UAE: Dress                                                

Men’s Clothing
  • Most Emirians men wear traditional dress, which consists of a long sleeved, floor length kandura or dishdasha (photo). This is almost always white, although in winter months, navy blue, gray, and brown are common.
  • Men may change their kandura a number of times in the day to go to different events (work, prayer, dinner, etc). It is important to keep one’s clothing looking fresh and crease-free. A UAE national might have 50 or so kanduras in his closet with up to 20 of those at the cleaners at any one time.
  • A typical kandura costs between 100 and 200 Dirhams to get tailored. You may see the difference in those kanduras that are worn by those in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. In Dubai, you can sometimes find kanduras with collars and cuffs, as opposed to the traditional style.
  • On their heads, men wear a white crocheted skull-cap covered by a white cloth called a ghutra (photo) folded into a triangle, topped by a black double-ringed àgal (photo), which was originally the rope with which camels were hobbled.

  Women’s Clothing
  • With the new flow of wealth, some women import the latest fashions from the West. However, a traditional Emirian woman's attire is the àbaya (photo). This black garment covers a woman from head to toe when she is in a public place.
  • Emirian women are often conservative, and while some do not wear the full black àbaya, many of them wear the hijab (head scarf) and clothes that cover most of their bodies. (See below for more details on the hijab.) Some women also wear black stockings, gloves, and thick veils. The main reason for wearing the abaya is concern for modesty, with the most devoted covering their faces, as well as all viewable skin.
  • The prices range between 100 and 2,500 Dirhams for each abaya.
  • Ladies will wear western dress, local dress or even Indian type clothes, under their abayas.

  • Hijab (photo) is the Arabic word for “curtain” or “cover” which is based on the root word meaning “to cover,” “to veil,” or “to shelter.” In popular use, hijab means “head cover” and “modest dress for women.”
  • Some Muslims and Islamic legal systems define hijab as covering everything except the face and hands in public.
  • According to some Islamic scholars, hijab is given the wider meaning of modesty, privacy, and morality.
  • Still another definition is metaphysical, where al-hijab “refers to the veil which separates man or the world from God.”
  • It is important to note that not all Muslim women wear the hijab and that the hijab can vary in size. Some offer less coverage (photo) than others. Personal choice as well as geographical norms and family pressure can influence a woman’s decision to wear the hijab or not.

Muslims differ as to how “hijab dress” should be enforced and particularly over the role of religious police who enforce hijab use in Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Advice for Non-Islamic Expatriates
  • Visitors and expatriates are advised to show respect for the local culture when it comes to dress.
  • While western dress, such as sleeveless and tighter-fitting outfits for women have become increasingly common in Muslim nations, it is advisable to dress more modestly in the souks (markets), malls, and places where there are a lot of Emirians and not many expats. Learn the norms of the country and regions where you’ll be.
  • As a rule of thumb for females, dress Western in Dubai, a little more conservative in Abu Dhabi, and cover your skin in Sharjah (except for your face, neck and hands).