Packing for the Middle East ✈️
When I first moved to the Middle East I didn’t have a clue what to pack. I figured it would be really hot so I didn’t even bring one pair of jeans! I was so wrong! While it is really hot, it’s worth remembering that everywhere you go is air-conditioned. The malls can be particularly cold so I often wear jeans to the malls. I find the cinemas really freezing so I even carry a pair of socks in my bag when we’re going to the cinema 😂
I’ve broken down what I’d pack into different categories…
The malls in the Middle East are probably where you’ll spend the most of your time. They have everything; shops, cafés, restaurants, cinemas, gyms, ice-skating rinks, amusements, bowling alleys, kids play areas…literally EVERYTHING. As far as dress codes go for ladies, you can really wear what you want in the malls. I find that Dubai is more laid back than Abu Dhabi or Qatar in this respect as people wear anything, sometimes even revealing clothes! In malls in Abu Dhabi, covering your shoulders and knees isn’t necessary, but a pair of short-shorts and a crop top will get you a lot of unwanted attention. I think it’s also nice to dress modestly in malls as it’s respectful of local values, especially since we’re living in a culture that’s so different from our own. It’s not really worth going to the mall dressed in beach attire when it’s cold inside anyway because of the air-conditioning. Regular clothes that you’d wear out shopping at home are perfect…minus the raincoat! 😊
I get asked all the time if I have to cover up when at the beach and the answer is no. At the beach/ pool/ boat parties you can wear whatever you want. Shorts, beach dresses, crop tops, bikinis are all acceptable👙😎
They same goes for going out at night. It’s not expected that you cover up so you can wear what you normally would at home. We have all the same shops in the Middle East that we have in Ireland; Zara, River Island, New Look, H&M, Topshop, Miss Selfridge, Debenhams, etc. so the style is pretty much the same. One thing to bear in mind though is that a lot of night clubs, bars and restaurants do have dress codes and may not allow entry to anyone in trainers, flip flops or shorts. Men tend to have more problems with this than women…so keep it classy guys! Jeans or chinos are acceptable to wear on a night out.
As a teacher, I’m only really qualified to tell you what we wear to school so apologies to anyone who’s not a teacher. If you’re moving to the Middle East to teach then it’s worth looking in to your school’s dress code as some schools are much stricter than others. Generally speaking, you have to cover your shoulders and knees at all times and jeans and trainers are not allowed. If your unsure about how strict the dress code is in your school then I’d play it safe with tops/ blouses that come at least to your elbow and that aren’t too low cut. If your shirt is at all transparent then you’ll have to wear a vest top under it. I always stock up on these in Pennys. As for bottoms, think light and comfortable. I’ve attached some images of acceptable school outfits. All from ASOS.com.
When I was packing to move to Qatar I bought loads of long skirts as I’d been told that was what teachers wore. Many teachers do, but I found them more of a hindrance than anything else.
Skirts and dresses that aren’t too short are acceptable, but I’d steer clear of anything too figure hugging. Try think modesty at all times. As for shoes, schools differ greatly on what they expect ladies to wear. Some say only closed toe shoes are acceptable, whereas others accept open toe shoes as long as (and I know it sounds silly) not too much of your foot is visible. Here are some shoes that would have been acceptable in the three schools I’ve worked in:
I think a staple of any teacher wardrobe is a light blazer or cardigan that you can pop on over any sleeveless top or dress to make it school-appropriate.
I know that lots of women working in ADEC (Abu Dhabi Education Council) schools, wear an abaya to work, whether Muslim or not. This is a long, black outer garment that many of the locals wear. So if you’re going to work in an ADEC school, you could be in luck and never have to worry about what to wear!
What to stock up on
You can really get anything you need in the Middle East that you can get at home. There are Boots pharmacies everywhere so it’s easy to get any toiletries that you’re used to. Also, most of the supermarkets stock a huge range of everyday essentials with everything from Rimmel make-up to suncream, so don’t worry too much about packing toiletries. When I first moved four years ago, it was impossible to find Batiste dry shampoo or fake tan but now Boots stock all of that. I’ve even been told that Sally Hansen tan is available in Carrefour supermarket! It is more expensive to buy these products in the Middle East so if you don’t want to fork out 6euro for your dry shampoo then you could bring a tin with you. Just know that everything is readily available so you don’t need to arrive with a year’s supply 😂
What I would recommend before leaving Ireland would be a trip to Pennys/Primark. I REALLY miss Pennys because we have nowhere similar to that in the Middle East, where you can just pop in and pick up cute pyjamas, socks and eyelashes all at great prices. I always do a Pennys haul before moving back out in August. It’s great for teacher clothes and the essentials.
I think I’ve covered everything here but if you have any questions just leave me a comment or get in touch on Instagram or Snapchat.
Happy packing 😘 xx