Egypt is a magical country and one of the most interesting and unique places I’ve ever been. But the role of women here, and the way women are treated culturally, just isn’t great.
I’ve just wrapped a week of exploring Cairo and Alexandria and one of the hardest parts of my days here involved deciding what to wear.
How do you balance the heat, with staying respectful and keeping a low profile? How different is your experience if you decide to wear a t-shirt instead of a long-sleeve?
I asked a lot of questions to both men and women in Egypt about this very dilemma, and came back with some interesting answers. This guide will help you decide what to pack, what to wear, and what to leave behind.
How you dress here, is ultimately up to you.
Some local men I talked to say they think foreign women should cover up, while others said they think it’s fine if you’re skin is showing because the standards that apply to Egyptian women aren’t expected for foreign women.
But most local women I spoke with told me that street harassment is a pretty big issue though, and occasionally, that that harassment can lead to groping.
Don’t let this freak you out too much, because the chances of this actually happening to you as a visitor are pretty low—I had zero issues with harassment aside from a few stares and some people asking to take pictures with me, which I didn’t mind so much.
But you should dress modestly, and cover up your tattoos, if you have any (I have tattoos down my arms and back, which meant I was pretty much covered the entire time).
What to Pack
I came to Egypt with a slew of t-shirts that covered my shoulders, some sheer blouses I could pair with undershirts, and dresses with leggings.
Still, what I thought was conservative because it covered my shoulders and cleavage, wasn’t considered conservative enough because my chest and neck were still showing. So most of the time, I wore a long sleeve sweater over a shirt, with pants or leggings and a scarf around my neck. Traveling in November, the weather wasn’t unbearable, but it was still warm! If you’re coming here in the summer, you’re going to want some lightweight linen button downs and light scarves.
- Long scarves for covering your neck and chest. You can also use it to cover your head in mosques.
- Hats to block out the sun.
- Comfortable shoes for walking
- Moisturizer (my skin couldn’t get enough!)
- Conditioner (my hair couldn’t get enough!)
- Lip balm (Yeah, it’s dry here!)
What to Leave Behind
Anything that will show off your chest, your stomach or your legs. You will NOT see women wearing this and you WILL stick out like a sore thumb if you do. You probably won’t be booed or hissed at, but you will certainly feel eyes watching you.
If you’re going to the beach or to the Red Sea, then you’re fine to wear a bathing suit. I brought a little pool-side cover up for when we were out of the water and it wasn’t a big deal. But, when you go from the sand to little restaurants or the streets, you’ll want to cover up again.
Are you planning a trip to Egypt? Have you been?