Sunday, June 17, 2012

UAE Dress Code

The big debate in the UAE is a recent discussion among the government and locals who support implementing a law that will outline a dress code.  Those in support feel a lot of foreigners run around here dressed inappropriately and this is disrespectful to the local culture.

I do understand the discussion around respectful dress, and the desire to achieve the balance.  There have been a few times when I see someone and wonder how they are comfortable wearing certain things here.  Sometimes it is tasteful, other times not.  It is a fine line. 

It is nice to feel good and look great, but I agree that wearing your bathing suit top with a mini skirt to a shopping mall in a country where the local ladies wear full-length abayas is insulting.  This is a holiday destination with great beaches, but the local culture should be respected.

However, the proper implementation of a dress code will be extremely challenging.  What may be offensive for one person is not necessarily offensive for the other. 
  
How would a policeman who implements the law see it?  Will there be consistency from one police officer to another?  Impossible as this is completely subjective.  

This is further complicated by what is sold here.  It is no secret that Dubai and the other Emirates have no shortage of shopping malls.  These are full of every brand imaginable and every style of clothing imaginable.  If the government doesn’t want people to dress inappropriately, then I wonder if they would also stop selling “inappropriate” garments.  It would be hypocritical to sell it.  That would easily close more than 80% of all retail outlets and take a big chunk out of the economy.  

It would curb the worry of one minister who was quoted as not wanting inappropriate dress to affect the children who witness it.  In the context of the local culture, I understand why he would say this.  However, it should not be sold to them either.  The promotion of the fashion industry, which is highly based on sex and looking attractive will need to be reconsidered here.  Not only does this include the clothes, but also the massive perfume stores, the advertising for it everywhere – in magazines, on billboards on Sheikh Zayed Road, in pictures plastered on the outside of Dubai Mall.  And don’t forget those plastic naked guys that look like they are diving into that fountain pool in the mall - they are either naked or wearing fitted clothing.  Either way, I assume this would fall into the offensive category.

The Fashion Court at Dubai Mall, a favorite hangout for locals, would be completely shut down on this premise.  You wouldn’t put up a drug stand on a street corner and sell to users, but request that they not use their drugs until they are somewhere that drugs are legal.  The observation of drugs being bought and sold would give people ideas.  Sexy pictures of people with drugs would only enhance this.  Buy it, but don’t use it is challenging to implement.

Dubai, and other parts of the UAE are big tourist destinations.  Once implemented, if tourists feel it is too conservative, they may not want to come visit.  Don’t under estimate the perception that the media could create.  This will further hurt the economy. 

They didn’t ask me, but now that I have broadcast my opinion, I would recommend before implementing a dress code into law, the government invest in an education campaign.  This has not been tried yet.  Perhaps it is under consideration.  Assuming the application of fining or punishing someone for inappropriate dress takes resources, time and money; just think of the savings for the judicial system.

And not just the money - would you prefer to have your policemen chasing after people dressing inappropriately, or would you rather they focus on real criminals?  Education is the key.  Educate residents and tourists, and insist that the security at facilities ask people to leave the premises if they do not abide.

You could even generate some extra revenue out of it if you wanted.  Put up some “Appropriate Dress Shops” at the entrances of the places where you are having issues.  Send the culprit in there to buy something if they do not have time to turn around and go back to their hotel to change.

Everything I have read is directed at the way women dress.  This has made me uncomfortable as I have also seen men dress inappropriately just as many times as women.  If men are not included then such a law could be mistaken for the repression of women.

Just bare in mind that more material does not always equate with respectable.  I will never forget a visit to Petra, Jordan one summer a few years ago.  A male tourist decided to wear a kandura.  It was a hot, sunny day.  I don’t think he realized that men wear a white cloth that is tied around the waste under these called a woozar

He had absolutely nothing on under it.  This is an image that is unfortunately etched in my brain forever.  Although I try desperately, I cannot forget.  If we do see an education campaign, then let’s hope it is very thorough in it’s directives to avoid witnessing such a site.  Otherwise, you may find tourists unintentionally insulting the culture in ways you never imagined.

6 comments:

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Pam said...

Thank you both - Glad to hear it was helpful Fahad! It will be interesting to see if this discussion continues as the weather cools off and more tourists continue to visit this winter. Good luck with your investigation!

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Pam said...

Thanks for your comment Sherlin.

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