If your spouse just got orders to the Middle East, like Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, or the United Arab Emirates you probably have a ton of things on your mind. But what you can and can’t wear when you PCS to the Middle East might not be one of them. Each country has it’s own rules on what non-Muslims can wear while living in or visiting their country, and some are stricter than others. The rules for men, women, and children are different so be sure to do your research and find out what each country deems appropriate and what is generally not allowed or severely frowned upon.
What is the Dress Code in the Middle East? A Breakdown by Country
Each country has its own set of rules on what is appropriate for civilians and tourists to wear. Some of the rules vary between citizens of that country and visitors, and sometimes there are just general rules to follow. Here is a breakdown on what you can wear in the Middle East by country:
The Dress Code in Bahrain
Bahrain restricts any clothing that is tight-fitting or short. Long skirts or pants are preferred, but those that cover the knees are allowed. Shoulders must be covered as well as your midriff and cleavage. Public beaches and swimming pools require one-piece bathing suits, preferably a rash guard and shorts versus a traditional bathing suit. Undergarments cannot be visible in any manner, and leggings are not considered pants. Shoulders and knees must always be covered in public. Closed-toed shoes for women are required as well.
You are able to wear whatever you like in your own home and at private resort hotels.
The Dress Code in Qatar
Many of the people of Qatar will wear traditional clothing on a daily basis rather than Westernized fashion. Tourists do not have a specific dress code, per se, but they are requested to wear modest clothing that covers their knees and their shoulders for both men and women. You can wear bikinis and bathing suits at the beach or near a pool, but you should cover up if you are not near those areas. Leggings are not considered pants in Qatar. Sleeves should be no less than half sleeve although it is not required.
You can wear whatever you like in your own home or at hotel resorts.
The Dress Code in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia’s dress codes have begun to relax over the years, but they are still one of the strictest countries when it comes to women’s fashion. All clothing must be modest—half sleeves are the shortest length requested and full-length skirts or pants are also requested—and women must wear an abaya.
An abaya is a long cloak, usually black, worn by women to cover their normal clothes and conceal their body shape. A hijab, or headscarf, is not required by foreigners but in some cities, like Riyadh, it is highly suggested that you wear one. There are no shoe requirements in Saudi Arabia.
You may wear whatever you like at home. However, in hotel resorts, you are requested to dress modestly. You don’t have to wear an abaya but it is highly suggested to do so. No bikinis or one-piece bathing suits are allowed—only fully covered bathing suits.
The Dress Code in Dubai
Dubai is one of the most liberal countries when it comes to dress codes in the Middle East. For the most part, you can wear whatever you wear in the States, but it is highly suggested that you strive for a more modest look with your knees covered and short sleeve t-shirts at a minimum. Any type of footwear is allowed. You will be required to wear a headdress in some situations like if you are visiting a mosque or other religious entity.
The Dress Code in the United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates is much like Dubai, but it is wise to be more modest here. Everything from the shoulders to the knees (preferably the mid-calf in some more strict places like Sharjah and Ajman) should be covered. Head-coverings are only required when entering a mosque. No low v-necks or shirts showing cleavage are allowed, and all workout clothes should not be worn in public (for men and women).
Bikinis are allowed at the beach and at the pool. Open-toed shoes are also allowed. You may wear whatever you want in your own home.
What Men Can Wear in the Middle East
Male dress codes are not as strict as female dress codes in the Middle East. In general, men can wear shorts (except for Saudi Arabia and more conservative parts of the UAE) and their shoulders are to be covered. Going topless is only allowed at the beaches or near a pool, except in Saudi Arabia where they should stay covered. Men can wear whatever they would like at home.
What Children Can Wear in the Middle East
For the most part, children can wear whatever you’d like them to wear while living in the Middle East. For girls, generally by the time they hit 10-12 they should begin to start dressing more conservatively. It is required for them to adhere to the same dress code as women by the time they hit puberty.
Since most Middle Eastern countries are more relaxed in dress code attire for men, it makes sense that it is the same for boys. Boys can generally wear shorts up until they are about 10 years old, but by the time they hit puberty they are required to adhere to the male dress code guidelines (which are only predominantly different in Saudi Arabia and more conservative areas of the UAE).
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Changing Up Your Wardrobe When You PCS to the Middle East
Getting orders to the Middle East can be both scary and exciting. However, PCSing to the Middle East means that much of your wardrobe that is acceptable in the US, especially in the hot temperatures they often experience in the Middle East, is not acceptable there. That means you will have to find items that are cool, comfortable, and modest—but without abandoning your personal sense of style.
Daily Mom Military has partnered with LuLu’s to help you find pieces that will easily become staples in your wardrobe as you get ready to PCS to the Middle East.
Shirts to Have on Stock when You PCS to the Middle East
Far Black Ribbed Surplice Long Sleeve Top
This long-sleeved black top is a great addition to your wardrobe for the Middle East. It can be tucked into trousers or a skirt for a complete look. The soft and stretchy knit material is comfortable to wear even in hot climates. The drop shoulders provide a sense of elegance and style, and it is roomy enough to be modest for most of the Middle Eastern countries. If you have a larger bust you might want to pin the neckline so it is more modest.
Zola Black and White Striped Cropped Tee
This soft and stretchy ribbed knit is cool enough to wear even in the hottest months, but it should only be worn in places like the UAE or Dubai where dress codes are more relaxed. Since it is a crop top, you might want to consider wearing it tucked into high-waisted pants or a high-waisted maxi skirt. The wide cut bodice makes it modest enough to wear, too.
Up on a Tuesday Black Vegan Leather Jacket
Cows are sacred in Muslim culture, but this vegan leather jacket is perfectly acceptable to wear in some of the more liberal areas of the Middle East. The moto design is on-trend this year and it is a great option to wear over some of your other tops when you need to cover your shoulders or for the chilly nights out.
Adyn Black V-Neck T-Shirt Bodysuit
Bodysuits, in general, shouldn’t be worn on their own while in the Middle East, but the Adyn Black V-Neck T-Shirt Bodysuit gives a larger bodice so it isn’t as form-fitting. The jersey knit is soft and temperature regulating, too. It is a great option to wear with a high-waisted pant or skirt paired with a cardigan or jacket over top of it.
Agnes Cream Print Button-Up Long Sleeve Top
This button-up is a classic style that is conservative, modest, yet still stylish. The lightweight woven fabric is cool enough to wear in the hot summer months, and the wide-cut bodice allows enough room for it to be considered forgiving. The high-low hem gives you enough room to be covered on the front and backside, especially if the front hem tucks into a pair of trousers or maxi skirt.
Ellie Off-White Long Sleeve V-Neck Top
This long-sleeve v-neck top is a stretchy and cool knit that has a relaxed bodice for a more modest look. The rounded hemline means it can work untucked with a pair of dark jeans or trousers. If you have a larger bust, you may want to pin the v-neck neckline to make it a bit more modest.
RELATED: 4 Simple Looks for the Busy Military Spouse and Mom
Pants to Have on Stock with You PCS to the Middle East
Set Your Goals Camel Brown Paper Bag Waist Pants
Jeans are not widely accepted in the Middle East, but a great pair of trousers can go a long way. These Set Your Goals Camel Brown Paper Bag Waist Pants are stylish, comfortable, and cool. They are medium weight so they should be reserved for the winter months or cooler nights, but the tie waist and taper skinny pant leg are stylish and trendy. They can be paired with one of the tops above and a pair of wedge heels for a complete look.
Hit the Jackpot Black Jogger Pants
Jogger pants are the perfect compromise between staying stylish and keeping a modest look when you PCS to the Middle East. These black jogger pants are cool and comfortable, but they don’t look anything like sweatpants. With the cinched waist and the cuffed pant leg, it creates a wonderful and stylish look that can be paired with a conservative t-shirt or blouse.
Sebastian Olive Green Pants
Another easy-to-pull off trouser, but this time in a muted olive green. The drawstring waist creates shape without being sexy, and they are roomy enough to be modest. They are long enough to wear in most of the Middle Eastern countries and lightweight enough that you will stay cool and comfortable.
Now or Never Off-White Tie Waist Cropped Wide Leg Pants
Wide leg pants are always a safe option when living in the Middle East, but you don’t want to sacrifice fashion and shape. These cropped wide-leg pants are made from lightweight cotton and have a high-waist that gives it shape. The cotton is woven, too, so you don’t have to worry about them being see-through. The white color also is cool in the hot summer months.
Dresses and Jumpsuits to Have on Stock when You PCS to the Middle East
Savannah Washed Olive Green Short-Sleeve Jumpsuit
Evenings out will be a definite option while you are stationed in the Middle East, but your typical little black dress won’t quite work there. Jumpsuits and maxi dresses are a wonderful option and are still conservative, yet stylish. This olive green jumpsuit covers you in all the necessary places but it can easily be paired with a heel for a night out type of look.
Mirabella Wine Red Satin Short Sleeve Wide-Leg Jumpsuit
Another option for a jumpsuit is this satin wine red wide-legged jumpsuit. The wide legs are conservative but the tie waist gives you shape. The satin fabric dresses it up and the high neckline and relaxed bodice are modest. Wear your hair down to cover the open back slit or pin it closed to ensure you are following protocol. Some more liberal countries, like the UAE, Qatar, and Dubai, wouldn’t think twice though.
My Whole Heart Emerald Green Long Sleeve Wrap Dress
Have a fancy night or a military ball coming up while stationed in the Middle East? This long sleeve wrap dress is a perfect option! It keeps you covered and cool with a wrap bodice and long, sheer sleeves. You can cinch at the waist for a bit of shape while the full maxi skirt offers the elegance you desire.
Ramona Black Suede Wedge Sandals
Since your new wardrobe for the Middle East will be a little more relaxed and flowy, you will want a pair of everyday shoes that add some shape and length to your body. he Ramona Black Suede Wedge sandals are comfortable and can go with just about any outfit—casual or dressy. (Note: In Bahrain, you will have to have your toes covered).
PCSing to the Middle East is daunting. But it can be am amazing adventure for you and your family. Those who have lived there have expressed deep admiration and love for the friendly culture of many of the people there. Just be sure to pack all these staple pieces in your express shipment or your carry-on luggage so they are with you when you arrive!
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