What NOT To Wear In Dubai

In my last article I mentioned that one of the reasons I did not live living in Dubai is the fact that some of the expatriates are disrespectful of the local customs and culture.

Well, just within the last week a flurry of controversy has arisen about what is acceptable to wear and what is absolutely not.
Two local ladies spearheaded an initiative on social networks to ‘Dress Right’ resulting in a battle of opinions and views that seized the nation’s attention.

As I perused the endless commentary online and in print I occasionally chuckled, and sometimes felt upset at the views presented.

Many tourists seem to think they are visiting Las Vegas which is another city where I have seen the display of outfits similar to the ones encountered at Dubai’s shopping malls supermarkets and streets.I have recently come across a crochet style dress at the Mall of the Emirates at which I had gawked in shock. Feeling an irrational sense of concern as her protector I wanted to approach the lady to inform her that the entire mall could clearly see her body. But I didn’t.

On my own blog ‘Sleepless in Dubai’ I have discussed how fascinating the high maintenance and sense of competitive fashion were in the city. I have to mention that is not only Western expats, but Middle Eastern and Asian, as well as some men who are equally uninformed or uninterested to abide by some form of thoughtfulness towards the local and other population. Apparently this escalation of the flaunting of dress codes has finally stirred the dormant feelings of residents, non-Muslim and Muslim alike. Despite signs on mall doors and travel issued leaflets, embassy cautions to their citizens travelling to Dubai, more is needed to educate newcomers.

Not everyone is to blame. Many believe that Dubai is a liberal welcoming city and assume that they can wear whatever it is they wore back home. But I doubt that any American woman would regularly shop at her local department store wearing stilettos and a see through evening dress.

It is amusing how some have excused wearing their nightclub suitable clothing to buy a loaf of bread, to take the kids to a movie etc.

Their argument is: since such clothing is sold in the shops throughout Dubai therefore anyone should be allowed to wear them as they please whenever they please. What one should not forget is that Lasenza and Agent Provocateur sell seductive lingerie, other stores have a display of fur coats and yet others sell pajamas. Does this mean we should walk around the malls dressed in them?

Points to consider:

• Those arriving should be informed in more clear terms about the requirements. Wearing a pashmina over a revealing cleavage or a knee length skirt is all it takes.

• More visible and less vague signs should be posted in public places in case travellers failed to be informed. What is immodest for someone might be completely normal to another.

• Do wear sarongs; see through beach wear, swimsuits and such while ON the actual beach. Do not arrive at the mall or the supermarket wrapped in a towel while still dripping water from your swim.

• Valid points were made by both the local and expatriate residents: It is not a matter or expressing one’s individual liberty, it is a matter of valuing the cultural and moral norms of any host country you visit or live in.

• We live in a nation that has given its residents many freedoms. Churches, synagogues and mosques exist here. One hundred ninety nationalities (approximately) coexist here. Let’s not offend the traditional standards of modesty by treating living in Dubai as one big opportunity for attention and narcissistic displays.

• France has issued a ban on the Burqa. Saudi Arabia requires both female and male residents to adhere to modest dress code. Women are obligated by law to wear an Abbaya and cover their hair. Coed dining, mingling and swimming is prohibited. In Sharjah, an Emirate just across the bridge from Dubai such sights would be rare if not nonexistent due to the strident dress and behavior codes. Even in the less strict Gulf countries like Qatar there are special timings for women and men at public pools and the waterpark. The conclusion is that Dubai’s policy is lenient and hospitable but shouldn’t be taken for granted.

• Heat is not a justification when visiting the malls. The conditions are chilly indoors and many western women are appropriately dressed. Local women wear an Abbaya and veil. There is little need for strapless, micro mini body hugging Lycra. You will probably get cold.

Zvezdana Rashkovich was born in ex-Yugoslavia. At the age of seven she started her lifelong nomadic journey across Sudan, Egypt, Libya, Iraq, Qatar, Dubai and the United States. A fluent Arabic speaker, she has worked as a medical and legal interpreter for refugees in the United States. Owing to her eclectic experiences she has developed an intense enthusiasm for multiculturalism. Zvezdana currently lives in Dubai with her Sudanese husband and four children. She is the author of Dubai Wives and is working on a memoir, Africa in the way I dance.

Zvezdana blogs at Sleepless in Dubai where she shares her experiences as an expat, mom and writer.