I have now visited Dubai, Sharjah and Ajman and crossed through Fujairah. However I have stayed only in Dubai and Sharjah for a few days on separate trips. I hoped over to Ajman from Sharjah on a whim. It was a short day trip, I really did not send much time in Ajman. Still, here is a quick take about the dress code for women in Ajman.
The first thing that surprised me was women in bikini on the Ajman Beach, which is a public beach. There was this young women who wore her shirt but didn’t bother to cover her legs. I could also see that no one was paying them any extra attention so that might be the norm.
Then there was this older woman on the same beach in her bikini! Now that was interesting to me. I also saw a couple (but could not photograph them even from far) where the girl was wearing a capri and short sleeved T-shirt.
I was wearing a jeans and a long sleeved sweater as it was cold after the rains in Sharjah. I was walking down the public beach when a traditionally dressed man approached me and politely asked about my well being. I replied and to make things clear added, I was a tourist staying in Sharjah. He pointed to his car (BMW) in the parking area nearby and offered to drop me to Sharjah! He would speak some Arabic in between his English. I told him I did not understand him and walked away. He waved from his car, tried to attract attention but went away eventually. This was an absolute first for me in UAE. Before this, no one, absolutely no one, tried to talk to me unless I asked for something!
I twice took a taxi in Ajman (as I was short on time) and both the drivers were Pakistani. They were amiable young men, ready to answer all my queries. One of them remarked when I told him I was staying in Sharjah, “here it is not like Sharjah, if you wish to, you can go out with anyone willingly.” In Sharjah apparently opposite sex is not encouraged to mingle unless you are related.
In Ajman I also noticed that not everyone was wearing black (the lady in the first picture is wearing a pink abaya) but many still covered their head. The girl in the restaurant where I had lunch was covering her head but wearing a shirt.
As I said I saw only a little of Ajman but my feeling is that it has a more liberal dress code for women than Sharjah.
Sharjah, Dubai and Ajman are next door neighbors. My thought before visiting was, “how different can be the dress code for women in the three Emirates?” The answer is very different. I was in Sharjah for few days in February on invitation of Sharjah Tourism Board and Air Arabia. I was in Dubai in December last year. But when it comes to dress code for women in Sharjah, it is different from its neighbors.
The official policy will ask you to cover your shoulders and knees (this is true for both men and women) and you are perfectly fine in a jeans and T-shirt. However in Sharjah I heard additional qualifications, clothes should not be too tight, not too transparent, etc.
Many local women dress conservatively, in abaya and hijab. Abaya is the loose garment that covers the body and hijab is the headgear. But they do not cover their face. A tourist is not at all expected to dress like this.
Here is what I saw women actually wearing on the streets- two women walking on the waterfront in skirts and T-shirts but you can see the skirts are long!
Then I got a glimpse of this woman walking far away, in a shorter skirt but still covering the knee. And while I am talking about photographing people, here is another thing to consider. Ask people, particularly who are dressed traditionally before you photograph them. This is true for both men and women. It is a bigger deal for women. I saw panic in school girls because someone photographed them. They came to our tour guide and complained. They were not creating a ruckus but they were truly upset. So do remember this when you are out on streets in Sharjah.
No one will stop you or say anything if you wore shorts, but you will stand out. I saw this couple walking in shorts near Al Noor Mosque but I did not saw too many people in shorts.
There was a FAM going on for media from another country and they dressed more like they would at home. Once again you can wear sleeveless and short dresses, more so if you are a part of a big group but you will stand out in Sharjah. Also I am not sure how respectful it is to the local culture.
Within five star resorts it is another matter. By the pool side or by the beach, I saw women wearing bikini. I did not go to a public beach in Sharjah so I am not sure about it, but from what I saw, I am sure one will once again stand out in a bikini on a public beach.
In my hotel, The Royal Tulip Act, I went for a swim. There were three kids in the pool and their father was sitting by the pool in the traditional Arabic dress. I decided to wear a single piece swimming costume. I went to a corner and did a few laps. The kids kept playing and their father kept telling them not to create a ruckus. Then came an Asian girl in a bikini and the father immediately took out his kids out of the pool and they went away. I did not understand the language but this is my best guess based on what I saw.
To sum up, I found Sharjah to be a little more conservative than Dubai and Ajman (I will discuss Ajman in a separate post) when it comes to the dress code for women. You will not stand out in a jeans and T-shirt but short dresses and sleeveless will make you stand out. You can still wear it, but less women do so. I, for my entire stay, dressed in jeans and shirts that had longer sleeves. In the end it is your choice how you decide to dress but I tried to give you a sketch of what is respectful to the local culture.
PS. I was invited to Sharjah by the Sharjah Tourism Board and Air Arabia.
Before going to Dubai (on a FlyDubai FAM) I searched the net to know more about the dress code for women in Dubai. What I found suggested that it is better to dress on the conservative side. I also gathered that malls were the places where you could dress more liberally. Now, I am back from my trip and the following are my observations.
Most malls in Dubai display a courtesy policy for the public. You can see they advice covering knees and the shoulders which is very similar to the Buddhist temple policies. So a short sleeve T shirt and anything below the knee is fine!
However, I love clicking what I see women wearing at a destination. A lot for them simply ignore the courtesy policy. Anyway all through the world official rules and there interpretations differ!
In December the weather was pleasant in Dubai, the days were warm and nights slightly chilly. This girl who was out for a jog on a bright sunny day was doing so in a shorts and t-shirt in the Jumeirah area. I don’t think she attracted any extra attention.
On the same Jumeirah Promenade I saw this photo session in progress. My guess is that the tourists asked the local to click a picture. And you can see the tourists are dressed like they dress anywhere on a holiday!
For sure a lot of women (and men, see the picture above) dress conservatively according to their culture and norms. But you can see that even the official policy doesn’t expects the visitors to follow the same norms.
I spotted the girls at the same mall where I clicked the courtesy policy. You can see clearly that the stated policy and the tolerated policy are starkly different.
Even when it comes to conservative dressing the norms seem to be different, some just cover their hair and not the face while some would cover everything but the eyes!
Dubai is a city of malls and like I said before, people dress nicely when they go out.
Dubai Mall has a similar stated policy as the Mall of Emirates (where I clicked the picture of the policy) and yet people interpret it in their own ways. I spotted the mom and the daughter admiring the at the aquarium at the Dubai Mall.
I briefly visited the Jumeirah Public Beach in the morning. The beach was not too crowded and I saw no one in a bikini. But I was told that it would get crowded in the afternoons and evenings and it was fine to wear a bikini on the beach.
As you can see in the pictures there is a difference in the stated courtesy policy and what people follow. I personally wore something that covered my shoulders and knees most of the time. However, I wore a sleeveless top the day I went to the top of the Burj Khalifa.
I leave it to you in the end to decide what you wish to wear in Dubai. I feel it is useful to know the stated courtesy policy but it is by no means written in stone!
I started writing the dress code for women posts because I search for it when I am visiting a country for the first time. I disagreed with some of what I read after visiting a destination, so I decided to do my own series. Here is what I observed about the dress code for women in Philippines.
My thoughts are based on a 10 day trip to Philippines where I visited Manila and Boracay. How I interpret the dress code also depends on where I come from, which is India! A 10 day visit makes me no expert but here is what I saw.
I start with Micaela Rodriguez who blogs at Senyorita and is a local. We were speaking at the same panel at TBEX which is a blogging conference and this is the lovely dress she chose to wear with a matching jacket. Short dresses are fine in Philippines.
Here is our guide from Boracay, Homma, in blue on the left, dressed for a day out at sea. She is a local too. Like anywhere in the world, people put their swim suites beneath a short dress so they can get into water when they wish!
I saw these pretty ladies at a show in Manila. And look at their beautiful gowns! I included this picture just to show that how strikingly beautiful the local dresses can be! I can’t imagine this to be normal wear though! If you search for festival gowns they seem to be available for rent too!
This is from a closing night TBEX party at Manila where you can see how social media people dance! I quite admired the guy who danced with his video camera, it must be heavy! The girls were dressed to party!
The days in Manila were hot in October, quite the same for me back home in Delhi too! So you can dress the way you feel comfortable on a sunny day! Dresses, shorts all are fine!
Both bikini and one piece swim suites are fine on the beaches in Boracay and my guess is all over Philippines. So do pack accordingly for your holiday.
To sum up women dress well in Philippines and most of the dresses you wear at home should be fine in Philippines.
PS. I was a speaker at TBEX Malina and my trip to Philippines was sponsored by Philippines Tourism Board!