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What to Wear in Egypt: Packing Tips for Female Travellers

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Planning on what to wear in Egypt was not easy. In fact, after I got over the initial excitement of booking the trip, clothing was something I spent a long time worrying about. I scoured the internet for helpful tips and advice, but to be honest it just left me even more confused. Some articles indicated I should cover up as much as possible and consider even getting a hijab or at least bring a scarf to cover my hair during my stay. Others said it wasn’t really a big deal, and I could wear pretty much whatever I wanted. In the end I took a more conservative approach and just hoped for the best.

What to wear in Egypt

Thankfully, I chose wisely, but not everyone else did. While I wasn’t as covered up as the local women, I was significantly more modest than a few other tourists I came across along the way. Tiny jean shorts, cropped tops, and even some mini-skirts seemed to pop up at all the major temples I visited. I cringed inwardly as I watched these young women walk by, especially as I noticed the looks that they received from the Egyptians; both men and women.

Curious, I ended up asking my favourite tour guide, Abdul, how he felt as a local man to see women dressing provocatively.

“Honestly?” he told me, “Sure, go ahead. We don’t get to see that so it’s nice to look”. I had to laugh a little with him about that. After spending five days in his company and seeing him interact with both local women and tourists, I knew Abdul was a good one. He was kind, respectful, and not at all threatening. Despite passing several scantily dressed women, he never leered or lingered; he was a gentleman. However, he did admit that some women took it too far and that bothered him, especially at the ancient temples which, while no longer used for religion, are still sacred sites.

what to wear in Egypt

While Abdul may have been more progressive in his thoughts, not everyone was. In Cairo my brother and I had coffee with a couple of local men, one of which was quick to share his distaste for local women embracing more modern styles. He sneered as he spoke about them wearing jeans and makeup, unhappily claiming that Egypt has changed too much in the past five years. I have to admit, his anger made me uncomfortable, and if he was that put off by the local women in Cairo wearing eyeliner and jeans, I can’t imagine how he would treat the women dressed in more revealing outfits.

Needless to say, I felt good about choosing to go with a more conservative wardrobe for my visit. I didn’t end up covering my hair, but I never felt uncomfortable and even had a few positive comments from locals on my outfits. So, for any other women looking for inspiration on what to wear in Egypt to feel both comfortable and respectful, here’s what I recommend.

T-Shirts over Tank Tops

Egypt can be really hot, especially as you go further south to places like Luxor, Aswan, and Abu Simbel. These places, however, are even more traditional than Cairo so skip the tank tops and wear a light t-shirt instead. It doesn’t need to be long sleeved, just make sure your shoulders are covered and that it’s not low cut; cleavage is a big no-no. ( My favourite travel t-shirt is the evolve top by encircled which washes and wears amazingly and can be styled in different ways.)

If you do wear a tank top (not going to lie, I brought two with me) wear something over it. A light sweater will do the trick (though it’s probably cooler just to wear the t-shirt, trust me) or a gauzy wrap to keep your shoulders covered.

One of my favourite tops for this trip was the Butterfly Wrap by Diane Kroe in the chiffon material. It was loose, light, and airy and kept me cool while exploring ruins in the hot summer sun. It also worked perfectly when I hit the beach in Dahab as a cover-up.

*Save $10 off your Diane Kroe order with promo code HANNAH10

What to wear in Egypt

Sundresses with Leggings

Sundresses are pretty common on women’s packing list, and there’s no reason why you can’t bring your favourite cute dress with you to Egypt; as long as you make it appropriate. Again, remember that your knees, shoulders, and chest need to be covered. This might mean wearing a light pair of leggings under your dress or adding a lightweight sweater or scarf to cover your shoulders.

I got a ton of compliments on my Marie Dress (jet set print) from Cherry Velvet. The zipped front meant I could have a higher neckline and the t-shirt style meant my shoulders were covered. I just wore a pair of black leggings underneath and voila! I was comfortable, cool, and appropriately covered. I even got a couple compliments from Egyptian women about how much they loved my outfit.

Bonus tip: Egypt can be quite breezy, especially out in the desert so be careful about shorter flowy skirts and dresses. Even mine blew up a few times making me extra grateful for my leggings underneath.

What to wear in Egypt

Loose Pants

When it came to bottoms, I alternated between two pairs of loose pants. One of which was the baggy elephant style pant that’s so popular in Southeast Asia, the other just a wide leg black pant. Again, they were light and airy, didn’t hug my curves, and were super comfortable. (If you don’t have a pair you can order some online here.)

I should also point out that neither quite covered my ankles (hooray for being tall) but that was never an issue. A couple times I even hiked the elephant pants, which had elasticized hems, up to just under my knees to make them more of a capri style; still not an issue. I think as long as your knees are covered and the focus isn’t on your booty, you will be fine.

What to wear in Egypt

Jeans

Since we spent a day exploring Toronto before flying to Egypt, I did end up bringing a pair of jeans with me. Though, to be honest, I didn’t expect I would wear them; assuming they would be too tight and show off my ‘assets’ too much to be considered appropriate. However, I quickly found out that jeans, even skinny jeans, are ok in Egypt; so long as you have a longer top to pair with them, like this one. Many of the young local girls paired their skinny jeans with longer sleeved tunic-type tops that covered their bums similar to this one. I made sure to follow in their lead, pairing my jeans with longer, loose tops, and felt totally comfortable walking around. That being said, I saved them for the evening when it was cooler because it was way too hot for me to even consider jeans during the day.

Helpful Accessories

While not necessary, I do recommend a couple of these accessories as well to make travelling through Egypt a bit easier and to make you feel a little more comfortable and conservative in your dress.

  • Lightweight travel scarf with pocket– covers cleavage/shoulders + good for storing some money etc. Especially great for travel days.
  • Rashguard– if you are going to be hitting up Egypt’s beaches, rashguards are a great pick to not only help ward off the sun (nobody wants to burn on vacation!) but also to cover up a bit more.
  • Reef safe Sunscreen: Egypt has some gorgeous coral reefs so if you plan on being in the water please use a reef safe sunscreen to help protect the reefs and marine life.
  • Breathable socks: Because sweaty feet are gross
  • Anti-chafing balm: For those of us who suffer from the dreaded chub rub!
  • Bust-dust: Bye-bye boob sweat!
  • Lotion: Keep your skin moisturized after exploring in the sun with a good moisturizer. If you are worried about leaky bottles then try a solid lotion bar from MadeON Skin Care– I bring mine when I travel carry-on only.

Final Considerations

Having travelled to Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor, Aswan, and Dahab, I felt like the clothing differed in each area, and what I wore depended on what I was doing. Being with a tour guide at the temples, filled with other tourists, was a bit less stressful than walking around local streets and neighbourhoods. I felt more conscious of being covered up during these times and though I didn’t bring any really tight clothing, I chose the loosest of my tops for the times I spent exploring the cities.

Dahab; a laid-back beach town on the Red Sea, was by far the most liberal when it came to deciding what to wear. Since I went for scuba diving, I always had a swimsuit on but I wouldn’t dream about walking around in that alone, and nor did anyone else. That being said I, and many others, wore shorts and tank tops over their swimwear while going to the beach, or walking along the main areas. While at the beach, bikinis were fine; though I did notice many women throwing a sundress or cover-up on over them once out of the water. Perhaps not necessary, but definitely a more comfortable option.

What to wear in Egypt

Finally, I feel like it’s important to note that I did travel with a man. I’ve heard mixed reviews on solo female travel in Egypt and while I had an amazing time, I know the fact that I had my brother with me did play a role. However, at the end of the day, whether you are travelling alone, with a man, or with other women, the most important thing to remember is to be respectful the local culture and mindful of your own personal comfort level.

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What to Wear in Egypt

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34 thoughts on “What to Wear in Egypt: Packing Tips for Female Travellers

  1. Pingback: Is Egypt Safe? My Experience Travelling Through Egypt - Eat Sleep Breathe Travel

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  3. Danielle Martinez

    When you went to Egypt, did you go with a tour group or did you plan the trip yourself? My husband and I are thinking of going and a lot of people suggest booking the trip with a tour group. We’ve traveled all over the world and we think we’ll be able to plan the trip and go just us two. What do you think? Thanks!

    1. Hannah Logan Post author

      I planned our trip myself 🙂 I have a blog post on our itinerary and what we did if you check through my other Egypt content. It was easy enough! I do recommend a Nile River cruise though- it was the highlight.

  4. Kat

    Thank you so much my husband and I are going to Egypt for our honeymoon and I was worried about this exact issue! Super helpful!!!

  5. Jodelle

    Heading to Egypt in January and thinking about wardrobe. We are traveling in cooler weather so am planning loose pants and tunics that cover my bum. I had read that it was also good to cover elbows so have been looking for 3/4 sleeves but notice that you are often showing yours. Not an issue?

  6. Mandy

    How did you find your tour guide? I am traveling to Egypt with a group of people (men and women) but have read so many blogs where people recommend getting a tour guide to lessen harassment,

    1. Hannah Logan Post author

      I used a few different guides. All were good, some better than others. I definitely agree that when we did have a guide, the locals didn’t try to sell us as much and, obviously, didn’t offer their guiding services. I recommend Get Your Guide if you are looking- that’s what I used to book in advance to make sure I got a REAL guide. Quite affordable too!

  7. Rose

    Thank you so much this is extremely helpful! Thanks for putting in all the links too. A scarf with a pocket?! That is something I would’ve NEVER thought of!

  8. Li

    Thank you so much, I read various tripadvisor / lonely planet guides on what to wear as a woman and still had questions like ‘Are t-shirts long sleeved enough? Can I show my ankles by wearing cropped trousers? Will jeans be okay?’ and this answered all of them! This is the difference of getting real advice from a woman who was personally been, lived and seen. Thank you! Feeling much more relaxed about my trip and like I can at least leave the tags on some of the more conservative items I purchased just-in-case. Thanks!

  9. Anne

    I’ll be visiting Egypt, in the late Spring, with my Egyptian boyfriend. We’re planning to visit his parents & family, as well as doing some sightseeing.

    I’d rather err on the conservative side, although they appear to be very laidback.

    Could you please advise me re: clothing and polite behavior? I’m not certain of the customs in Egypt, and don’t want to offend anyone. I also don’t speak any Arabic.

    Should I offer with cooking, cleaning, and other household chores? I know, of course, that we will be staying in separate bedrooms. Is hugging or holding hands considered inappropriate at all time?

    Any advice that you can give me would be greatly appreciated!

    Sincerely,
    Anne

    1. Hannah Logan Post author

      Hi Anne,
      I think if you follow the tips in this post in terms of clothing you’ll be good. As for behaviour- all I can say is public displays of attention seem to be a no-no. I didn’t see any among the local while I was there- not even hand holding. As for the rest I’m not sure- you’re best to ask your boyfriend for some tips on local customs.

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  11. Cheryl Stamford

    Hi Hannah

    Just wondering about colors to wear. I had read that they prefer you not to wear too many bright colors together ? Obviously it was not an issue with your beautiful wrap.

    Cheers

  12. Samantha

    These are fantastic tips! Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I will be traveling with my husband in a few months – since you traveled with your brother, any tips on what to pack for men? What was comfortable for him to wear both from a cultural and weather perspective? Appreciate any insight you can share!

    1. Hannah Logan Post author

      Hey Samantha,
      My brother wore cargo shorts and tshirts/polo shirts most of the trip. He did bring jeans for evening while it was cooler, then wore board shorts at the beach. I think the guys have it easier than women!

  13. Samantha

    Ok, good to know! Thank you for the quick reply. I know what I pack is going to take a little more thought, but he seems pretty happy to know he doesn’t need to buy anything special. Great content on your sight – appreciate you sharing! Samantha

  14. Tara

    Thank you for these amazing tips. I’ll be headed to Egypt next month and have repacked numerous times to ensure I’m mindful of the culture. Your tips have really helped me narrow down my things to pack.

  15. Ann

    Any issues with showing painted toenails from a modesty perspective? I’ve heard that dirt and dust is a concern, but I can’t find any mentions about bare toes offending anyone’s dress code expectations.

  16. Daphne

    Can you tell me how cold it gets at night? I’m travelling in May this year and wonder if I should bring a jumper with me? Thanks for the other suggestions, I was a bit concerned about Capri pants, but you’ve sorted that for me.

    1. Hannah Logan Post author

      It depends on the season. I was there in November which is winter so it was a little cooler at night so I brought a sweater with me- nothing too heavy though.

  17. Dorette

    Hey Hannah, thank you so much for the invaluable info – you answered a lot of questions that I have! I am traveling to Egypt 10-26-19 thru 11-04-19 – what dates were you there in November and what was the high temperature during the day (sorry if you already answered)? I am sure that I will have more questions as it gets closer to departure and will definitely use you as a resource! Have a great day beautiful!😊

    1. Hannah Logan Post author

      Glad to help! I was there mid November for 2 weeks. Temperature really depended on where we were but it did get quite warm in most places 25C+ – Abu Simbel was REALLY Hot. Nights were cooler though so you will want a light sweater.

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