Jordan was a dream destination for me. Playing Indiana Jones in Petra, wandering through the ruins of Jerash, and exploring Wadi Rum. I loved Jordan. Not only did it have some amazing sites to see and visit but I found the people warm and welcoming as well. However, as a young, western woman, I did stress a little bit about packing and what to wear. After all, Jordan is a Muslim country where it’s mostly males in the workforce and the women stay at home. Thankfully, I could rely a bit on last years’ experience in Egypt to help me figure out what to pack and I’m happy to say that I chose wisely. So, for any other women wondering: here are my packing tips and recommendations on what to wear in Jordan.
Hiding Skin vs Hiding Curves
When travelling through Jordan, one of the things you will quickly notice is that it is more important to cover skin than hide your curves. I didn’t see many local Jordanian women, but I few that I did see wore skinny jeans or even leggings paired with dresses or long tunic-style tops. Showing off their curves didn’t seem to matter, as long as the important bits (chest, shoulders, stomach, legs) were covered. Cleavage especially is a big no-no.
All local women I saw wore long sleeves, however, the majority of tourists walked around in t-shirts and that wasn’t a problem. Longer sleeves would be required if you were visiting mosques or important religious sites, however for exploring ruins or the desert, just keeping your shoulders covered is fine.
Do you Need to Cover Your Hair?
As a Muslim country, the local Jordanian women all cover their hair under hijabs or burkas. As tourists, women are not required to cover their hair. I certainly didn’t, until Wadi Rum when I had one of the local Bedouins tie one of the red and white scarves around my head. I never had any issues with showing my hair (which I kept in a braid or a ponytail) and nor did anyone else. Again, if you were to enter a mosque or a holy place, you will be required to cover your hair (scarves to do this are often provided).
Are Western Women Treated Differently for the way they Dress?
In my experience- no. I found Jordan to be much more modern than Egypt when it comes to clothing and didn’t notice any awkward looks or ever feel uncomfortable. Granted, I was also only in Jordan for three short days with Abraham Tours so that was quite different from me walking around on my own.
I do believe that western women aren’t held to the same standards as the local women, however, I’m also a firm believer that blending in as much as possible is best practice. Especially for any women travelling alone. So just remember that Jordan is a more modest country than most and take that into consideration when you dress for the day.
Women’s Packing List for Jordan
With the above tips in mind, here is what I recommend (based on what I wore) for women to pack for Jordan.
Pants and Bottoms
I definitely recommend packing some leggings or active-wear type pants. Not only do most women find these types of pants comfortable, but they also tend to be a bit more light-weight which is perfect for Jordan’s warmer climate. Just make sure to do a bend test if you are wearing leggings to make sure they aren’t see-through; Jordan is not the place for a wardrobe malfunction.
If you aren’t really big on leggings or are worried that athletic type pants might be too warm then opt for a looser, wide leg pant. The elephant style pants that are so popular in Southeast Asia will work just fine (you can buy some here) or, if you want something a little less boho, try a flowy pair of wide-leg pants. I brought a pair of patterned palazzo/ beach pants similar to these that were perfect.
Jeans are fine too. I’m just not a big fan of wearing jeans in the heat and while hiking but, really, it’s up to your style and comfort.
When it comes to tops, your best bet is to choose t-shirts or long sleeve tops over tank tops and make sure they have higher necklines that cover your cleavage. I also recommend longer tunic-style tops like these that will cover your bum if you are wearing tighter pants or leggings.
Jordan’s temperatures also fluctuate quite a bit, especially in Petra or in the desert, so bring some warmer options too. A few in our group had nice warm fleece sweaters like these which I was a bit jealous of in the evenings (it went down to 8 degrees at night near Petra when I visited in November). I also recommend bringing a raincoat- a good waterproof jacket (I love my Columbia raincoat which has vents but is actually waterproof) as Jordan can get heavy rain. Plus, it’s another layer to have when it gets chilly.
If you do plan on visiting any mosques or religious sites, have a lightweight cardigan or sweater that you can throw in your bag as you will need to cover your arms fully to enter. Again, I recommend a longer sweater like this to cover your bum if you pair it with leggings or tighter pants.
Dresses and Skirts
If you do plan on bringing dresses or skirts to Jordan, stick with the same rules as everything else: cover your cleavage, cover your shoulders, and cover down at least to your knees. Maxi skirts and dresses that cover your full legs are more ideal.
Do yourself a favour though and don’t get all caught up in needing the perfect Instagram photo in your flowy dress in Petra or hiking through Wadi Rum desert. You will look ridiculous and you’ll end up miserable because you really can’t scramble around rocks and explore in a dress. So, just don’t be that girl. If you do bring skirts and dresses, save them for city exploring.
Depending on your plan, you may or may not want to bring a swimsuit with you to Jordan. I didn’t because I visited the Dead Sea on the Israel side and wasn’t staying anywhere with a pool. However, the Dead Sea is totally worth it and a lot of hotels around Jordan do have pools so it’s probably worth packing one. Swimsuits, including bikinis, are acceptable at the pool and at the beach- but don’t walk around in it all day. When you are finished at the pool or beach, wrap yourself in a towel (if you need to bring one with you I highly recommend these quick-dry travel towels) or a cute sarong (not a sheer one, something solid like this) to walk back to your room or the changing room. Remember, this is the Middle East, not the Caribbean.
Accessories and Shoes
One of the accessories I used the most in Jordan was a scarf. I brought a large, light-weight one just in case I did need to cover anything. Not only did it come in handy to keep me a little warmer on the cooler mornings and evenings, but I could also use it to cover my head if I wanted protection from the sun, and I did wear it in Petra because my shirt was a little lower than I liked. If you don’t already have one, you can get a really cute one here.
Some people will tell you to bring hiking shoes, I didn’t bother. I just had a good pair of comfortable running shoes to wander around Petra, Wadi Rum, and the cities of Aman and Jerash and they worked just fine. For those staying longer, especially if you are visiting the Dead Sea, you may also want to add in a pair of flip-flops.
One of the things I always pack for travel, especially when I’m doing a lot of walking, are good athletic socks like these. Because they are a bit thicker I don’t get blisters and even though my feet get sweaty (gross, sorry) they don’t reek at the end of the day.
Dressing appropriately is always the main concern when travelling to Jordan, but once you have all your clothes in place you’ll want to throw a couple of extra things in your bag as well.
- Waterproof Sunscreen: A must! The sun in Jordan is pretty strong and hot and you will probably sweat a lot.
- Sunglasses and perhaps a hat to protect your head from the sun
- A small day bag. I love this one which is water resistant and folds up really tiny.
- Portable charger for your phone (trust me, you’ll take a ton of photos)
- Anti-chafing cream: for any of my ladies who fear the dreaded chub-rub! I use body glide to help prevent it when I’m super active. It basically goes on like deodorant but not white residue crap on your clothing. There is one aimed at women as well but as far as I can tell it’s just a pink container instead of blue.
I loved my short, but sweet, time in Jordan and I hope you do too!