. She was the centre of attention.”
“As we entered the tunnel, the crowd of men compressed and the heat soon became oppressive. It didn’t take long to realise that we were the only Westerners in the tunnel which at that precise time must have been accommodating hundreds of Indian men. Angela was the only woman.”
“I suppose it must be like prisoners,” I commented to Angela as we made our way through the underpass. “They’re cooped up all day long and hardly ever see a woman. And the ones they do see are covered from head to toe in black. So now when they see you in your shorts, they’re going ape-shit. Who can blame them?”
“We were soon out the other side of the tunnel, and by now, the spectacle of fifty pairs of eyes all swivelling towards Angela in unison was almost comical. Even Angela accepted the stares. “I suppose I should feel flattered.”
Check out the other hilarious memories of this Dubai holidaymaker including his encounter with an aircraft full of abayed women, the congested streets of Dubai and ‘water, water, everywhere’, meeting guess-who at Wild Wadi, touring the shopping malls, the crisis when they couldn’t get a drink in dry Dubai, haggling at the souk, the cramped accommodation of foreign construction workers and traveling up the creek without a paddle.
Dr Geoff Pound
Image: Not necessarily meeting proper UAE requirements on several counts.
Check out the more recent article, ‘Bodies, Bikinis and Breast Feeding in the UAE’.
Another updated article appears at this link, What to Wear in the United Arab Emirates.
Check It Out
Check out the new site America’s Cup in the UAE.