Women visiting Dubai Zoo are asked to wear respectable clothing, and if needed are provided scarves to cover the shoulders. A sign board at the entrance is telling visitors what is acceptable and what is not; the knees and shoulders should be covered. If the visitor does not wear the proper clothing, scarves are provided by the zoo to cover up the shoulders. But if the required dress code cannot be presented, the visitor will be denied access to the zoo.
The move comes as a re-emphasis on existing rules rather than a newly implemented rule, explains Ahmad Abdul Karim, Director of Public Parks and Horticulture Department, Dubai Municipality which manages Dubai Zoo.
“We noticed that a lot of visitors come straight from the beach, and they go through the zoo in their swimming wear. This is not very fair. We have a lot of children coming to the zoo, and on top of that we are an Islamic country. People should wear normal clothes when going to the zoo.”
According to Ahmad, dress codes requiring people to wear decent clothing are in place in every public park in Dubai, and it has always been in place in Dubai Zoo. “But we received a lot of complaints from our visitors about the clothing of other visitors, and we want to avoid such complaints in a polite way, by asking people to wear decent clothes.”
In beach parks, buildings and shopping centres, too, there are dress codes in place, and these rules have been subject of debate, as the rules are not always followed by all visitors. In May this year the debate rose again when two Emirati women took it up on Twitter, asking others to respect the local traditions and wear respectful clothes in public areas.
Although sign boards are put up at mall entrances, many visitors seem to neglect the request and hot pants, bikinis and short dresses are not new to this public space. “In the mall it is more difficult to implement a rule like the dress code,” argues a Dubai Municipality official. “In the zoo there are a couple of hundred visitors a day, and we can ask them to change their clothes. “Malls also have the freedom to do so, but it is a little more difficult here. So we hope that people will follow each other’s example in dressing modestly.”