Balancing cultural sensitivity with practicality; how to prepare for your first Dubai desert safari
Got your Dubai tour tickets booked? Waiting for your pick-up driver for your first Dubai desert experience then suddenly realised you’ve got absolutely no idea what to wear?
Don’t worry, you’re not alone!
What to wear in Dubai
Dressing for Dubai can be a prickly subject; on the one hand, the headline dress code advice is to always dress with modesty, you’re going to a Muslim country.
Then, on the other hand, your Instagram feed is full of half-dressed models showing off in the sun. Add in conflicting travel forum advice about what is and isn’t appropriate in different situations. It IS confusing!!
We try and tackle as many of these different scenarios as possible in our “what to wear in Dubai” guide over here. However, the important thing to note is you are likely going to want a few different outfits when packing for Dubai!
Even on a short stopover, you could change outfits half a dozen times; what may be practical and appropriate for the beach, most certainly isn’t for a museum or a mosque. A Dubai Desert Safari brings a whole new set of wardrobe dilemmas!
As the desert safari is one of the most popular activities to try when you’re visiting Dubai. We’re going to take a deep dive into exactly what you should expect, what you’ll be doing on a desert safari, and therefore, how to dress appropriately.
Take all this advice with a grain of salt and do whatever feels right for YOU and your situation. Just keep modesty and cultural sensitivity in mind, ahead of fashion.
What should I consider when dressing for the desert in Dubai?
Dressing for the Weather
Even a short distance from the skyscrapers the temperature changes. In winter this change can be as much as 10 degrees celsius cooler once you’re away from the city. Whilst you may have been in bathers at the beach during the day, a nighttime desert safari in Dubai you’ll want long jeans and a pullover or cardigan.
It’s very unlikely it will rain or you’ll need a thicker down coat, a light, long sleeve top should be fine.
Conversely, in summer it’s hot. Sometimes there just aren’t enough superlatives to describe hot to the first-timer!
You will want to consider breathable materials that work well with profuse sweating; think cotton, linen, and rayon material. Accept whatever you are wearing will sweat through even if you are not normally a heavy perspirer!
Dressing for Desert Activities in Dubai
Your desert safari is likely to include a variety of activities from sedate to adrenaline pumping! Think about scenarios such as:
- Dune Bashing – the 4×4 that picks you up from the city will no doubt choose the rugged dune entry to the camp in order to impress! Ladies particularly you may want to consider you’re well supported as you will get thrown around in the car (NB not recommend for under 5’s, pregnant ladies or those with back, heart conditions etc)
- Camel Riding – almost a must for your first desert experience so do thing practically how you will ride. Camel riding is not the most elegant of activities so definitely consider shorts and trousers over skirts, and hold on to any lose items!
- Sand boarding – the thrill of hitting the dunes comes with a lot of sand! Think practically about proper closed toe footwear and where that sand will end up when you inevitably come crashing down! Trousers are a recommendation over skirts or shorts.
- Quad Biking/Fat Tire Bikes – these are normally optional extra desert sports. Some camps may have strict rules that only closed toe footwear can be worn. Again, when you’re straddling something a short skirt is impratical. You’ll want something to tie back long hair and sports-wear clothing would be best.
- BBQ Dinner & Entertainment – your evening camps will end on a meal most likely taken seated on rugs on the floor. Think practically how you will comfortably sit on the ground, and the evening may be finished with a little light dancing. If you’ve partaken in a desert sport beforehand, you may want a fresh shirt with you and a litte something to freshen up (antipersperient) before you dine.
We cover more on the exact activities you can participate in on a Dubai desert safari here.
Dressing for Cultural Sensitivity
It’s important for tourists to remain culturally sensitive when they’re visiting the UAE, but also dress for the weather. There’s a balance that can be easily struck when preparing for a trip to Dubai between being culturally sensitive and practical – none more so than when you’re on a desert safari.
The Dubai dress code does not require women to be fully covered at all times. Nor is the wearing of shorts forbidden. As a very standard rule of thumb, men and women should be looking to be covering their shoulders and knees, but there’s flexibility in this.
Dubai Desert Safari Dresscode
So summing it all up from this advice, what you actually wear is whatever will make you feel most comfortable. Rather than a packing list, these are our top tips.
- Wear loose clothing made from natural fibers to best deal with the sand and heat. Think materials such as cotton, linen and rayon, which work well in the heat.
- Ladies should avoid short skirts as they are not very practical and meals are often eaten on the floor.
- Culottes and loose cotton trousers or shirts are better than clingy clothing in summer. In winter, jeans or leggings will be fine, but suggested you wear a shirt covering your bottom.
- Shorts above your knees are OK, but avoid your shorty shorts with your bottom clearly visible, try to keep to at least mid-thigh length.
- A sleeveless shirt or tank top may be OK in some situations, but overtly tight, clingy clothes that show excessive cleavage and leave nothing to the imagination are definitely NOT OK.
- Ladies may want a sports bra or something more structured if taking on desert sports and dune bashing.
- You may want two sets of shoes with you; closed-toe trainers for sandboarding and any desert motorsports, plus a spare pair of flip flops for other activities and around the desert camp.
- Something to wrap around your head and face to protect you from the sand and dust – especially during quad biking and camel riding.
- A sweater or a cardigan if visiting in the coolest months of winter.
And what to pack on a Dubai desert safari other than clothing
Your tour will most likely take care of food and water but we recommend you also pack:
- Sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat if any portion of your trip is during the day.
- Sanitizer for before eating and after touching camels.
- Take tissues and wet wipes especially if you’re travelling with children.
- Anti-persperiant wipes in the peak of summer, or a hanky, sweat towel of some sort.
- You may find coating everyone’s legs in a talc/beach powder before you go helpful for reducing some (never all!) of the sand.
- Extra cash if you will be partaking in add on activities not included in your general tour (eg fat bikes, quad biking, dune buggies may be paid extras)
- A spare battery pack for your phone/camera – you’ll be taking a lot of photos!
- A sand proof bag to keep all this gear in
- Leave your accessories and other valuables in the hotel safe – losing a favourite watch or earring in the sand, we promise you, it will be almost impossible to find again.
You can find our complete packing guide for visiting Abu Dhabi here
We hope you enjoy your first Dubai desert safari experience. If you’re looking for more advice on heading beyond the city in Dubai, we also recommend your check out:
Still not chosen a Desert Safari?
These are some of the most reputable and best-selling tour providers in Dubai. We always suggest booking through a reputable agent such as Get Your Guide, who offer instant confirmation for your chosen dates and cancellation up to 24-hours before your activity should your travel plans change.
Before you go… More important things you should know when planning a trip to Dubai
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