No entry: because of his clothes, this man can only watch the action at Ski Dubai. Randi Sokoloff / The National
No entry: because of his clothes, this man can only watch the action at Ski Dubai. Randi Sokoloff / The National

Cracking the UAE dress code can be tough

Kanduras and abayas have proven remarkably resilient amid the UAE's headlong modernisation, but some face barriers when they choose to wear traditional Emirati attire on a night out with friends.

There are places where kanduras and abayas are not appropriate. You are, for example, unlikely to find a picket line of angry Emiratis outside Skydive Dubai demanding the right to parachute in traditional dress.

In almost any other situation, whether it's on a date farm in the Empty Quarter or the company boardroom on the top floor of a gleaming skyscraper, kanduras and abayas remain an element of traditional culture that has adapted seamlessly to the modern UAE.

But the threshold for where traditional dress is and isn't allowed remains somewhat blurry and seemingly dependent on whim rather than fixed policy.

Last week, Saeed Saeed noted in his column in The National that he had been banned from bowling in a kandura for "safety" reasons. Since bowling is the most egalitarian of sports "if that doesn't go against the spirit of what this game is about, I don't know what does", he observed.

That rule is enforced at Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi, where ten-pin bowling enthusiasts are welcomed - but not if they wish to play while wearing traditional dress.

For one such bowling fan, Anood Lari, it was not the only obstacle she faced at Marina Mall because of her choice to wear an abaya.

"Another experience I've had was with a store, where I applied for a part-time job and they told me they'd have me working there only if I didn't wear the abaya," she said.

"It's quite discouraging and sometimes feels a little disrespectful to our culture.

"I've been told a few times that I cannot bowl wearing my abaya at Marina Mall because they were following 'international safety procedures/laws'. I respect and understand that, but in a country such as the UAE, it's not very practical."

Just across town in Zayed Sports City, Ms Lari would be able to bowl in her abaya - but any male competitor would have to change into western attire if he wanted to challenge her.

However, in the Northern Emirates, where ten-pin bowling is one of the most popular ways for the locals to pass the time, kanduras and abayas pose no barrier to participation. If they were, the lanes would become deserted.

Ski Dubai is another site that bans national dress, but only for those skiing or snowboarding on the indoor ski slope.

"Regarding the kandura and abaya, it is not allowed to have them for ski or SB [snowboard]," a Ski Dubai spokesman said.

"They can wear them only if they want to have a walk inside the snow park."

The reason was for reasons of safety rather than warmth, the company stated.

"First it restricts movement and doesn't help with the balance on skis," the company said.

"Then it can get stuck under the skis or binding and cause a fall or injury."

The slope's code does not just affect those in national dress. Ski Dubai is also used for training by mountaineers, who hike up and down the snow slope before it opened to the public to prepare for climbing peaks such as Kilimanjaro. On a few occasions, participants have been denied entry by security staff if they are clad in shorts and told they need more robust clothing.

Other Emiratis say they have never faced any barrier caused by wearing national dress.

Omar Al Ayoobi, an engineer with the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa), said there were times when he opted not to wear his kandura but that was always for reasons of practicality and at his own behest rather than because of a rule imposed by others.

"If you're on a beach, swimming or playing football, in these cases you'd wear other things," he said.

"If you're invited to a ceremony outside the UAE then a suit might be more comfortable to talk to people.

"Of course the kandura is a uniform but this doesn't mean you'll wear it in any place. If you're at a big hotel or something like a resort, you want to be more free.

"When you wear shorts, you're more free than wearing a kandura. If you're playing football it's better to wear shorts. In a kandura, it's hard to jump from place to place.

"I think when I'm in a kandura," he added with a laugh, "I have to be more quiet."

At Dewa there is a policy allowing either western business attire or traditional dress.

Mr Al Ayoobi said his work was sometimes hands-on, which was sometimes inconvenient and dirty when dressed in a kandura, although he was also able to enlist the help of office staff to assist.

"My work at Dewa as an engineer is technical work and I have to support customers," he added.

"If there's a printer problem, it means I have to go under the desk to connect cables and that will be harder in a kandura. In this case, it's not easy."

In such cases, he was able to wear his gutra in the more practical method, wrapped around his head rather than loose with an agal.

"I've never been in any place where a kandura isn't allowed.

"It's not like a private company. In a public authority or the government, they support the managers and you can wear a kandura.

"If we're going to the shopping mall, we'll wear our kandura. If we're going to a wedding we sometimes have to wear a more stylish one.

"There's no problem wearing a kandura. Elsewhere, it might be different but in the [Arabian] Gulf countries, we're doing something for ourselves that's traditional."

Alia Al Shamlan, who works for the Jumeirah Group, said she had also never faced any ban on wearing the abaya, although it was not always the most practical attire.

"I drive a Jeep Wrangler so it's not that practical to wear an abaya sometimes, but you get used to it," she said.

"The concept is to be covered - it doesn't have to be an abaya. We can cover with anything so long as it's decent. When I ride my bike, I wear a long blouse and something that covers my legs."

The only time she had heard of an abaya ban was when a friend was refused entry to a nightclub because she was wearing traditional dress.

"That's in a club. I've never been in a club and I don't want to go, but I know people who go to have fun and it [the abaya] wasn't allowed in there," Al Shamlan added.

While there were detriments to wearing the abaya, there were also benefits. When she was based in Scotland, she chose to cover her hair but to eschew traditional dress.

She estimated she had to get out of bed 20 minutes earlier than she would in the Emirates because she had to coordinate her clothing with her accessories rather than just donning a black abaya.

"I struggled when I wore different clothes. I had to change to wear something matching my shayla," she added. "I really did wish I could wear my abaya."


Hong Kong 52-5 UAE
South Korea 55-5 Malaysia
Malaysia 6-70 Hong Kong
UAE 36-32 South Korea

Friday, June 21, 7.30pm kick-off: UAE v Malaysia
At The Sevens, Dubai (admission is free).
Saturday: Hong Kong v South Korea

At Everton Appearances: 77; Goals: 17

At Manchester United Appearances: 559; Goals: 253

Fourth-round clashes for British players

- Andy Murray (1) v Benoit Paire, Centre Court (not before 4pm)

- Johanna Konta (6) v Caroline Garcia (21), Court 1 (4pm)


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Started: December 2023
Founder: Ivan Kroshnyi
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: Electric vehicles
Investors: Bootstrapped with undisclosed funding. Looking to raise funds from outside

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Nationality: New Zealand

Education: Degree in zoology at The University of Sydney

Favourite book: Lemurs of Madagascar by Russell A Mittermeier

Favourite music: Billy Joel

Weekends and holidays: Talking about animals or visiting his farm in Australia


Uefa Champions League semi-finals, first leg
Liverpool v Roma

When: April 24, 10.45pm kick-off (UAE)
Where: Anfield, Liverpool
Live: BeIN Sports HD
Second leg: May 2, Stadio Olimpico, Rome

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Mahika Gaur is the latest Dubai-raised athlete to attain top honours with another country.

Velimir Stjepanovic (Serbia, swimming)
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Jonny Macdonald (Scotland, rugby union)
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Tips for newlyweds to better manage finances

All couples are unique and have to create a financial blueprint that is most suitable for their relationship, says Vijay Valecha, chief investment officer at Century Financial. He offers his top five tips for couples to better manage their finances.

Discuss your assets and debts: When married, it’s important to understand each other’s personal financial situation. It’s necessary to know upfront what each party brings to the table, as debts and assets affect spending habits and joint loan qualifications. Discussing all aspects of their finances as a couple prevents anyone from being blindsided later.

Decide on the financial/saving goals: Spouses should independently list their top goals and share their lists with one another to shape a joint plan. Writing down clear goals will help them determine how much to save each month, how much to put aside for short-term goals, and how they will reach their long-term financial goals.

Set a budget: A budget can keep the couple be mindful of their income and expenses. With a monthly budget, couples will know exactly how much they can spend in a category each month, how much they have to work with and what spending areas need to be evaluated.

Decide who manages what: When it comes to handling finances, it’s a good idea to decide who manages what. For example, one person might take on the day-to-day bills, while the other tackles long-term investments and retirement plans.

Money date nights: Talking about money should be a healthy, ongoing conversation and couples should not wait for something to go wrong. They should set time aside every month to talk about future financial decisions and see the progress they’ve made together towards accomplishing their goals.

SPECS: Polestar 3

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Power: 360kW / 483bhp
Torque: 840Nm
Transmission: Single-speed automatic
Max touring range: 628km
0-100km/h: 4.7sec
Top speed: 210kph
Price: From Dh360,000
On sale: September


Name: SmartCrowd
Started: 2018
Founder: Siddiq Farid and Musfique Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech / PropTech
Initial investment: $650,000
Current number of staff: 35
Investment stage: Series A
Investors: Various institutional investors and notable angel investors (500 MENA, Shurooq, Mada, Seedstar, Tricap)

Brief scores:


Watford 1

Capoue 45'+1

The burning issue

The internal combustion engine is facing a watershed moment – major manufacturer Volvo is to stop producing petroleum-powered vehicles by 2021 and countries in Europe, including the UK, have vowed to ban their sale before 2040. The National takes a look at the story of one of the most successful technologies of the last 100 years and how it has impacted life in the UAE.

Part three: an affection for classic cars lives on

Read part two: how climate change drove the race for an alternative 

Read part one: how cars came to the UAE

What is a Ponzi scheme?

A fraudulent investment operation where the scammer provides fake reports and generates returns for old investors through money paid by new investors, rather than through ligitimate business activities.


Romeo Akbar Walter

Rating: 2/5 stars
Produced by: Dharma Productions, Azure Entertainment
Directed by: Robby Grewal
Cast: John Abraham, Mouni Roy, Jackie Shroff and Sikandar Kher 

Company Profile

Company name: Namara
Started: June 2022
Founder: Mohammed Alnamara
Based: Dubai
Sector: Microfinance
Current number of staff: 16
Investment stage: Series A
Investors: Family offices

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1. Fasting

2. Prayer

3. Hajj

4. Shahada

5. Zakat 

Suggested picnic spots

Abu Dhabi
Umm Al Emarat Park
Yas Gateway Park
Delma Park
Al Bateen beach
Saadiyaat beach
The Corniche
Zayed Sports City
Kite Beach
Zabeel Park
Al Nahda Pond Park
Mushrif Park
Safa Park
Al Mamzar Beach Park
Al Qudrah Lakes 


Starring: Lupita Nyong'o, Joseph Quinn, Djimon Hounsou

Director: Michael Sarnoski

Rating: 4/5

UAE athletes heading to Paris 2024


Abdullah Humaid Al Muhairi, Abdullah Al Marri, Omar Al Marzooqi, Salem Al Suwaidi, and Ali Al Karbi (four to be selected).

Men: Narmandakh Bayanmunkh (66kg), Nugzari Tatalashvili (81kg), Aram Grigorian (90kg), Dzhafar Kostoev (100kg), Magomedomar Magomedomarov (+100kg); women's Khorloodoi Bishrelt (52kg).

Safia Al Sayegh (women's road race).


Men: Yousef Rashid Al Matroushi (100m freestyle); women: Maha Abdullah Al Shehi (200m freestyle).


Maryam Mohammed Al Farsi (women's 100 metres).

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets
Company profile

Company: Eighty6 

Date started: October 2021 

Founders: Abdul Kader Saadi and Anwar Nusseibeh 

Based: Dubai, UAE 

Sector: Hospitality 

Size: 25 employees 

Funding stage: Pre-series A 

Investment: $1 million 

Investors: Seed funding, angel investors  


July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone


The extraordinary stories shaping a people and a nation

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