Clothes encounters: Tourists Ese John from Nigeria was made to cover her bare shoulders at Dubai Zoo. She was given a shawl Image Credit: XPRESS/Anjana Sankar

Dubai: There is a slight nip in the air, but that’s not necessarily why you should not wear skimpy clothes when you got to the Dubai Zoo.

Women who expose their knees and shoulders will be stopped at the entrance. The regulation is part of Dubai Municipality’s move to enforce a public dress code.

Visitors who arrive at the zoo wearing sleeveless tops or short skirts are provided with scarves and shawls before they are let in.

To find out how stringently the rule is implemented, this reporter visited the zoo wearing a short sleeveless dress.

She was immediately stopped.

“You cannot go in. Your knees are okay. The problem is with your shoulders,” the staff at the ticket counter told her. “If you want to go in, you have to cover yourself with a shawl,” he said, reaching out to a stack of folded shawls next to him.

A notice at the entrance reminded visitors to wear respectful clothing. “Shoulders and knees should be covered,” it read. Inside the zoo, this reporter saw several women covering themselves with shawls similar to the one given to her.

“Last year when I visited the zoo, I wore a jumpsuit without shoulders and no one stopped me. But this time they made me cover my knees and shoulders,” said a woman,” pointing to a white shawl wrapped around her waist.

“I was taken by surprise when I was told I was not dressed appropriately. It made me very uncomfortable,” said Fitore, a tourist from Kosovo. The physiotherapy student who is on a first-time visit to Dubai was wearing a long-sleeved shirt over denim shorts.

Ese John from Nigeria who visited the zoo in a sleeveless T-shirt was told to cover her bare arms. “They gave me a white scarf and asked me to put it on,” said the first-time Dubai visitor.

“I never knew there was a dress code in Dubai because I have seen people wearing far more revealing dresses in malls. That said I respect the laws of the land and am happy to abide by them,” said another woman.

A Dubai Municipality spokesperson said the dress code cannot be compromised.

“It is the law. We are implementing it not only in the zoo but also in all parks,” he said.

According to the zoo staff, there have always been restrictions on wearing revealing clothes, but it’s only in recent times that they started enforcing it more strictly. “It is a public place and rules are very clear as how to dress up. As the zoo is close to Jumeirah beach, some women show up in their bikinis,” the Emirati staff said.