On Modesty in Dubai

One of the most frequently asked questions I get from people who hear that I have just moved back from Dubai is “did you have to cover up?”. Sometimes the question varied, depending on people’s knowledge or lack there of about the Gulf region from a curious but poorly thought out “did you have to wear one of those burqa-things?”* to far better thought out questions about what I could wear to work or when going out in Dubai.

I understand the curiosity and it was something which worried me before moving to Dubai. It turns out there was very little to actually worry about. Obviously I had to dress respectfully for work, but to be fair, I would have to equally dress in an appropriate manner for work in Ireland. A typical work outfit for me would be a knee-length dress or skirt with a cardigan to ward off chills from the blasting air-conditioning. Outside work, clothing depended on the exact plans for the evening. Going out for dinner or drinks meant nearly anything goes, while going somewhere more public like a mall would usually entailed covering up shoulders and knees.

Now, I guess the actual question is really whether it is an annoyance to have to always be considerate of the need for modesty and appropriate attire. It was more of an inconvenience than anything else. Trying to buying knee-length dresses and skirts on a price-conscious budget was a challenge, as was dealing with the heat while trying to dress modestly. Being stared at was just something you got used to, regardless of whether you were walking around a mall wearing a maxi-skirt or hailing a taxi on your way out for the night. Staring is something that just happens there but obviously there will be more if you are dressed immodestly.

You just had to deal with having to be considerate of your appearance, and of course, it helped with me anyway that I rarely ever wear mini-skirts or short shorts in Ireland. Maybe it would have been more difficult if not for that, I can’t say for sure, but definitely, living in Dubai is more being considerate than having to cover up.

*genuine quote from a taxi driver


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