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Trip Doctor: Dubai, Beaches, and Bikinis: What's Allowed?

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With all the news recently about bans on skimpy swimwear at UAE beaches, T+L wanted to clear the air and figure out what travelers need to know when heading to the Emirates.

First off, the bathing suit laws aren’t laws. After initial reports that bikinis and bikini briefs were banned, UAE newspapers reported that police backtracked, and later clarified that the regulations were only guidelines. After receiving multiple complaints from local families, authorities posted signs stating, "All coastgoers should commit to public morality and modest clothing." Police "strongly discourage" individuals from wearing revealing swimwear, and to respect "cultural sensitivities."

Secondly, these official recommendations apply only to the country’s northernmost emirate, Ras al-Khaimah. The emirate attracts few tourists compared to flashier Dubai, which sees nearly 10 million visitors annually, although it is home to 2011 It List property Banyan Tree Al Wadi.

So does that mean it’s acceptable to wear a thong on the beaches of Dubai?

I checked with the emirate’s Legal Affairs Department to get the final say. Here’s what beachgoers in Dubai will want to know:

° All beaches, even those next to hotels, are public, so local families and international vacationers have access to the same sandy stretches in Dubai.
° Several beaches offer women-only days one day a week. On these days, males—excluding toddlers—are prohibited.
° There is no Dubai law prohibiting a particular bathing suit, but swimwear should not be worn off the beach. Nudity is strictly prohibited.

Still, when considering which suit to wear on their UAE holiday, bikini-toters should consider that the local population, along with the majority of international visitors, in Dubai are Muslim, and therefore unlikely to appreciate skimpy swimwear.

If looking for a destination where scanty suits are a-okay, try Egypt, whose tourism minister stated on Monday that "bikinis are welcome in Egypt and booze is still being served."

Related: See the Future in Dubai.

Peter Schlesinger is an editorial intern at Travel + Leisure.

Photo credit: © Jon Hicks/Corbis

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