What to wear in Egypt as a tourist?

The first thought that comes to travellers’ minds while travelling to any Middle Eastern country – is “What to wear.” I prefer to keep it conservative while travelling in the Middle East. It was the right thing to do so in Egypt too.

So here is a complete guide to what to wear in Egypt as a tourist & what to pack.

Index

What do Local Egyptian women wear?

Sepia mode in the background of Old Cairo street with girls wearing Hijab, pants and tops.

OLD CAIRO– The usual day of Local Egyptians hanging out just before a bad sandstorm.

There is no dress code in particular for tourists as such in Egypt. Hijab is not compulsory for women. You find Egyptian ladies in Burqa in smaller towns like Bawiti near Bahariya Oasis. But not everywhere. Few women wear “Jalebiyas” – a long straight kurta kind of a thing. Sometimes it is colourful, like in Nubian villages or solid plain ones in the cities. Most women wear modern clothes like pants and waist-length tops and a scarf on their heads. Makeup is not banned, but Egyptian women are not fond of Makeup as much as Iran or Turkey women.

Is there a dress code to enter Egypt Pyramids?

Lady dressed in leggings, tshirt and a shrug in Egypt Cold

Windy, chilly sunny mornings at Saqqara

Dressing up as per local tradition is one thing. But is there a dress code to enter pyramids not to make dead pharaohs angry? No, there is no such thing. Walking down/up inside the pyramid isn’t easy. If you are claustrophobic like me, it gets even more challenging if you carry too many things while walking inside the pyramids.
On that cold January morning, that saviour, warm and thick jacket of mine, became a burden while walking down in the pyramids ducking. It is warm inside the pyramids but super cold outside during winter. Wear layers so that you can remove them before entering.

Respecting Egypt’s local tradition

Highrise apartments of Giza annd girls wearing Hijab on the street.

Early mornings in Giza

Egypt is more conservative than I thought. For your safety& to respect their beliefs. Egypt receives the second-highest number of tourists in Africa. So many locations receive globe travellers from various cultures. But it is better not to follow “My body, My rules. I flaunt it because I got it”.

I witnessed a troubling incident that happened to a lady traveller near Giza Pyramids.

On a cold chilling afternoon, we saw a strange behaviour among many tourists in front of the Giza Pyramids. It was so cold that I thought of putting on my thickest jacket. But few travellers wanted to pose sexy in front of the pyramids. One beautiful girl removed the long coat she was wearing on her long gown. She was ready to shiver in the cold weather for a sexy picture revealing her legs and waist. Her body, her choice. Pyramids are sexy, and we all are sexy, too- Correct. But it caught the attention of local Egyptians, selling souvenirs and camel rides. She was continuously followed by local teenage boys trying to crack a conversation with her. The annoyed girl wore the jacket back & kept walking with her mate without responding for a while. Later both of them said, “Please leave us alone.”

Our guide Ibrahim went behind those boys, scolding them severely in Arabic and chased them away!

Nubians in cairo wearing Jalebiya in Old Cairo street
An afternoon at Old Cairo – When most locals are dressed like this, we, as tourists, get noticed easily if we dress up in total contrast to their tradition

When we asked Ibrahim, he said –

 “I don’t want to tell the exact words those boys used to call her. It is inappropriate to use those words. I said I will hand them over to the Police if they behaved that way. Unfortunately, neither Egyptian men are changing nor do tourists understand this issue. Egyptians are still conservative. We try to tell tourists not to wear revealing clothes. Meanwhile, we try to catch hold of this kind of perverts too. I hope this kind of thing stops soon in Egypt.” 

As a traveller, we have to be in our safe zone. Unfortunately, some stupid humans still think revealing clothes are “asking for it.” Wearing whatever we want is our birthright. But as a traveller in a foreign country, safety is most important. Travelling in Egypt for 15 days or more, we can’t change what people think there. Plus, you may hurt their religious sentiments by wearing something that the locals don’t prefer. Wearing revealing clothes is not the only sign of progressive minds; respecting others’ way of life while you are on their land is.

What Egyptian men wear

Egyptian tall columns with flower nud capital and men in Jalebiya

Edfu temple caretakers in traditional outfit

Ironically in most parts of the world, the dress codes are usually for women! But in Egypt, traditional men’s clothing isn’t considered “On special Occasions Only”, but daily also.

You won’t see Egyptian men in shorts outside their houses. But a few tourists wear shorts. If you don’t want to be highlighted as a tourist but want to merge among the locals, stick to pants. Traditional Men’s attire in Egypt is Jalebiya with a white turban! Jalebiya is unisex. Just the colour and the pattern differs for men and women. Men wear loose, solid coloured Jalebiya. The most common colours we saw were Greyish Blue, Brown, and Khakee. We saw very few men in Jalebiyas in Cairo but many in Luxor, Aswan and Bawiti. I don’t know the reason, but Nubians wear only white Jalebiyas. There are plenty of shops in Luxor, Aswan and Nubian villages for you to buy these Jalebiyas. They are comfortably loose and airy. Ashrith did try on one, and he looked funny! He has strictly instructed me not to post his picture in Jalebiya here.

Packing various seasons in Egypt

Tourists standing next to Egyptian god Horus - the falcon god giant statue

Carry only full length thicker clothes. Long skirts with thermal wear beneath might also be a good idea. Full sleeve tops or overcoats on the short sleeves are enough whiles out in the afternoon, but evenings can get as cold as 5*C. Hand gloves become essentials if you are camping in the desert in winter. So carry enough warm clothing for the desert night camp.

I love getting clicked wearing a saree wherever I go. The plan was to imitate Kajol from Suraj Hua Madham song at the white desert. Forget changing into a saree; I shivered in the cold without my hand gloves for 5 minutes. The temperature was around 5*C to 6*C, so I had to settle for a picture wearing a Poncho.

Indian traveller wearing a poncho and posing btween two giant lime formations on abrown desert in Egypt

Close enough?

What to wear in Egypt summer?

Though I visited in winter, mid-afternoons gave me a hint of the scorching heat of summer. I have read so many travellers’ experiences of getting sunstroke in Egypt. So the only thing that saves you is either a hat or scarf. The sweat and sand are the worst combos. So Carry cotton or linen loose clothing as much as possible. I wouldn’t carry even one pair of denim pants. Knee-length shorts sound airy enough, but the beaming sun burns your skin like an oven.

It is better to wear thin & loose cotton fabric dresses and pants. Make sure they are not transparent. Loose cotton gowns, maxis are perfect for summer.

Egyptian men siting weing Jalebiya

CARETAKERS AT MEDINET HABU – SUMMER OR WINTER, THEY LOVE JALEBIYAS

How to face and stay safe during Egypt’s Sandstorm?

90% of Egypt is desert. So sandstorms are common. We did get stuck in Cairo for a few hours at Cairo in a sandstorm. The entire city turned into Sepia mode within a few minutes. A wave of sand grains flew in the air continuously. I was wearing a scarf that day and had a spare one in my bag for Ashrith to cover his face. If we had not carried a scarf, I am sure we would have gotten some eye infection! I was wearing a jacket that covered my hands thoroughly. The only part which got exposed to the sandstorm was the ankles. I had such lousy itching and scratches later. I wish I had worn full socks or a pant that covered my ankles that day.

Top Egypt Packing List Items

Indian traveller in long skirt and whit coton top standing in frot of king tut's tomb entrance
  • Scarfs – irrespective of the season, they save you.
  • Shoes – wear the ones that carry your feet wholly. I suggest avoiding sandals and flip-flops totally.
  • Long skirts or Wraparounds to wear on pants to enter religious places
  • Don’t carry sling bags; stick to a backpack.
  • In winter -Full sleeves, thick tops, Denim pants, hand gloves, warm woollen socks, heavy jackets, beanies or jackets with hoodies.
  • In summer – Loose cotton pants and shirts and shrug.
  • Sunscreen, cold cream, moisturisers and lip balms.
  • Sunglasses
  • Personal medicines. – Many suggested Anti Diarrheal is a must; fortunately, nothing happened to us, but it is better to carry to be on the safer side.
  • Rehydration salts help you even in winters.
  • Essential documents like your passport
  • A travel adapter for sockets
  • Power bank, phone and camera chargers.

Do you think we should dress up as per local tradition out of respect or follow our own style? Let us know in the comment section below.

Published by Sahana Kulur

Traveller | Blogger | Architecture and history

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