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Dress code in Bahrain

Being an Islamic nation, Bahrainis generally dress conservatively. But, when it comes to dress code, Bahrain is also one of the most tolerant countries in the Middle East, provided, you are respectful in your dress and mannerisms. But, there are few general guidelines about dress code in Bahrain that both men and women need to bear in mind.

Most expatriates on arrival in Bahrain are surprised at how smartly dressed locals can be. They are mostly found well-dressed in neatly ironed clothes. Even in the supermarket, men can be found in their pristinely ironed white dishdashas and gutras, and women can be found in ‘abayas’ with detailed decoration at the neck or sleeve edges, faces or heads often uncovered.

Although there is no particular dress code followed throughout Bahrain, the general rule is to dress modestly in public. Very tight or transparent clothing are prohibited.

Traditional dress in Bahrain

Just as in all other Arab countries, Bahrain too has its own unique style of traditional clothing.

Women: The traditional Bahraini dress for women is the abaya, a long loose-fitting black gown that falls to the floors and covers the arms. Abayas are also seen with various lace works and other trims decorating the edges. Women wear the Hijab, a scarf on their head, which can be black or colourful, and covers all of the women’s hair. For special events, women wear brightly coloured dresses called Jalabiyas which has intricate embroidery.

Men: Traditional Bahraini dress for men is the Thobe, the long, white dress-like piece of clothing which colors the arms, legs and neck. The thobe is usually white, but also is worn in various shades of biege during summer and thicker or darker shades are preferred during winter. For the head, men wear a ‘Ghitraa’, which is a white scarf or a red and white scarf with thick black rope placed on top of the scarf.

Preferred dress code when visiting the following public places

Mosque: Bahraini women usually wear loose clothes that cover their hair, arms and legs. In general, a woman’s knees and shoulders need to be covered, although formally, it is a requirement only when visiting Grand Mosque. Hair needs to be covered too, when visiting a Mosque. When visiting a Mosque, shoes are not allowed to be worn inside the premises.

Men are not allowed to wear shorts, and sleeveless tops are forbidden for both men and women, and clean attire with mild unobtrusive perfume is preferred.

Traditional Areas: Traditional areas include souq, villages, central market etc. For central market clothes can be less formal. If wearing skirts, however, it should be below the knee. But, long skirts and pants are preferable. No spaghetti strap or cleavage.

Being traditional area, it is conservative, and hence men can preferably wear long trousers rather than shorts.

It is better not to wear white outfits or your best clothes here, as some places are a bit dusty.

Malls and Restaurants: Although shorts are not permitted, people dress casually, and it is not necessary to dress conservatively. But, if you prefer to wear skirts, it is best to wear skirts below the knee. Flashy gowns are worn in restaurants. But the rule of thumb would be do dress as the locals do. Being presentable is inevitable.

Beach: Shorts are okay. No speedos. In private beaches, any normal swim wear is okey, though nudity is banned. For public beaches, wear what you would wear for a mall, as revealing swimming outfits are now allowed.

Private Homes: If you are invited by a Bahraini family, unless it is an informal garden party or a pool party, do not wear shorts and dress up. In general, it all depends on how conservative the family is. Generally, Bahrainis are tolerant of other forms of dress.

Business Meet: For business meetings, both men and women should be conservatively dressed at least for the first few meetings.

Dress code violation

Generally, there are no hard and fast rules for violating dress code and nobody walks around to inspect dress codes in particular. As long as you are modestly dressed and are not wearing too revealing costumes in public, you are unlikely to get into trouble.

However, if inappropriately dressed, there are chances that you may be approached and spoken to by a security guard (depending on the place you are visiting), or a national etc. In case of such an instance, it is wise to remain polite, and apologize or accept their point, as matters may get out of hand if police is called in case of an argument.