This weekend we will head out of London once again and our first stop is Abu Dhabi. This is our first time visiting the UAE, but not our first time visiting a predominantly Islamic country. We have really enjoyed learning about and experiencing Islamic traditions, including calls to prayer, and visiting some of the most gorgeous mosques in the world.  But despite our interest in the Islamic culture, I always struggle with one important thing – what to wear.

The struggle of ‘what to wear’ or more specifically ‘what NOT to wear’ is complicated because appropriate dress differs by place. In Istanbul, for example, I wore jeans and non-cleavage bearing T-shirts, and covered my head with a scarf I bought at a market.  In Kuala Lumpur, where it’s about a million degrees, I would carry a long sleeve shirt to put on over my tank top when I wanted to enter a house of worship. But again, the rules were basically, be modest, cover your hair and we’re all good.

Mosque-3-min

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Center in Abu Dhabi is different. The ‘Mosque Manners’ section of their website detail that women must cover legs, arms, head and neck while visiting. Only hands, feet and face can be visible. But you can’t cover your arms and legs with just anything – nothing ‘tight’ is allowed. I’m not really one for tight clothing but that’s also a very subjective word. The jeans I’m wearing right now aren’t tight but they’re not particularly baggy either. I don’t have any dark coloured flowing linen pants because I live in a cool climate.  And I don’t own a single floor length skirt or dress because I don’t really like them. Basically, my entire wardrobe is unsuitable for a visit to the mosque. Literally.

Mosque-2-min

After being denied entrance to a Buddhist temple a few years ago in Bangkok because my sleeves covered my shoulders but not my upper arms fully, I’m going to Abu Dhabi prepared. Rather than risking it with my baggiest pants, I’m going to buy a floor length skirt and a head scarf that fully wraps around my neck.  I will also bring along a single long sleeve shirt for this visit, without plans for wearing it again in the boiling temperature of the desert.

Outside of the mosque, the rest of Abu Dhabi follows essentially the same modesty levels of other Islamic countries we’ve been to. No tiny straps, no short skirts, and general respect for those around you who don’t care to see your hoo-hahs or booty. I think I can manage that.

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