What to Wear in the Middle East

Updated: Jan 22, 2021

It would be so easy if I could just say cover your knees, cover your shoulders and off you pop… but I can’t. Each Middle Eastern country comes with its own set of customs and traditions, including around dress code.

Check below for advice and recommendations for each country. Ill try my best to include pictures for reference..... (although I am one of those people who hates getting pictures of myself...)

United Arab Emirates








The UAE is a multicultural, melting pot of people from around the world. It’s also recently become a major tourist destination, particularly the cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. This, however, does not mean you can go strutting your stuff in shorts and crop tops. It is still an Islamic country and each Emirate has different laws and customs.


Dubai

In and around Dubai Mall, The Palm Jumeirah, The Marina and Downtown areas, you’ll see more foreigners than locals; you might even think you’re in California and not the UAE. It comes as no surprise then that in these areas you will come across slightly more liberal clothing choices (I saw some people wearing very revealing outfits in Dubai Mall but this is not appropriate and it is always best to respect the culture you’re in).


For men:

· Shorts, trousers or jeans (not ripped or super skinny)

· Casual button down shirt (the type that give you the option to roll the sleeves work great) or a normal t-shirt.

For women:

· Trousers or jeans (not ripped or super skinny), shorts to the knee.

· T-shirt or long summer dresses that cover your shoulders and go down to at least your knees/shins.

· Bring a shawl or light scarf to cover your shoulders and hair for when it’s needed.














Abu Dhabi

Let’s not lie…. we all saw Sex and the City 2 and thought “Yasssssss Samantha you werk that outfit! Get your man!” …. Do NOT dress like they did in that movie - that is a recipe for disaster. Think of Abu Dhabi as Dubai’s conservative cousin. Although the capital city is just as internationally famous as Dubai, it is not as liberal when it comes to clothing choice. This is mainly due to the fact that you’ll find a lot more locals living here.


For men: (Same as Above)

· Shorts, trousers or jeans (not ripped or super skinny)

· Casual button down shirt (the type that give you the option to roll the sleeves work great) or a normal t-shirt.


For women:

· Trousers or jeans (not ripped or super skinny), shorts to the knee.

· T-shirt or long summer dresses that cover your shoulders and go down to at least your knees/shins.

· Bring a shawl or light scarf to cover your shoulders and hair for when it’s needed.


Jordan







Jordan is one of the more liberal countries in the Middle East but nowhere near as liberal as the UAE in terms of clothing. Jordan legalised homosexuality in 1951 (!) but LGBT can still be prosecuted under ‘public morality’ laws. Jordan gets around 4 million visitors a year, however the vast majority of these go directly to Petra, one of the 7 new Wonders of the World. As a result, you’ll find that there are different dress codes for different parts of the country. (Check out my post on travelling through Jordan for more info!)


Petra, Wadi Rum and Aqaba

These 3 cities are in the south of Jordan and so are in the Jordanian desert. Luckily for those visiting, these 3 areas see thousands of visitors and tourists. Aqaba is even a cruise port, meaning the dress code is slightly more relaxed than the north of the country.


For men:

· Shorts or light trousers.

· T-shirts or shirts with roll up sleeves are a good idea also.

· For your feet: good walking runners like Sketchers, New balance etc (Be prepared for them to be stained red from the sand though!!)


For women:

· Knee length shorts, trousers or a knee length summer dress.

· T-shirts or light shirts for your top.

· For your feet: good walking shoe.

· If you’ll be visiting a mosque or other religious sites in Aqaba, keep in mind that legs must be covered to the ankle and shoulders and hair must be covered, so a shawl or light scarf is a must!


Northern Towns & Amman

The northern towns (Jerash and Madaba etc) see fewer tourists than the south; therefore as expected the clothing needs to be slightly more conservative. Similarly Amman, the capital city, sees very few tourists.


For men:

· Shorts, trousers or jeans (not ripped or super skinny)

· Casual button down shirt (the type that give you the option to roll the sleeves work great) or a normal t-shirt.


For women:

· Trousers or jeans (not ripped or super skinny), shorts to the knee.

· T-shirt or long summer dresses that cover your shoulders and go down to at least your knees/shins.

· Bring a shawl or light scarf to cover your shoulders and hair for when it’s needed.


Oman







Unfortunately for Oman, there are no pro-LGBT laws. However, crime as a whole in the nation in very low (Numbeo rated it the 5th safest nation in the world!!) and the Omani people are extremely friendly and welcoming (Nomadic Boys puts Oman at the 5th most welcoming Middle Eastern country for LGBT). You would be forgiven for assuming that Oman is gets very few visitors, however, their capital is a big hit for expats and is also a popular cruise port. (There is also of course that rumour of the gay Omani sultan...)


For men: (Same as Above)

· Shorts, trousers or jeans (not ripped or super skinny)

· Casual button down shirt (the type that give you the option to roll the sleeves work great) or a normal t-shirt.


For women: (Same as Above)

· Trousers or jeans (not ripped or super skinny), shorts to the knee

· T-shirts or light shirts for your top.

· If you’ll be visiting a mosque or other religious sites in Aqaba, keep in mind that legs must be covered to the ankle and shoulders and hair must be covered, so a shawl or light scarf is a must!



Qatar








Doha, Qatar is similar to Abu Dhabi in terms of what is acceptable clothing. Doha is a MAJOR expat city and it is well used to tourists; another ‘glass and grass’ city. (I will post about tips, things to do and most importantly safety for LGBT travellers in Qatar in the coming weeks.)


For men: (Same as Above)

· Shorts, trousers or jeans (not ripped or super skinny)

· Casual button down shirt (the type that give you the option to roll the sleeves work great) or a normal t-shirt.


For women: (Same as Above)

· Knee length shorts, trousers or a knee length summer dress.

· T-shirts or light shirts for your top.

· If you’ll be visiting a mosque or other religious sites in Aqaba, keep in mind that legs must be covered to the ankle and shoulders and hair must be covered, so a shawl or light scarf is a must




Bahrain








Bahrain is well known in the Middle East as being one of the most tolerable countries in the Gulf. The Saudis have even nicknamed it “The Bar” because you can drink alcohol freely there. Similarly to Jordan, although homosexuality was legalised in 1976, LGBT can still be prosecuted under ‘public morality’ laws. Manama (the capital of Bahrain) has a massive foreign and expat population so it is well used to the western influence. However, that said, this doesn’t mean you should dress as if it’s California...


For men: (Same as Above)

· Shorts, trousers or jeans (not ripped or super skinny)

· Casual button down shirt (the type that give you the option to roll the sleeves work great) or a normal t-shirt.


For women: (Same as Above)

· Knee length shorts, trousers or a knee length summer dress.

· T-shirts or light shirts for your top.

· If you’ll be visiting a mosque or other religious sites in Aqaba, keep in mind that legs must be covered to the ankle and shoulders and hair must be covered, so a shawl or light scarf is a must


Israel / Palestine



Israel

Homosexuality was legalised in Israel in 1988 and LGBT haven’t actually been prosecuted since 1963. They were the first country in Asia to recognise cohabitation of same-sex couples. Although, they don’t perform same sex marriages, they recognise those preformed abroad. Adoption by same sex couples is also legal here. Israel is known as the beacon of acceptance in the Middle East for LGBT - with Tel Aviv now one of the most gay friendly cities in the world, home to one of the largest gay pride parades in the world. Dressing like you’re in California is the norm here.


Palestine

Similarly to other Arab nations on the list, Palestine / the West Bank is conservative and homosexuality and any sort of public displays of affection would be extremely frowned upon.


Tel Aviv / Eilat / Haifia etc


For Men:

· Shorts, trousers or jeans,

· t-shirts, shirts, tank tops,

· flip flops (Basically anything you would normally wear when travelling abroad to a hot country)


For Women:

· Shorts, trousers or jeans.

· T-shirts, shirts, tank tops.

· Dresses, skirts, jumpsuits etc (Basically anything you would normally wear when travelling abroad to a hot country)




Jerusalem


Unlike Tel Aviv and the other cities, Jerusalem is more conservative. This is to be expected, given that it is an extremely important religious city for multiple religions.


For men:

· Shorts, trousers or jeans (not ripped or super skinny)

· Casual button down shirt (the type that give you the option to roll the sleeves work great) or a normal t-shirt.


For women:

· Knee length shorts, trousers or a knee length summer dress.

· T-shirts or light shirts for your top.

· If you’ll be visiting a mosque or other religious sites in Aqaba, keep in mind that legs must be covered to the ankle and shoulders and hair must be covered, so a shawl or light scarf is a must

46 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All