Hello ladies and gentlemen! Through a photo essay, I will show you how to dress in Egypt (or any conservative country) and (almost) pass as a local.
Let me be clear: How to dress in Egypt doesn’t really matter–if you don’t care about the attention. Egypt is no Saudi Arabia, so it is not like police will stop you if you happen to be wearing a skirt and a tank top.
However, you will get a lot of attention from the men.
Then tourists complain about how “vicious” the cat calls are etc etc.
See, dressing a certain way doesn’t mean the tourist deserves that treatment, but being sensitive to the culture is simple respect from you, the tourist. Plus, if this respect for the culture translates into a smoother, more pleasant stay, why not do it?
Thus this guide on How to dress in Egypt by yours truly.
I lived there.
Because of my looks, I could even pass as an Egyptian in 99.9% of situations. While my looks and Arabic studies certainly helped, I have to say that my dress boosted my “success rate” significantly. And so, I’m trying to help you out! Hope you find this photo essay helpful and feel free to contact me if you have any additional questions or concerns!
Men? Simply follow this one rule of thumb: Wearing a t-shirt (or long-sleeve) that isn’t too tight and pants will always be a safe bet. Just cover your shoulders and knees. Follow this simple “guideline” and you won’t have any problems whatsoever (or any risk of offending anyone at all).
Now the ladies…
Photo 1 verdict: WRONG! My friend on the left was dressing European. While in the beach towns of Sharm El Sheikh and perhaps Dahab this outfit would be ok, you would attract much more attention elsewhere in Egypt. So, if your stay is outside these beach towns, do not dress like lady on the left. What about lady on the right?
While the white long-sleeve under the green tank top is not only conservative, but an actual fashion statement in Egypt, the shorts ruin this outfit.
You should always thrive to cover at least your knees.
You could wear skirts, but wear leggings underneath in order to cover your knees. Same with shorts.
To be even safer? Cotton pants. An example:
In this picture, I am wearing the long-sleeve top underneath a sleeveless top and jeans, covering all bases.
Additionally, I’m even wearing my hair in a low ponytail with a hat.
This is even better, as hair down (sp us gals with long locks) also attract much attention from men, who think it is very sexy (and not showed enough in public by Egyptian women).
While this picture was taken during my trip to Israel, I used to dress like this all the time while living in Egypt.
On the photo above, while I am wearing a tank top, I still cover my shoulders with a scarf. This is particularly useful if you are staying in a very Western resort and want to have a tank top, but then cover up for a quick walk in town. It is also great for the hot Egyptian summers.
On a different note, while my pants are very bright, I actually bought them in an Egyptian store. Bright colors might bring a bit of attention, but if you are covered up and your clothes aren’t tight, they shouldn’t be a problem.
To beat the heat, sometimes I would wear a scarf over my head if the top I was wearing covered my shoulders. Black probably was not a good idea (hehe) as it attracts heat, but it is better than uncovered head.
Also, if the shirt I happened to want to wear didn’t have sleeves, I would choose a longer piece of cloth so it could double as head covering/scarf.
Specially women with dark hair like mine: cover your heads if you are out in the heat on a long day of touring in the desert! I didn’t follow this advice my first day out at the Pyramids of Giza in August and I almost had to be taken to the hospital due to heat stroke (obviously, drinking water every couple of minutes is also essential in days like these).
Ready to look even more like an Egyptian? Then buy a galabeya.
Doesn’t have to be full-length, although you could try that too!
In one of the pictures from above, I am wearing a galabeya top and jeans that while not full length, still cover my knees. I had two galabeyas: One orange, one pink (both pictured). The long-length Moroccan one was borrowed 😉
Usually, I would wear them in special occasions (or when going to the hamam in Morocco), such as during an Eid or when invited to an Egyptian (or even Moroccan: Used them in Morocco too!) family’s home.
During Eid, Muslims tend to wear bright colors in celebration, so what more fitting than wearing a bright-colored galabeya if you travel the Middle East during times such as Ramadan?
Want more examples and look ideas? Here are a few! And remember: All these looks are appropriate for travel to any Muslim or conservative country:
Hope you find my tips on how to dress in Egypt (or any conservative country) helpful!