Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates with its year round sunshine and its fascinating history stretching back 8000 years, has a wide variety of beautiful beaches, deserts, fancy shops, stunning skyscrapers but also amazing mosques, like the largest Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and ancient fortresses like Al Jahili Fort. It isn’t all just about wealthy people and fancy architecture, you don’t have to be rich to travel here and if you decide to take the leap the burning question will be what to wear?
What time of year are you travelling?
Abu Dhabi is considered to have a desert climate and during the year there is virtually no rainfall, so sunshine all year round makes Abu Dhabi the place to be at any time of the year. Though the temperatures in the summer can become a bit overbearing (August temperatures reach 37 degrees Centigrade and above!) all public indoor areas, hotels and most if not all shops, cafes, restaurants have incredibly effective air conditioning so it is possible to avoid the suffocating heat for most of your time in Abu Dhabi. However this is if you choose to travel in the summer, other times of year are available and can make for an amazing escape from the dreary winters of home.
Early spring, late Autumn and Winter are ideal times to visit Abu Dhabi , daily temperatures range from 18 to 25 degrees C (November to March with the lowest in January), perfect for a relaxing time on the beach with evenings and nights dropping to a comfortable 12 degrees C
So....what to wear?
Remembering that Abu Dhabi is a Muslim country choosing appropriate clothing is a must so though it is acceptable to wear shorts, strappy tops and swimwear on the beach it is unacceptable once you leave the beach even when walking around the hotel complex. For both men and women when walking around the shops and streets, visiting ancient monuments and mosques, arms, shoulders and legs must be covered...at least to the knee, unless you want to cause offense.
If your clothing is too tight, revealing or short you will very likely be stared at and this can make you feel uncomfortable. In extreme cases, the police may instruct you to dress more suitably.
Our suggestions for what to wear:
Essential to pack t shirts, whatever time of year you travel it will always be warm and they will keep you cool and cover your shoulders, upper arm and chest. Why not check out our Abu Dhabi T Shirts.
At least 2 loose blouses or shirts are a must for keeping you cool and protecting your skin helping to prevent sun burn and heatstroke. They will also ensure you always have something to cover up with should you decide to visit some of Abu Dhabi’s ancient monuments or mosques.
Loose linen or cotton Chinos and loose knee length shorts for both men and women will help keep you cool and be great for going out in the evening or for walking in the desert.
Many travellers to hot climates love to wear colourful Harem pants as they are loose fitting, made from very thin material and are very light and easy to pack, taking up almost no room in your suitcase.
Once upon a time these could only be purchased in local markets in the destination country but are now easy to find online. We personally would not travel without at least 2 pairs of these ‘essential’ items...and they can be worn by both males and females
You may want to take jeans to Abu Dhabi, possibly too hot for walking around outside in the heat of the day in the warmer seasons but they will be ideal in the cooler months of December and January and as was mentioned earlier all shopping malls and indoor spaces have very effective air conditioning so you would not be uncomfortable indoors in a pair of jeans.
Skirts that fall to or below the knee and made from a thin material would be perfect for wearing in Abu Dhabi and will be cooling and help protect your legs from the sun.
If you are travelling in the cooler months where it can get chilly in the early mornings and late evenings and if you will be spending time in air conditioned buildings, a cardigan or a jumper/sweatshirt will be a great idea to take. It can get quite chilly in an air conditioned cinema or restaurant where you will be sitting still for a long time. Have a look at our Abu Dhabi Sweatshirts or Abu Dhabi Hoodies for the perfect way to stay comfortable when the sun goes down or the air con ramps up.
Any type of footwear can be worn in Abu Dhabi as your trip will likely be a combination of walking on sandy beaches or deserts and pristine clean walkways indoor areas, shopping malls and railway stations.
So, for the sandy beaches and desert treks, flip flops, croc style shoes, hard wearing closed toe sandals, training shoes or walking boots.
For visiting shopping malls and going to restaurants, dress sandals or leather/canvas shoes.
If you love shoes with a high heel then take them also for special nights out.
Scarves and Headgear
Carrying around a light scarf can be very useful in Abu Dhabi just in case more cover is needed, although a head covering is generally not necessary if you decide to enter a religious or government building it will be essential.
If you venture beyond the skyscrapers and city lights into the desert and the mountains you will see many local people wearing what amounts to a square cotton scarf wrapped around their heads and knotted in a special way to keep it from falling off. These are very effective at keeping your head cool and you may want to adopt the local approach and wear one yourself...though we’d suggest asking a local to help you put it on properly as there is a special technique... we’re sure they’d be more than happy to show you.
If this style of headgear doesn’t take your fancy then a hat that covers your face and your neck is essential to minimise sunburn and heatstroke. So a wide brimmed hat, bucket hat or caps with neck covers would be best. A normal cap would protect your face to some degree but can leave a lot of skin uncovered.
Sun Cream is an absolute must if you’re going to be spending time in the sun and we’d advise a factor of at least 30, this way you can enjoy that wonderful hot weather without worrying about burning yourself.
If you don’t like sun cream and don’t want to burn just make sure you stay covered up with light clothing that covers all your extremities.
These will help you to see without squinting and a good pair with adequate UV protection will help protect your eyes.
Though Abu Dhabi is considered one of the safest places in the world it’s still nice to know where your passport and money are so a small waist bag is a great idea to keep these items close to you.
It is also a good idea to have a bag or a small rucksack to carry around drinks and snacks for when you’re out and about so make sure you don’t forget to pack these items.
So, to conclude... what to wear in Abu Dhabi?
With sun all year round, the rich culture, the lure of the luxurious shopping malls, the beautiful beaches with warm sea waters and the possibilities of desert adventures a trip to Abu Dhabi is an experience not to be missed. Pack appropriately to ensure you are respectful of the locals and their traditions, to make sure you are comfortable in the heat and not too cold in the air conditioned interiors and you will have a wonderful time.