inside view of dubai mall

Dubai Mall Dress Code: The Rules Explained & What People in Dubai ACTUALLY Wear

by Dubai Travel Planner

Culturally appropriate dress for Dubai Mall vs what you may have read is appropriate in forums

One of the trickiest parts of packing your bags for a holiday in Dubai is knowing what the right thing to wear is in what situation.

We’re guessing this isn’t the first article you’ll read trying to work out what is appropriate to wear in what situation in Dubai. In fact, you may have already popped into our Dubai packing list for some advice!

We want to hone into one particular dress code subject in Dubai, which is commonly asked about so you have the full picture of what to expect in the modern but still very much Muslim city of Dubai; what do you wear in Dubai Mall?

The short answer: Dubai Mall dress code is to wear respectful clothing

Dubai Mall in Downtown Dubai

Before we dive into all the details – the reason it matters is that Dubai Mall, one of the largest shopping malls in the world, is located at the heart of Downtown Dubai.

For many tourists, this may be where much of their travel to the city is focused around. It is not just a shopping and retail hub but also one of the city’s liveliest nighttime neighbourhoods, a dining hotspot, and a central spot to start your exploration of the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo, Dubai Opera, Sky Views, the Dubai Fountains – it’s as close as Dubai gets to a ‘city centre’ really.

It is a public place where people from all races, religions and nationalities co-mingle.

You can read more on all the awesome things you can do at Dubai Mall here.

Dubai Mall Dress Code – What is “Respectful Clothing”

That brings us to what is appropriate to wear when you visit Dubai Mall.

You will see this sign when you walk into Dubai Mall:

dress code advice you are given on entry to Dubai mall

This is a significant adjustment from far more stringent clothing advice signs that appeared when the Dubai Mall first opened in 2008.

What exactly does “Respectful Clothing’ mean in 2024?

In short, this means don’t wear your beachwear. Respect the fact that there are many different religions and views on what is conservative and appropriate for a public space.

Sensible or respectable conservative clothing in Dubai for tourists in public places includes:

Dress Code For Women in Dubai Mall

Avoid anything too clingy and revealing of your skin. A little skin showing is OK, but in moderation. Do not wear transparent clothing showing underwear or more underneath.

A standard rule of thumb is to cover knees and shoulders, but it is NOT strictly enforced. Just avoid shorts that creep so high your bottom is showing; boob tubes that barely cover the boobs and ultra-plunging cleavage lines are a no. We’d suggest strapless tops are a no as well, and shorts and skirts should really come to at least mid-thigh – but no-one will be there with a tape measure.

Dress Code for Men in Dubai Mall

There are fewer restrictions on what men should wear, but bear in mind standard local dress; avoid short-shorts, tank tops that reveal too much upper torso, and strictly no shirts off.

Sandals or flip-flop footwear is OK – but take it a notch up from what you’d wear to the beach.

You’ll find local men and those from GCC countries wearing the full white Kandura, whilst many from Muslim and conservative backgrounds will still wear long trousers regardless of the heat and shirt sleeves.

Dress Code for children in Dubai Mall

Things are a lot more lenient on kids before puberty – they should dress according to the conditions. From puberty onwards, teens should follow the same rules as adults. We’d just suggest not wearing any rude or controversial tshirts.

It’s important to note it’s like any mall; the air-conditioning inside can be freezing compared to the outside temperature, so you may even want a cardigan/light sweater with you.

crowds leaving Dubai mall as an example of what people wear at this busy Dubai location
Example of what people are wearing in Dubai Mall and Downtown Dubai

What if you don’t follow the dress code in Dubai Mall

The sad reality is that in complete disrespect to the rules, you will see MANY tourists not following the mall’s entry guidelines. The vast majority will probably get away with it too, which leads many others to join the thought of ‘oh well, they’re wearing that, so can I“.

In reality, security is very much in the right to refuse entry or ask you to leave the mall for inappropriate dress.

That said, unless you’re also acting in a highly inappropriate manner, they seem to be turning a blind eye these days to those blatantly flaunting the respectful clothing dress code. We assume this is partially not to discourage tourists from visiting, but also the sheer number of tourists that pass through the Dubai Mall daily it would be impossible to stop and inspect everyone’s outfits.

If You Break the Rules

If you are asked by security to cover-up, please do so as quickly as possible or without causing a scene. If you cause a scene, security is well within their rights – and will – call the police in such instances. If it gets to this point, the police will not look upon this sort of behaviour kindly and, in all likelihood, will arrest you for public indecency.

It may seem harsh over clothing, but it has more to do with your behaviour when asked to cover up than the offending clothing.

Most likely scenario at Dubai Mall

So, can you get away with not following the Dubai Mall dress code? Probably, if it’s only a minor clothing infraction.

Should you? Why risk it? Why act in a culturally inappropriate way for the sake of fashion?

The rules are there for everyone’s comfort and enjoyment. You are a guest in a Muslim country, and as a good tourist, you should not make local citizens feel uncomfortable visiting public places with their families.

Have respect for the rules and those that enforce them. If you are genuinely unsure about an outfit choice, your hotel concierge is always a good port of call to ask their opinion before you head out and explore in Dubai.

To be clear, you’ll NOT be arrested if your skirt is an inch or two above your knee or a bra strap accidentally shows. The rules are not that strict; we’ve provided you with fairly conservative guidelines based on our team’s combined experience of living over 30 years in the UAE as both Muslims and Non-Muslims.

Women’s Head Covering in Dubai Mall

And certainly, ladies, you will NOT be arrested for not wearing a head covering or abaya; this may be the local dress standard, but women are NOT required to do this by law in the UAE.

The only time you may feel this is culturally appropriate is when visiting a mosque; it’s not compulsory in the Jumeirah Mosque in Dubai, but it IS compulsory should you make a day trip to the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.

Do the Same Rules Apply at Other Malls in Dubai?

Yes, absolutely. We have used Dubai Mall as an example as it’s the most commonly visited mall in Dubai by tourists, but whether you are visiting Emirates Mall, Dubai Hills Mall, Dubai Marina Mall or any of the dozen or so large shopping complexes in Dubai, you should abide by this respectful dress code as it’s a public place.

What is the Dress Code for Other Public Places in Dubai & the UAE?

The setting is everything when it comes to Dubai’s dress code in the 2020s. Things are MUCH more relaxed than they used to be, but there’s a time and a place!

For example, in Dubai’s classiest private beach clubs, almost anything (well, more to the point, nothing!) goes, as long as clothing remains on and no lewd acts. Public beaches and parks where families are present, however, there is a stricter dress code for beachwear.

If you’re heading beyond the city out to the mountains and the northern Emirates or out to the desert on a desert safari, you’ll want to make some appropriate wardrobe adjustments for the weather and conditions.

We cover in much more detail what to wear on a Dubai desert safari here.

What about dress code in Abu Dhabi?

Some say Abu Dhabi is more conservative, but the dress code is the same as Dubai; it’s just that there are more long-term residents and fewer tourists, so you’ll find local expats on the whole cover-up a little more in line with local standards.

Also, buildings you visit in Abu Dhabi as a tourist, such as the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Qasr Al Watan and the Louvre, all warrant a more conservative dress style.

We cover Abu Dhabi Dress Code in more detail on our Abu Dhabi Travel Planner Website

We hope this has cleared up for you the appropriate dress code for Dubai Mall and what you should be packing in your suitcase for Dubai.

You could ask this question in a forum and get a dozen different answers, from “I’ve lived here my whole life, and I’ve never had a problem wearing shorts” to “You must always completely cover knees and shoulder.”

The reality is the right answer as of 2024 is somewhere in the middle of these responses; what you CAN and SHOULD wear in Dubai can be too different discussions, too.

Keep it respectful of the Muslim culture and keep your skimpier clothes for situations where they are seen as appropriate.

Read up here more on the do’s and don’t of visiting Dubai

Before you go… More important things you should know when planning a trip to Dubai

Take me back to the best Dubai travel advice

Please note we are not a travel agency. This site is a travel blog to help newcomers to the UAE and transit passengers self plan their trip, we cannot book your flights, hotels, visas or connections for you. We may make a small commission if you click on any of our recommendation links.

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