A UAE minister said on Tuesday he fully supported the idea of devising a dress code in the country that is in line with the local traditions. He also supported the idea to create a federal law that effectively enforced tourists and residents from wearing revealing clothes in public.
“I agree that it is important to show the importance of traditions and culture. In the UAE, we are a conservative society, we hold on to our traditions,” Dr Abdulrahman Al Owais, Minister of Culture, Youth and Social Development, and the chairman of the National Council for Tourism and Antiquities, said. “I speak as the head of the national tourism council, and our powers are limited. I agree with the idea of a federal law, but it depends on the federal cabinet.”
The minister insisted that the main problem lies not with tourists, but residents who ignore dress code regulations in public spaces, adding many do not know “much about the culture”.
“It is a big percentage of residents, not just tourists, and some do it on purpose, not by accident,” he said.
Sharjah and Dubai have their own dress policies, however, the absence of a federal law has resulted in no prosecution so far.
“If these policies have no law behind them, then how are violators punished? ” Hamad Al Rahoumi, FNC member from Dubai, said. “In some countries, they do not allow a face veil or a headscarf. We must also have laws to organise our dress code here.”
Disrespectful behaviour was also an issue, the Dubai-based politician added.
“I have seen couples ‘kissing passionately’ and attracting a lot of attention. This sort of public display makes families uncomfortable,” he explained.
“I can stop myself from going to the beach and witness these sights, but I cannot stop going to the mall to shop,” he said.
Two UAE female citizens, Hanan al-Rayyes and Asma al-Muheiri, instituted a “UAE Dress Code” campaign last month which is designed to promote “respect for the country’s culture” among foreigners and raise awareness about what locals consider appropriate dress and behaviour.
The campaign has attracted the attention of thousands of people in the conservative country. The Twitter account @UAEDressCode as of Tuesday had 1760 followers.