What Not to Wear

Ahhh, the question that’s been on everyone’s mind. I can only speak from personal experience because the dress code is different for everyone.

Times I was inappropriately dressed:

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque- please refer to my previous mosque post for details. When you’re required to dress a certain way and don’t, sheer embarrassment is the end result. It’s quite an eye-opener to be called out on account of clothing, especially as an adult. I had to use one of the mosque’s hooded abayas, which in turn resulted in inappropriate, convulsive laughter.

Al Sharq Mall in Baniyas, AD. I was out in the sticks and quickly learned that people generally dress more conservatively the farther out they are from actual Abu Dhabi city. Lost and hungry, we stopped at a mall only to find that nearly everyone was wearing the traditional dress, whereas when you go to a mall in the city there’s a larger variety of people, resulting in a wider array of fashion choices. At Al Sharq, I was the only person in a sleeveless shirt, but rather than shop for a sweater or scarf I hung my head in shame while we found a place to eat before bolting back to the car.

What I didn’t pack enough of:

Jackets- Because I knew I’d need to cover my arms at work, I bought five identical black cardigans before I left home so I’d have one to wear every day of the work week. All eight of the skirts I brought match them so I figured it would be an easy way to coordinate my outfits. But since I wear them all day, I don’t feel like wearing them outside of work. I brought two jean jackets but those are much too heavy to wear now. Over the summer, I had read how every indoor facility is over air-conditioned to the point of freezing in an attempt to counteract the extreme heat outside, but that’s rarely the case. In the classroom and in the English Dept, if the air is too strong someone just opens a window. Hey, it’s a wealthy country, we might as well air-condition the outside, right? But I do wish I had brought more of a variety of light outerwear just to spice up my wardrobe. I’ve already heard more than once, “Teacher, is your favorite color black?”

Pants- I’m one of the lucky ladies who can wear them to work. The stipulation is that your backside needs to be covered by a tunic or longer sweater. I bought two long sweaters today because I so desperately want to wear the black pants I brought. Again I wish I had more variety but I didn’t think there was a chance in H-E- double hockey sticks that slacks would be part of my dress code. I’ve had to shop so much for apartment furnishings in the past month that I just don’t feel like looking for new clothes at the moment. Until now I’ve worn a maxi skirt, black t-shirt and black cardigan to work every day. I feel like an Amish lady so that’s gonna have to change soon.

Shoes- As a size 9, I can find some shoes here but I’ve seen numerous styles that are only stocked to size 8. I brought about a dozen pair of various black shoes- wedges, heels, flats, Sketchers, etc. I bought a second pair of Dansko “teacher shoes” right before leaving the U.S. but don’t like them as much as my first pair so I was still wearing the old ones all the time. They’re super-comfy but the sand has settled into the cushion layer and it bothers me so I wash them often, which has already ruined them. Super-sad face for sure. On a happy note, this experience has helped me decide that my next blog will be titled “Sand in My Shoes;” the first runner-up was “Sand in my Apartment.”

Abayas (dresses)- These can be bought in a regular store or custom-made. A few of the dozen English teachers at my school wear abayas to work simply to make dressing in the morning easy. I haven’t bought any yet but am contemplating picking one up somewhere down the line in case I need it for a future function. Many of them are quite elaborate and you can have them tailored to fit perfectly, and they’re supposedly light, airy, and comfortable to wear in the heat. Of course, the most popular color is black, which used to be my ultimate favorite but I’m starting to think I need a little more happy in my life than all-black clothes and shoes provide.

Shaylas/Sheilas (head covering)- Again, we don’t have to cover our hair at work but are allowed to if we so choose. I haven’t done this either, not because I like my hair but because I look so much older with it under wraps. It reminds me of when I put a towel on my head after a shower. No thanks.

Dresses- It would have been easier to bring some cute outfits from home than shop for them here. At night, everyone wears sleeveless blouses and dresses and no one looks twice. All the clubs and bars here are just as rowdy as at home. Bands (though not nearly as good as at home), DJs, cocktails, it’s all here. There is no lack of nightlife, either- it’s just restricted to the hotels because of the liquor license laws. The hotels here are awesome and have fabulous restaurants, quaint pubs, crazy bars and nightclubs. The crowd rolls in late; the “see and be seen” places don’t get going until after midnight. I’d like to say I’m home by then but have stayed out long enough to know when things really start happening around here. The dresses grow shorter as the night grows longer.

I’m about to go online and order myself some clothes and shoes. I’ll send them to my sister’s so the girls can bring me a full suitcase when they come to visit at Christmas. All it takes to make me happy is a little hope on the horizon!

At the Grand Mosque


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