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How to dress in Egypt: advice for tourists

How to dress in Egypt is a genuine concern when people plan a trip. Especially clothes for women in Egypt. This kind of question is one of the most frequent I receive from my readers.

Exactly, Damas. I read things, hear things, and don’t know what is correct. I’m concerned.

Understandably. In contact with a different culture, we may accidentally make something offensive — a colossal fiasco. (I made a colossal mistake in Morocco, not Egypt. Don’t tell anyone!)

Ready for your answers? Come with me and start organizing your clothes. I hope you live a day as Indiana Jones or Lara Croft on those exciting, pharaonic lands.

Indiana Jones and Lara Croft

How to dress in Egypt: MEN

The situation is much less stressful for men.

Shoes, sneakers, sandals, slippers. Pants or shorts. Shirts with long or short sleeves, or a tank top, with exposed armpits. Men — let’s face it — enjoy freedom during the trip. Just do not be abusive to the point of appearing shirtless.

Men tourists walking on a temple in Egypt
Temple of Edfu. On the right, two men appear pretty at ease with their clothes.

How to dress in Egypt: WOMEN

Yes, women should follow some etiquette. But do not overreact. There is no big drama here, as many people suppose. We are talking about women who are tourists in the country, not natives or foreigners who live there.

First, do not think that a woman needs to cover her head in public places. She will do that if she wants to absorb the local daily routine more intensely, learning about that rich culture.

Egyptian people on the streets
Egyptians on Cairo streets. All foreigner women should dress like the ones we see here?

In general, this is how we can summarize the concept for women visiting Egypt: be discreet. With common sense, we have the proper decision. Common sense is always the critical term.

There is an efficient general rule for women: be discreet

Thus, the woman avoids exposed legs, belly, chest, shoulders. It is not necessary to cover the arms, but a short sleeve, at least, is appreciated.

Damas, I see photos of Egypt that show women — tourists — dressed in… uh… at ease.

I also see them.

Exactly, Damas! So what happens to them?

What happens to them? Do you think the Egyptians are barbarians?

Let us clarify: the Egyptian people are good, friendly, and peaceful. I have wonderful experiences with them. They LOVE tourists.

Egyptians do not assault tourists because of “inappropriate clothes” (of course not!). I never saw that. Nothing should happen other than… “condemning gazes.” The woman tourist may notice the gazes and feel annoyed, forgetting that she is doing wrong with her clothes.

In general, the Egyptian people are good, peaceful, captivating, friendly

The situation should not be more than that — a “discomfort.” The Egyptian tour guide, always at our side during the tours, imposes the necessary respect (one of the reasons why it is essential to choose top guides in Egypt).

Tourists walking in a temple in Egypt
Look at this woman that wears shorts and a white tank top. Should she be dressed in “a more appropriate” way?
More tourists in a temple
The same for this woman here in the foreground? How about that one in the background, wearing a dress?
Two women in a Egyptian temple
Are these tourists dressed according to what we expect for women in Egypt?
Tourists entering a mosque in Egypt
Good examples here, for men and women. Notice the woman in the center, wearing trousers, a gray blouse, a purse, and sunglasses. A perfect costume for this visit. Sober. By the way, that is my beautiful, dear sister. 😉

Rules for all

Some rules and manners reach everybody — men and women. For example, when entering a mosque.

In some cases, the mosque’s staff will require a veil for women. Not for men, you know, but, just like women, they must cover their shoes with disposable protection.

Entering a mosque (a sacred place) is an act that calls for enormous respect

Look at the following two photos, taken by me when visiting the fascinating Mosque of Muhammad Ali Pasha, or Alabaster Mosque, in Cairo. Please pay attention to my sneakers. The disposable protection offered by the staff covers them.

My sneakers on a tapestry in the Alabaster Mosque
This is a sign of respect.
The Alabaster Mosque (interior)
Observe the feet of the tourists. (Women only enter a mosque if dressed accordingly to local traditions. Understandably, there are no exceptions here for them.)

Buying typical clothes during your trip

Just for fun or to live in a more intense way the essence of this trip, tourists love to buy typical clothes in Egypt.

You should buy some items too. My sister and I still use some at home, and this is a terrific way to revive unforgettable days.

There are plenty of opportunities for purchases. You will see clothes for sale in many shops, including on your cruise ship and on street stalls. Usually, the products are not expensive, and there is the advantage of the exchange rate with the Egyptian pound.

Typical Egyptian clothes for sale on the shop of a cruise ship in the Nile
During the cruise on the Nile River, a shop offers typical clothes. I bought one to join an after-dinner party.
Street stalls in Egypt
Stalls near the Great Temples of Abu Simbel.
Street stalls in Egypt
Street stalls appear countless times during a trip to Egypt.

So, did you like it?

Oh, I appreciate your explanation, Damas. But one thing still bothers me. Shouldn’t they respect the natural behavior of foreign tourists?

I have a particular thought about this.

You are a visitor

Imagine yourself visiting a friend’s house. You want to be — I hope — a polite visitor, not breaking the local rules and not imposing your way.

International tourists are visitors. We expect them to respect local rules, manners, and traditions. Egyptian society has particular concerns and habits, and you are the visitor who comes to appreciate all that. A practice that seems absurd to you may be obvious and rational to them. Therefore, have respect above all.

What kind of visitor are you? Be an example

Respect and intelligence. A cultured tourist likes to observe such differences. That is cultural enrichment. So, even if you do not agree with something, you will know a little more about human behavior. And, who knows, this will be an opportunity to agree with a concept previously seen as absurd.

An open mind is a path to evolution.


Note: Mentioning Lara Croft’s costumes at the beginning of the article was just a joke. Now you know that the character’s typical clothes are not suitable for tourism in Egypt. 😉


GLAUCO DAMAS
» I live in the Algarve (South of Portugal). My first fiction book, for young adults, was published in 2001 in the Portuguese language — a time travel adventure with thousands of readers. I also wrote books and guides about travel and technology. Screenplays are my greatest passion.

» This is the English version of my blog G. DAMAS (Portuguese language, online since 2010). English is not my native language.

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