I started this post before I’d even left for Dubai but never got around to posting it. While it’s not exactly relevant to me at the moment I think it’s still worth putting it out there in the bloggosphere in case anyone else is planning a trip to the UAE and wondering what to pack. Here’s what I learned.
I can pack for most places pretty easily. City trips require more style and less visible skin. Beach trips require easy, breezy clothes. I know how to pack for a lot of places but what I don’t know how to pack for is a trip to the Middle East. I may not be headed to the most conservative Muslim country, but I do want to be appropriate even if I could technically get away with not.
Here’s what I’ve come up with and what’s currently in my suitcase:
I came up with these wardrobe choices based on what I happen to have in my own closet combined with what the internet says will be appropriate. I’ve also left room to include my take on the each piece of advice from after my trip.
The internet says: Cover your shoulders.
My closet says: I never noticed before this trip that I tend to be either a tank top girl or a long sleeve girl. I learned long ago that short sleeves are extremely unflattering and, apparently, I never buy them. I did manage to dig up two basic T-shirts, one white and one black and I also bought a breezy white blouse to add to the mix. The tank tops will work great with a scarf over my shoulders or to layer under the T-shirts in cool A/C or for a pop of color.
My suitcase says: 2 basic T-shirts, 1 lightweight blouse, 3 basic tank tops
My post-trip verdict: This advice was spot on. While I did see many a traveler in tank tops and even a few in tube tops, it was obviously more appropriate to cover up.
The internet says: Cover your knees.
My closet says: I never wear shorts in cities anyway, even my own city, so this sounded just fine. I do usually travel with knee-length skirts but a maxi skirt is a fine substitution. Add to that a light pair of chinos and a pair of skinny jeans and I’m set.
My suitcase says: 1 dark colored maxi skirt, 1 pair dark skinny jeans, 1 pair light skinny chinos.
My post-trip verdict: Again, this advice was sound; I felt good about my choices.
The internet says: It’s the skin that matters, not the form. Meaning that while your shoulders and knees should be covered, it’s perfectly acceptable to cover them in things that don’t necessarily hide your figure.
My closet says: This is a good thing because I tend to buy fitted clothes. I didn’t exactly want to go out and buy a bunch of shapeless dresses.
My verdict: Yep. While super tight clothes might have gotten you some stares, skinny jeans and fitted tops were worn by both Middle Eastern women with headscarves and tourists without.
The internet says: Dress for the heat! It’s brutal!
My closet says: Hmm… but it’s a dry heat right? I’m hoping I’ll be okay.
My suitcase says: 1 pair sunglasses, 1 floppy hat, 1 pair casual flip flops, 1 pair dressy sandals
My verdict: It’s all in the eye of the beholder. Dubai was hot, there’s no question about that. Still, all the talk online about just how hot it is kind of freaked me out and I was seriously concerned that I would roast in my jeans and culturally appropriate tops. We visited at the start of the hot season and while we were indeed quite warm, it was nothing compared to some places I’ve been. (I’m looking at you, Nicaragua.) Also, in a land with that kind of heat and that kind of money, air-conditioning is everywhere and I was just fine.
The internet says: Typical American pool/beach attire is A-Okay. (A lot of sources went on to explain that European swim attire might not be quite as acceptable.)
My closet says: Throw in the trusty two-piece and hope for the best. I’m also throwing in that breezy white button-up to wear over my suit in case this one’s wrong. Either way though, I’m not exactly known for being brazen in a bikini even when it is culturally appropriate so I think I’ll be fine.
My suitcase says: 1 swim suit
My verdict: Aside from the awkwardness at the hotel pool that had nothing to do with the culture and everything to do with ridiculous pool rules and my self-consciousness, my swim suit was just fine.
And that, my friends, is how I decided what to pack for my first trip to the Dubai. It was a success and to do it again, I probably would have brought pretty much the same stuff. If you found this post because you too are planning a trip to Dubai, happy travels and leave me a message in the comments to let me know what’s in your suitcase.