Although Bahrain is a Muslim country so they have expectations of clothing, they are quite tolerable about the clothing of expats.
27 August 2013| Last updated on 16 October 2017
Bahrain is one of the most tolerant countries in the Middle East when it comes to dress code, however there are some general guidelines that should be observed by both men and women.
In a nutshell, whilst you are out in public, you should have everything from your shoulders to your knees covered. You should also not wear clothing that is too tight or see-through. In general, the Bahrainis are very tolerant of other cultures and love to dress up. Make sure that wherever you go, you look as good as possible and that your clothes are pressed and clean.
The basic guidelines of Bahrain's women's wear are:
1. If you are out and about in a traditional area, such as a souk, village or central market, please wear a long skirt or trousers. Clothing that covers the knees is acceptable but longer clothing is preferable. Do not wear sleeveless tops, show too much cleavage or your midrif. This is a traditional area and thus more conservative.
2. You can wear what you want in your home but be sure to cover your knees and shoulders when invited to a private home.
3. It is advisable to cover up at the public beach or swimming pool. No bikinis or short revealing swimming outfits. In fact, it is best to be fully clothed at a public beach. However, if you are at a private beach or pool (a resort or hotel), then normal swim wear can be worn. Topless swimming/ tanning is not allowed at all.
4. If you are going to the mall, ensure that knees and shoulders are covered. Generally in Bahrain, the more you look like an expat, the more tolerant people are of your attire. However, you will also be stared at and pointed out if your attire is too risque. Try keeping it modest.
5. If you are going to a 5-star hotel restaurant or to a restaurant in Adliya, the dress code is more relaxed. However, remember that your clothes should be presentable and make-up is a must.
6. Underwear should be covered at all times- no briefs, g-strings, bras, etc on show or viewable through fabric.
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Bahrain Wardrobe Staples
- Pashminas: These are great and handy cover-ups for all sorts of cirumstances. Have one in your car for emergencies too.
- Capri pants: These are great as they are not full length, so your lower legs still keep cool.
- Boleros: These are perfect to enable you to wear strappy tops and dresses and still keep your shoulders covered. Get ones with a cap or mid sleeve so you will still be cool and not have too much clothing weight added during the heat.
- Leggings: If you have a dress that is really a little bit too short and not covering your knees but you still want to wear it out and about, throw some lightweight leggings on underneath and voila you are ready to go out. Just ensure that the dress is not tight and that the leggings are opaque.
- Cardigans: These are great to cover shoulders too and the AC in malls and cinemas can get a bit arctic sometimes, so you will be glad of the benefit.
Bahrain Public Wardrobe No-No's
- Lycra body con dresses
- Daisy Duke shorts
- Micro minis
- Belly/Crop tops
- Tube tops/Boob tubes
- Very short playsuits
- Anything with cut-out or see-through panels
- Mesh or Lace tops or dresses (these are ok if worn with something underneath)
What to Do If Someone Approaches You About Your Dress
If you are inappropriately dressed, you may be approached and have something said to you by various people- a security guard, a colleague, a local lady, an expat, etc. You will be surprised how many people would be offended or will want to advise you.
Whatever happens, stay calm and remain polite. Apologise and depending on where you are- either say you will go home/ back to the hotel to change or if you are in a mall, offer to pop into a shop to buy something to cover up.
There is no point getting angry as you have caused offence somehow and the last thing you want is for the police to become involved in something that is easily fixed with an apology and a quick outfit adjustment.
Go grab/ buy a pashmina quick!
Common excuses not to dress appropriately
- It's so hot in Bahrain, I want to wear as little clothes as possible - Yes, it is hot but everywhere indoors has AC and you should also be covering up from the suns harmful rays to avoid skin cancer.
- I am only popping to do the school run - Yes, but you are possibly getting out of the car or you may break down on the way.
- I am doing sports, so I am not dressing provocatively - Yes, but the dress code of covering shoulders and knees applies in a lot of gyms too as you will be in mixed company.
- I can wear what I want - Yes, but do you really want to walk round causing offence to many people?
- Everyone else is doing it - Yes, but don't you want to be a respectful person?
Rules For Men
In Bahrain, the clothes really do make the man.
The same as for women, men’s outfit should always be neatly pressed and clean without any stains. Men should also ensure that they always smell good, don’t overdo it, but make sure to use some deodorant after you have finished showering.
Here are some general dress code guidelines for men in Bahrain:
- When visiting mosques, refrain from wearing shorts and sleeveless tops. Ensure that you clothes are clean and take your shoes off before entering.
- It is usually frowned upon for men to wear shorts in Bahrain except for beaches.
- You need to look neat when visiting malls and restaurants. Always double check that your clothes are clean when going out.
- Don’t wear speedos at the beach.