Traditional Dress of the UAE
Emirati clothing is an important part of the history of the UAE. The United Arab Emirates is a country where tradition reigns supreme.
If you are a traveler who is going to be visiting the UAE, it’s absolutely crucial for you to be aware of the country’s traditional clothing, customs, and culture before you set foot in the country.
When going to Abu Dhabi, clothes are going to be very important to how you are perceived by locals. Be sure to dress conservatively especially in Abu Dhabi and other Emirates although Dubai is more Westernized in this regard.
This quick guide will give you the information that you need to know about traditional Emirati clothing for both men and women.
Arabic Clothing for Women in the UAE
The traditional Emirati clothing for a women to wear is an abaya. It’s traditionally a very long cloak that covers the majority of your face and body. Most abayas that you will see are black in color, mainly because it’s considered to be the most socially conservative way to dress for women in the UAE.
Note: You may be required to wear an abaya in a few parts of the UAE if you are female but usually modest Western dress is fine. However for those visiting Saudi Arabia an abaya is a must.
A burqa is another common piece of Emirati clothing for women in the UAE. This is worn over the abaya, and is more common among older women than it is among younger ones. A burqa isn’t mandatory, but it still brings older women a certain level of respect among locals.
Arabian women sometimes wear a gishwa in order to cover their eyes from the harsh sun of the UAE.
Traditional UAE clothing for women reflects the country’s very conservative views on women’s clothing, and these are views that should be respected when traveling into the country.
If you want to try some of the traditional clothes UAE locals have enjoyed, the kandura is a great pick. This long robe for men is both comfortable, and one of the most popular styles of clothing for men today.
The longer the robe, the higher your status is in UAE society.
The kandura is often accompanied with a gutrah, which is a traditional UAE headscarf. The gutrah is held in place with an ornate headband called the agal.
Wearing a headscarf in the UAE is absolutely necessary, since the sun can be a bit much for sensitive scalps.
Most diplomats from the UAE still wear their gutrah when they travel outside of the country, and it’s often considered to be very tasteful to do so by those who live in the UAE.
Both men and women in the United Arab Emirates wear sandals. Wearing sneakers or special dress shoes made out of leather is not frowned upon per se, but it will be very uncomfortable for both men and women to wear this kind of footwear in the UAE.
Traditional UAE clothing is made for hot weather. Having your feet sweat because of the warm climate will make wearing sneakers or dress shoes that you’d find in New York City very difficult, uncomfortable, and possibly even dangerous.
The key to most traditional UAE clothing is that it is designed to be both conservative and comfortable in desert weather. When picking up your first abaya, kandura, or gutrah, it’s easy to feel worried about the temperature of the clothing.
After all, it does seem to be a lot of clothing for a desert area, doesn’t it? Though your first instinct may be to wonder if people feel too hot in the clothes that they usually wear in the UAE, this isn’t really a problem at all. Because of the way that the clothes are designed, they won’t overheat.
It’s quite possible that you might end up enjoying traditional clothing UAE locals wear during the time you spend in this exotic locale, but you will find many expat wearing Western clothing and should feel at home doing so, as long as your dress modestly with longer skirts and sleeves for women and pants and shirts for men.