Packing guide: What to wear in Abu Dhabi

One of the trickiest considerations when packing for a far-flung destination can be working out the dress code – particularly for a place such as Abu Dhabi, where you might wonder what to wear when confronted with soaring temperatures and a conservative sensibility among the locals.

What to wear in Abu Dhabi really depends on the place you are visiting – for example the dress code is very different in a hotel or resort versus visiting a religious building such as the breathtaking Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

Having been to Abu Dhabi myself, I have some experience of what women are expected (and will feel comfortable) wearing in the tourist hotspots. Here’s a quick guide to help you pack for your visit to the Emirates…

Abu Dhabi dress code: Hotels/resorts

Pretty much anything goes in the hotels and resorts of Abu Dhabi, although personally I wouldn’t have felt comfortable wearing anything wildly skimpy – think cami tops and chino shorts over crop tops and bum-baring hot pants. Dresses are also a great option.

The main thing to think about is the heat – temperatures in Abu Dhabi regularly hit over 40°C in the summer, and even in the winter it can be very warm compared to what we’re used to in the UK. Choose natural fabrics such as cotton and linen – these will keep you much cooler than synthetic fabrics such as polyester. Light colours and loose shapes are also a winner.

Abu Dhabi dress code: Public places

In between the relaxed dress codes of the hotels and the ultra-modest dress codes of the mosques, there is a bit of an unspoken dress code for public places such as museums, galleries and restaurants.

I felt more comfortable in these places wearing a midi dress, or shirt and trousers – basically, nothing showing off any cleavage, thigh or a load of bare skin. Our female tour guide also agreed that she wouldn’t wear a strappy vest top or mini skirt to places like this, although there is no official dress code.

Abu Dhabi dress code: Religious buildings

A trip to Abu Dhabi is not complete without a visit to Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque – the scale and grandeur of this place has to be seen to be believed.

However, there is a strict dress code which you must adhere to. While you can buy an abaya for as little as £20 in the shops nearby, you’ll save yourself time and money by being prepared.

Women must be completely covered for their visit – that means shoulders, arms, ankles and hair (your face, feet and hands can be on display). In packing terms, this means either a long-sleeved maxi dress, or full-length trousers with a long-sleeved top or shirt. You can also pack a scarf to cover your hair.

Of course, if you already own an abaya then this is the perfect place to wear it.