• Local's Guide To Egypt

What To Wear If You’re A Woman Visiting Egypt: Essential Clothes & Packing List

Updated: Aug 15, 2019

Unsure of what you should plan to wear in Egypt? We’ve got you covered (pun unintended, I swear).

I’ve noticed that a lot of women seem unsure of what to pack/wear when traveling to Egypt, and the Middle East as a whole. This is extremely valid, because the culture is a tad different and what might seem like a normal summer outfit to you might elicit a few stares on the street in some Middle Eastern countries.

While Egyptian society is not as open as Dubai or Beirut when it comes to wardrobe, we don’t have any specific laws or rules about head or body covering like in Saudi Arabia or Iran.

Anywho, firstly, a few FAQs:

Do people stare everywhere?

No. Your only issue will be when you’re on the streets in Egypt’s big cities. In hotels, restaurants, bars and clubs, nobody will look twice at you.

Do I have to cover my hair?

Nope, not at all, unless you’re visiting a mosque (PS: here's our list of Egypt's ten most beautiful mosques). That’s the only time you might be asked to loosely cover with a scarf, out of respect. Other that that, there’s absolutely no reason to cover your hair, nor does anyone expect you to.

Is there a certain Islamic code of dressing I have to abide by?

Nope. You’ll find yourself more comfortable in general if you don’t wear anything too short or too cleavagey, because people will look less. But that’s a cultural thing. For example, the UAE is an Islamic country but women walk around in shorts no problem. Egyptian society tends to be slightly more conservative, so wearing anything too showy might garner you some looks and catcalls in Cairo or Alexandria.

Note: beach destinations aren’t included in the above. If you’re in Sharm El Sheikh, Hurghada, Dahab, El Gouna, etc., just plan to wear normal beach resort stuff.

Is there anything I should avoid showing?

Like I mentioned above, any wardrobe edits are for your own comfort, not because you *have* to. That being said, to avoid any unwanted looks or catcalls, try to avoid the following:

  • Skirts or shorts much higher than knee-length

  • Crop tops or anything midriff-baring

  • Lots of cleavage

  • Things that are skin-tight around the butt area -- for example, if you’re going to wear leggings or yoga pants, try to pair them with a loose top or tunic that covers your butt

  • Backless tops or dresses

Does this apply to hotels, restaurants, clubs and other night spots as well?

Nope. When in the hotels, clubs and lounges, Egyptian women and expats are just as decked out as they would be in NYC, but they make sure that they have long jackets, shawls and cover-ups for when they’re out on the street in Cairo or Alex.

So now that you have a clearer idea of what to avoid, let’s talk about what you absolutely SHOULD pack:

  • A shawl.

If I could name just one item you *must* bring with you, it would be this. A shawl is not only extremely useful in Egypt, but it’s also super versatile.

You can use it to cover your chest or shoulders in the street, you can use it to cover your hair if you plan on visiting a mosque, you can use it as sun protection, or something to sit on, or a way of staying warm if the night cools down and you don’t have a sweater on you. You can also wrap it around your nose and mouth if you’re in the desert and the wind picks up and things start getting sandy.

Basically, a million uses.

If you’re going in summer months, then I absolutely recommend this UPF 50+ sun shawl. Not only does it have all the usual functions of a shawl that I named above, but it protects you from 98% of all UVA and UVB rays. It’s also lightweight and dries super quick. It’s great for covering any area that you feel like might be too exposed to the sun or starting to burn.

If you’re going in the winter months, then I recommend getting a shawl that’s not only warm and super soft, but also large enough to also drape on your legs or any part of you that might get cold.

A lot of people don’t realize how cold it gets in Egypt in the winter, especially because most buildings don’t have any central heat. I love this cashmere/cotton pashmina because it feels great and is not too heavy/bulky (always an issue when packing). It also comes in a ton of colors.

  • Lightweight, breathable shoes that aren’t sandals

A lot of visitors to Egypt tend to bring just sandals or flip-flops with them due to the hot weather, but any local will tell you that’s a mistake -- you need a pair of ‘closed’ shoes for sure.

Most Egyptian streets have some element of debris on them that could accidentally cut you, and other streets have unavoidable mud puddles. That’s besides the fact that you’ll be trekking through a lot of sand should you head out to the Pyramids, and that sand gets *hot*.

My personal recommendation are these super-cute lightweight walking shoes. I personally love wearing them because of how they look (priorities), but they’re also my go-to shoe for when I need to walk around Cairo. They’re very breathable, which is a must for Egypt. And they’re light, which is a must for packing, so there you go.

  • Loose linen or cotton pants

If you’re traipsing around Egypt, jeans might seem like the obvious choice for pants -- but I wouldn’t be so sure.

In summer, jeans just feel so hot. They feel heavy and kind of like there’s a sweat swamp in unfortunate spots. And on the flip side, in winter they get ridiculously cold -- that aforementioned swamp turns into a frozen tundra real fast.

So what do?

Well, if it’s the summer, then loose linen or cotton pants will be your best friend. They’re lightweight, they’re breezy and they won’t feel like 20 pounds of regret that you’re forced to carry around while you’re climbing inside a sweltering pyramid.

I recommend packing something like these linen/cotton pants -- something very easy to roll up from the ankle, which is important in Egypt -- you never know what you might step in (see point above) and is there anything worse than getting the hem of your pants all gross? (Well, like a million things, but it still sucks).

That’s besides the fact that they’re airy, light, and won’t take up a ton of space in your suitcase.

For what pants to wear during winter, check out our point below about leggings (are people still getting all hot and bothered about leggings not being pants?)

  • Long summer/winter cardigan or duster

So going back to the whole covering-your-butt thing, I find long cardigans to be my daily lifesaver. Seriously, as a local I wear a different long cardi/duster maybe 3-4 a week, at least. Why? Because they cover my butt and hips when I’m in the street (plus also cover annoying body flaws, so yay for that!!!). I also love how they look but maybe that’s just me.

In the summer I go for sleeveless, lightweight cardigans like this one here. They’re super airy so they don’t feel like another layer, and I love the coverage they give.

In the winter I go for these oversize heavy-duty cardigans. I like to go for plainer or more neutral colors because they match whatever I’m wearing underneath, but it’s always fun to have a color that pops too -- it’s really a personal taste kind of thing.

What I also find useful about the winter cardigans --besides the butt thing-- is that they’re easy to take off if you’re in the sun and feeling warm. Same idea as a hoodie but just longer and cuter.

  • Nice night outfit

If you’re planning on going to a club or a lounge, then pack at least one nice night outfit, whether it’s a dress or jeans/pants and a particular top you love.

Egyptians like to go out and have fun and love any excuse to wear their trendiest clothes, so rest assured you won’t be overdressed. Some venues also require a ‘smart casual’ dress code, so it’s always good to be prepared.

  • Regular beachwear

If you’re going to a beach destination in Egypt or planning to spend time by the pool, then don’t overthink anything and just bring the same swim stuff you would normally pack.

Just make sure you have a cover-up, because you might get a few funny looks if you’re walking around a hotel lobby in your bikini. Something like this crochet cover-up is always useful.

  • Leggings

Leggings to me will always be pants -- capri in the summer and long, fleece-lined in the winter. I pair them with long tops or cardigans and it all comes together in a comfortable, light but still relatively covered outfit that’s ideal for exploring Cairo and other Egyptian cities.

And for the winter, have you guys tried the lined leggings?! Not to be hyperbolic, but they are everything!!! Not only super warm but pretty flattering too. I always invest in a multi-colored 6 pack of fleece-lined leggings because I’m just that obsessed. They look great with boots too.

For the summer, I usually go with breathable capri leggings like this super-comfy one here.

  • Long, loose tops

Like I said above, a loose top or tunic paired with leggings is a good choice for Egypt. Everything that needs to be covered is covered but you don’t feel suffocated or uncomfortable, plus it’s easy to mix and match.

When it comes to clothing basics, like leggings or basic tops or tees, I like to be thrifty and buy several of the same item (whether in the same color or different colors) and save a buck, like with this three pack of cute tunic tops.

  • Crossbody purse that’s secure and durable

As every female traveller knows, the bag/purse you carry around with you daily needs to be multi-functional: it needs to be light and comfortable to carry, it needs to be big enough to hold what you need to carry without it being a monstrosity, it needs to be secure, it needs to be durable and it needs to be cute, damnit.

Crossbody bags to me are essential. Backpacks can get uncomfortable after a while and shoulder bags are just a nuisance to society.

I personally love nice leather crossbody purses because not only do they go with everything, but they last forever and you don’t have to worry about the usual wear and tear that destroys your other bags in 3 seconds flat.

For a trip to Egypt, I recommend a bag like this beautiful 14 inch leather travel purse. It has a lot of pockets and double security so that you don’t have to worry about anything falling out or pickpocketing (Egypt in general though is a pretty safe country when it comes to theft -- it’s very rare when it happens).

Other things which are always handy to pack:

  • A pack of hair ties because God knows we never have one when we need them

  • Sunglasses

  • A hat of some sort -- this really is a judgment call, I as a local and most other local women don’t wear hats on a regular basis, so it’s definitely not *needed*, but if you’re not used to a lot of sunlight, you might want to pack a cap or something just in case.

For 15 other useful things (besides clothes!) to pack for Egypt, head here.

So, I hope this packing list and my recommendations come in handy. Let me know if you have any other questions regarding what to wear in Egypt in the comments below!