A few years back, when shopping malls turned into major destination for shoppers and tourists in the United Arab Emirates, the issue of how men and women appear in public began to gain greater attention. Mall entrances have come to carry signs and instructions relating not only to pets, trash, bicycles and skaters, but dress codes as well. In a cosmopolitan society, the idea of modesty does not have a clear definition; it just refers to wearing clothes that do not resemble wearing a swimming suit. One sign, for example, asks people to wear “respectful clothing,” and specifies that “shoulders and knees should be covered.” But so as not to portray Dubai only as a strict conservative society, it is worth mentioning the fact that in certain areas, such as bars and night clubs, people can wear whatever they want, and there is no one that polices them. On beaches, on the other hand, people who wear full clothes are not allowed to just sit and watch beach goers, because it is obvious that their goal is to watch rather than swim (this refers mainly to men watching women), and this is considered an invasion of people’s privacy.
Among other things, dress code signs encourage modesty in clothing out of respect for Arab-Islamic traditions that define life in the UAE. But as it turned out later, many mall visitors seem to have either missed on noticing those signs or have ignored them by putting on more revealing clothes that certainly go counter to what was suggested by those signs.
In reaction to what seems like a rising dress code violations in public places, two Emirati ladies, Hanan Al Rayes and Asma Al Muhairi, decided to launch a Twitter campaign to prod people to respect certain norms around clothing. [Read more...]