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UAE women start twitter campaign against skimpy dressing

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Auveen Woods
WVoN co-editor

Two local women in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have started a twitter campaign against inappropriate clothing worn by some Westerners in their country.

The “@UAEDressCode” campaign is designed to promote respect for the country’s culture among foreigners and raise awareness about what locals consider appropriate dress for both men and women.

Hanan Al Rayes and Asma Al Muheiri’s campaign began accidentally when the women posted an angry message on twitter after seeing a woman wearing very short shorts in a shopping mall.

Muheiri said the woman looked “repulsive” and many people in the Dubai mall were looking at her, but no-one did anything. Muheiri reported the woman to the mall management, only to be told there was nothing they could do.

While wearing skimpy clothing is not illegal in the UAE, shopping malls have policies stating that knees and shoulders should be covered.

The UAE is the most liberal of the Gulf states and does not enforce a strict dress code.

Traditional dress for Emirati women is the abaya, a large black garment covering nearly all the body. For Emirati men, it is the thawb, an ankle-length shirt of wool or cotton. However, the majority of UAE citizens are expatriates – over 80% according to Visit Abu Dhabi.

There have been several cases of expatriates not respecting the laws and being arrested, for example, for not wearing enough clothing at beaches, some even being completely nude.

Local celebrities such as Jalal Bin Thaneya and Mishaal Al Gergawi have joined the campaign, which has become a debate on how closely foreigners should follow local customs and just what standards of dress are acceptable.

A twitter search for #UAEdresscode reveals a wave of comments, both for and against the campaign.

“Forbidding tank tops/skirts in the malls in UAE is as ridiculous as forbidding the Niqab in the streets in France” reads one message.

“Respect our country’s culture, be decent in your clothing” reads another post.

Dominic Jermey, British Ambassador to the UAE, has already urged expatriates and tourists to be more mindful of local customs and respect UAE dress codes.

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