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What To Wear in Abu Dhabi & Dress Code in Abu Dhabi For Tourists!

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Wondering what to wear in Abu Dhabi as a woman or man? What the dress code in Abu Dhabi is? Can you wear shorts in Abu Dhabi? You’re in the right place as I’m going to tell you all you need to know based on my recent experience in Abu Dhabi as a tourist.

You may, or may not, be surprised to hear that Abu Dhabi, just like Dubai is actually very chilled on what tourists can wear.

When I went to Dubai in 2015 I remember being conscious of needing to cover up inside malls and restaurants and I believe there were more restrictions then. But on my recent 5 day trip to Abu Dhabi with my husband I did not feel or notice this at all from what other tourists in Abu Dhabi were wearing.

However, when putting together your Abu Dhabi packing list or researching your trip to Abu Dhabi, whether that’s a trip on its own like I just did, an Abu Dhabi stopover, or a trip with Dubai and Abu Dhabi combined, I think it’s worth knowing what the locals in Abu Dhabi wear and remembering that you are visiting a Middle Eastern Gulf Country…

What To Wear in Abu Dhabi

What to wear in Abu Dhabi
Keep reading for what to wear in Abu Dhabi and the Abu Dhabi dress code,

Abu Dhabi Dress Code

Let’s start by saying that there are no official rules for the dress code in Abu Dhabi, or in the UAE.

Despite being a Muslim and Islamic country, the UAE is mostly made up of foreign workers and holidaymakers and what people wear and how they act (drinking alcohol for example) resembles this.

Abu Dhabi dress code for tourists

You may have heard past stories where tourists in the UAE had to be cautious of what they wore, the same as being cautious of public displays of affection,

But it seems these types of things have really eased in the big cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi in recent years and unless you go crazy, you’re pretty likely not to have a problem and you can dress and act like you would in many other countries.

Abu Dhabi is such a modern city in its looks and in its ways which makes it easier for tourists to visit, but what I loved about it is that it still keeps some old charm and holds so much history.

What to wear in Abu Dhabi, new and old city Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi is a mix of old and new which shows in its rules,

Despite the UAE being a Muslim country, there is not a set Abu Dhabi dress code for tourists and definitely not a set Abu Dhabi dress code for women, however as I’ll explain next in this post on what to wear in Abu Dhabi,

No matter your gender, it is a good idea for men and women to dress fairly modestly and conservatively, with certain body parts covered.

What to wear in Abu Dhabi as a woman

As you can see in my photos, I am pretty covered because although being British, in 2020 I became a Muslim therefore I wore long dresses and abayas as well as a headscarf in Abu Dhabi.

Before this, I would have worn shorter-sleeved dresses and I understand how much we Brits love seeing the sun and how hot we get with a lot of clothes on!

What to wear in Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi fort and sunshine
It can be very hot in Abu Dhabi but sometimes covering can keep you cooler!

I have travelled a lot and unlike some countries where I recommend women dressing more modestly to avoid unwanted male attention like in India or in Istanbul,

I believe the reason to dress more covered up in Abu Dhabi and the UAE, in general, is to respect the local custom and local religion, and because local people in Abu Dhabi and workers in Abu Dhabi do dress more covered.

What to wear in Abu Dhabi, qasr al watan gold photo stop
This is inside Qasr Al Watan by the way which I really recommend visiting!

What do female tourists wear in Abu Dhabi?

They wear shorts, t-shirts, strappy tops, sleeveless dresses, bikini’s on the beach and by the pool.

What should a woman wear in Abu Dhabi?

You can wear all of the above clothes!

I know that since it gets so hot in Abu Dhabi it’s appealing to wear less clothing, however, my suggestion would be to also pack some baggy linen trousers and linen 3/4 length trousers, midi and maxi dresses, midi and maxi skirts, a kimono, tops that don’t show cleavage.

Shops like H&M and M&S sell a lot of linen items and it’s surprising how sometimes they can actually keep you cooler!

What to wear in Abu Dhabi, lightweight blue dress
This dress is extremely lightweight and cool.

By swimming pools and on the beach, especially if it’s your hotel beach or another hotel’s beach, you can wear a swimming costume, bikini and swim shorts, there are no restrictions here and you won’t feel uncomfortable wearing them here either.

What to wear in Abu Dhabi, tourists by swimming pool

What do people wear in Abu Dhabi?

Again, this isn’t because you can’t wear shorts or a short dress in Abu Dhabi but many of the restaurants, tourists sights and even beaches will have local people there who dress more covered and you might not want to stand out like a tourist with much more skin showing.

Plus, the air-con is up high in Abu Dhabi and Dubai! If you’re sitting inside a cafe or in the mall with a lot of skin showing, you’re going to get cold quickly. That’s another reason why locals cover up!

What to wear in Abu Dhabi, sheikh Zayed mosque at night
Sheikh Zayed mosque at night,

What to wear in Abu Dhabi mosque?

As part of your Abu Dhabi sightseeing, you’ll definitely want to go to the main mosque – Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque…

Although women need to cover their hair inside all mosques including everywhere within the Abu Dhabi mosque, as a female tourist when you enter you will be shown to a changing room and given a scarf or hood to cover your hair and an abaya or another covering outfit to cover your clothes if the clothes you arrive in are too short in the leg and arms and low in the chest.

I will say that what the mosque gives you to wear is not that flattering, so if you want to get great photos in the Sheikh Zayed mosque, it is a good idea to bring your own scarf for your head and wear a maxi long-sleeved dress of your own for example.

None of the other Abu Dhabi tourist attractions require you to cover.

What to wear in Abu Dhabi, Ellie Quinn in sheikh Zayed mosque
Women have to be fully covered in Sheikh Zayed mosque but the mosque can give you clothes to cover in,

Dressing like a local in Abu Dhabi

It is nice to try local outfits when we travel and in Abu Dhabi, it’s easy and comfortable to do this!

I met an Italian couple who had been to the mall and brought a black Abaya for the women and white Kandora for the man, they took photos in it in the desert on our desert trip and they said they really liked wearing it and it made their photos look really good!

As I said, I am now Muslim and in the last few years I have started dressing more modestly and covered up. A few years ago when I first wore an Abaya in Saudi Arabia I didn’t like it and thought it seemed oppressive to wear, however quickly I got used to it and then I realised there are so many beautiful abaya’s available and I felt very elegant in it.

I took 2 pink abayas to Abu Dhabi with me and they were so perfect.

What to wear in Abu Dhabi, pink abaya
I loved wearing this light pink abaya in Abu Dhabi!

An abaya is a bit like a kimono but longer in length and arms and sometimes has a zip or buttons so it can be open or closed.

Underneath my abaya, I wore a short-sleeved top and leggings to keep me cool with the lightweight loose abaya on top and I felt really nice in it and got so many compliments, so that’s worth keeping in mind, especially as you’ll see a lot of nice abaya’s in Abu Dhabi malls to buy.

If you want to get an abaya in Abu Dhabi, I recommend going to Madinat Zayed Shopping Centre which is a local shopping mall as prices will be cheaper and it’s also the Gold Souk!

What to wear in Abu Dhabi as a man

What I love about the UAE is that just like local women and women working in the UAE tend to dress more modestly and covered, so do the men. In fact, local men probably cover up more!

What do male tourists wear in Abu Dhabi?

They wear t-shirts, shorts, short-sleeved shirts, swimming trunks on the beach and by the pool.

What to wear in Abu Dhabi, male and female tourists in Abu Dhabi
My husband and I kayaking in Jubail Mangroves.

What should a man wear in Abu Dhabi?

A man can wear all of the above. Going out in a t-shirt or short-sleeved shirt and shorts are totally fine and you will not look out of place.

As a man in Abu Dhabi I do recommend not wearing sleeve-less tops or shorts that are tooo short, not because you can’t, but if you are in malls or restaurants with people who live in Abu Dhabi I think you will feel a bit conscious of this much skin on show as men who live there don’t do this.

You will see Arab men in Abu Dhabi wearing what looks like a long white dress. These are called kandoras and they are worn in many Arab and South Asian countries by men.

As a man, you might not initially feel like wearing one but once you wear one and realise how comfortable it is since you just wear light white trousers under it too and a t-shirt along with how airy it is on hot days, you’ll realise why men love wearing them so much!

Like abayas for women, if you want to buy yourself a kandora to try a local style you can pick them up in the malls, especially local malls like Madinat Zayed Shopping Centre where they are cheaper.

What to pack for Abu Dhabi

Pack all your normal holiday clothes including the items I have said above like midi and maxi dresses and skirts for women and t-shirts over sleeveless tops for men.

But also keep in mind that if you visit Abu Dhabi in winter, it does actually get cold and cooler at night. Especially if you go on a desert safari tour.

As soon as the sun sets in the desert during the winter months you will NEED a jumper or hoodie to keep you warm so make sure you include this when putting together your Abu Dhabi packing list!

What to wear in Abu Dhabi, desert safari with camel
Desert Safaris are great but they get cold at night!

I hope this has helped you with what to wear in Abu Dhabi and the general Abu Dhabi dress code.

For more of my posts to help you plan your trip see:

10 Things To Do in Dubai on a Girls Trip to Dubai!