How should I dress in the UAE? Dubai Police answer your questions

The issue of what to wear in the UAE has been a hot topic in recent weeks, with numerous 7DAYS Letters and comments on and our social 7DAYSUAE media channels about the issue.
The debate was sparked by a letter criticising a woman who walked from her villa to a compound pool in a bikini, while letters about a mum who wore a ‘baby doll’ nightie to walk her son to the school bus and people in ‘strappy tops’ in Dubai Marina fuelled the furore.

Earlier this year, a video of a row between an Emirati woman and two Egyptian actresses over the way they were dressed went viral and again brought the issue into the spotlight.
Readers were split on the issue in our poll of 1,500 people, with 60 per cent in favour of having an official dress code, while 40 per cent said it wasn’t necessary.
So, 7DAYS talked to Col Dr Jasim Khalil Mirza, Head of the Security Awareness Department at Dubai Police, about what people should, and should not, wear in the UAE and why.

Q. Is there a dress code in the UAE?
The UAE is home to at least 216 nationalities and there is a high level of tolerance and freedom and everyone is free to dress as it suits them as along as they are dressed modesty and in respect of religious and social norms.
Q. What is the considered modest?
What I mean with modest dressing is wearing non-revealing clothes.
Q. What should women be aware off if they are in public in terms of clothing?
For a woman it means wearing clothes that do not reveal her breasts, private parts and to avoid wearing clothes that end above the knees. For example a woman cannot wear a bikini in a mall.
Q. What about men?
With regard to men, a man also needs to be sure that he does not wear anything that ends above the knee and also must cover his private parts. He cannot go shirtless in a public place either. We all remember the case of the young Emirati men who took to one of Dubai’s malls in their underwear, this was unacceptable behaviour. One must understand that your freedom ends where the freedom of others starts.
Q. Why might a Muslim be offended by what I wear?
Explicit clothing could be offensive to Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Unfortunately, there are some women that go the mall with very little clothes on. They are almost naked. This, in my opinion, offends Muslims and non-Muslims alike. We need to remember that there is a dress code applied in the UAE and we are a conservative country to a certain extent. It is important that people comply with that as it will help them avoid problems.
Q. Can I get in trouble with the law if my clothing upsets someone?
A person who is inappropriately dressed can be approached by security or police and, in extreme cases, a person can be taken to a police station and be asked to sign an undertaking that the act will not be repeated. We, of course, do not ever want it to reach this level. We want people to visit our country and feel comfortable in it, so this procedure is only applied in extreme cases.
Q. What should I do if someone confronts me about my clothing?
The most important thing is to remain calm and try to have a discussion. Whenever one feels that the debate is getting heated then it is time to withdraw and inform the concerned authorities. Today, if anyone feels that any other person is inappropriately dressed than they should contact mall security and they can follow up with the concerned person. We do not want people to approach the person directly as this could lead to a problem and it could escalate into other cases, including defamation, verbal or physical abuse. The incident of the Emirati woman who posted a video of the Egyptian actress is a strong example of how these issues can go wrong. The woman was offended for seeing the actress trying out some underwear at the shop, confronted her then things got out of control and the Emirati woman even went so far that she defamed the other woman on social media.
Q. Is it ok to wear a swimsuit or bikini if I am walking to the pool or beach?
Wearing a swimming suit or a bikini to get to and from the pool or beach is not allowed and is against the dress code. It is the responsibility of the hotel management to inform the guests of the appropriate dress code as there might be many tourists who do not know about it. Wearing swimwear inside compounds is also not allowed.
Q. Are there any times of the year when I should be extra careful, such as Ramadan or Eid?
Modesty is the same regardless of the month. So if you are modest in your dress then you are whether it is Ramadan or any other month.
Q. Why do we need a dress code?
We are an Islamic, Arab country and each society is unique. Our society is still conservative in many ways and we need to respect people’s feeling.