DUBAI // Security guards at Dubai Marina Mall have been handing out advice cards to men and women who are not dressed modestly.
The blue cards advise shoppers to wear “respectful clothing” that covers the shoulders and knees at all times. They also explain what is, and what is not, deemed to be acceptable.
Signs asking visitors to follow the dress code have been put up at each of the mall’s entrances, but staff say many people either don’t read them or choose to ignore them.
“We put up a lot of posters, but everyone ignores them,” said a mall employee, who declined to be named. “This is the only way to tell people directly.”
There were dozens of women at the mall yesterday apparently flouting the regulations by revealing their shoulders and knees.
Laura Gates, from the UK, was wearing a dress which exposed her shoulders but said she hadn’t been handed a card.
“I don’t think I’m breaking any rules,” she said. “I’m not wearing beachwear, that’s why no one has said anything.”
An Australian mall customer, who gave only her first name as Christiana, said she thought the rule unfairly targeted women.
“I see men walking around in shorts all the time, but women can’t do the same,” she said. “That doesn’t seem fair.”
Lucia di Domenico, from the US, said it would be humiliating to be told directly that you were inappropriately dressed.
“I would be very embarrassed if they said that,” she said. “I don’t think I’d want to come back to the mall if they treat people like that.”
Another employee at the mall, who declined to be named, said the rule was applied only for the most egregious breaches.
“We only give it to those people who are dressed totally unacceptably,” said the employee. “This is Dubai’s rules, not just the rules of the mall.”
It is not clear when the cards were introduced, or how many have been handed out to shoppers.
A spokesman for Emaar, which operates Dubai Marina Mall and the Dubai Mall, was not available for comment yesterday on whether the measures had been introduced across all of its properties.
The issue of people wearing inappropriate clothing in malls and in other public places became a trending talking point on social media last year when Emiratis Asma Al Muhairi and Hanan Al Rayes launched a Twitter page called @UAEDressCode.
The page now has more than 4,600 followers and has posts on issues surrounding modest dress in public places.
Cultural adviser and columnist for The National, Ali Al Saloom, said the problem was due to a lack of clarity over what constituted “disrespectful” dress.
“It’s always a grey area on how to judge it, on what’s OK and what’s not OK,” he said. “We keep hoping that people would kindly understand that when you’re revealing a lot of skin, like a short skirt or showing your shoulder or chest, this would definitely be considered not modest.
“This goes for everyone, including men.”
Al Saloom said the Marina Mall initiative was “just an extra reminder, on top of all the other many reminders”, and added that tougher rules needed to be introduced.
“Everything can be solved easily if the mall didn’t let people inappropriately dressed people enter in the first place,” he said.
“If it were me and I was told to leave, I would learn what’s right or not. I would tell my friends, and my friends would tell others, and no one would do it.
“It’s much better than giving them a card and trying to embarrass them.”