How Should Women Tourists Dress in Egypt?

Jan 28th, 2004, 08:09 PM
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How Should Women Tourists Dress in Egypt?

I am probably going to go to Egypt for 10-14 days in the next few months for academic research (talking with bureacrats, academics, etc.), and will also try to fit in some sightseeing. One guide I read said that you must wear long skirts, long-sleeved shirts, and you should wear a scarf on your head. I'm prepared to do these things although I will have to buy the skirts since all I own are pants. However, on reading some of the posts in this forum, it seems that this might be overkill. Does anyone have advice about how I should be prepared to dress in Cairo for academic research and tourist visits? Thanks so much!
Jan 29th, 2004, 12:46 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 300
Being a foreigner, I would not think that you need a scarf.
When I was in Egypt (and I should be going back soon), I avoided short skirts or dresses. But a regular tee-shirt and trousers seemed to be OK, at least during touristic visits.

As far academic work is concerned, I would dress more formally, but nothing like compulsory long sleeve shirts and skirts.

This is only my humble opinion of course!
Joelle is offline  
Jan 29th, 2004, 04:05 AM
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For touring - comfort and respect should be combined but is more liberal that you'd think. You can certainly wear slacks, even cropped pants below knee; and t-shirts work as do camp shirts. Surprisingly, you can even wear walking-length shorts that come to the knee (no short shorts), but this would be more if you were at the Pyramids, Sakkara, Memphis, even in Luxor at Valley of the Kings and down Aswan way on Philae island and Abu Simbel.

While on the cruise during leisure time, short-shorts and even swimsuits and 2-pc suits are fine, but when you go ashore, go back to the longer pants and t-shirts.

When in Cairo and touring especally old cairo, mosques, synagogues go back to long pants and as long as upper arm is covered, you are okay. It is a good idea to have a scarf if you enter any religious place, and they are also good incase a sand storm blows in.

On a professional level, I'd stick with pants or skirts, and again, shirts that cover the upper arm, maybe to the elbow. Scarves in a museum or office, aren't necessary for those that are not Muslim. You will find that there is a large secular society (Egyptians, Europeans, other ex-pats) in Egypt and they don't cover up; many women are quite sophistically dressed.
Jan 29th, 2004, 08:26 AM
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I think you should buy a few skirts (at least mid-calf length I would think) for your upcoming trip to Egypt. However, if you are someone who likes to wear pants, I think there is a way you can make pants work in Egypt (I mean not just during sight seeing activities but also in academic and business settings). What I'm thinking of is a pant suit in which the jacket is long, almost knee-length. This was a type of pant suit that recently enjoyed considerable popularity here in the west.

In the fall of 2002, 21 engineers from Iran's oil industry came to my company in Calgary to do a 3 month Health, Safety and Environmental course. At first they were shy and formal but, as time passed, they grew less formal. All of them showed me photos of their wives and children. One of them showed my husband and me a videotape of his wife, parents, siblings and his siblings' families.

Some of the women in these photos wore full length black robes and their hair was entirely covered. The only part of the body that was exposed was the face.

Several of the women, however, wore smart pant suits with long (almost knee-length) jackets. They wore attractive scarves that were elegantly draped, showed some hair, and were well integrated into the overall outfit. They also wore make up, high heels and smart purses. These women looked so fashionable that, except for the unusual touch of a head scarf added to the outfit, they easily could have fitted into the western world.

I mention this because, while I have been to neither Iran nor Egypt, I get the sense that Iran is more conservative than Egypt is. My hunch is that if a form of dress is acceptable in Iran, it will be acceptable in Egypt too.

My understanding is that women do not have to wear scarves in secular settings in Egypt. However, as Sandi said, one should have a scarf on hand in case one visits a mosque.

If I was going to any predominantly Muslim country, I would dress conservatively (no low cut tops, mid-calf length skirts, not-too-tight pants, tops that covered the upper arm, light rather than heavy make up). I'm in my early fifties and, frankly, this comes close to describing my usual attire. Even without visiting a Muslim country, I no longer wear bikinis or tank tops.

Hope this helps.
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Jan 29th, 2004, 12:09 PM
Join Date: Apr 2003
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Although the dress in Egypt is definitely more conservative than here, I would think that trousers are fine. I wore trousers and short sleeve shirts (not sleeveless) during most of my visit, and brought a light long sleeve shirt everywhere in the event I went somewhere more conservative (not needed though).

At no time was I asked, or deemed it more appropriate, to cover my head, even when I visited mosques in Cairo. I did, however, store a light scarf in my bag during the entire trip in the unlikely event it was needed.

It seemed that the southern part of Egypt (other than on the boat and at major tourist sites) was much more conservative. More women had their head covered - in one small town I visited, I saw no women on the street at all. I don't know why it was, but it seemed strange.

Our female tour guide in Cairo who is Muslim did not wear a head covering and explained to us that her mother had never as well. She wore slacks the entire time which were even more close fitting than my looser ones. She didn't seem to suffer any stares or ill effects from the locals for it.

Have fun, it's a wonderful place.

SmileyFace is offline  
Jan 29th, 2004, 02:38 PM
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I spent three weeks in Egypt on a tour in 2002. You should bring a scarf but you will probabably only need it a couple times at the most. I wore capri pants without any problems. I would include at least one skirt and one pair of long slacks. I traveled in September when it was extremly hot. I wore cotton loose fitting shirts with half sleeves and was comfortable and never need to worry if I offended anyone. You should also bring a few long sleeve cotton blouses. Also have a comfortable pair of shoes besides sandals. I found the people very friendly and very interested in meeting U.S. citizens. I have travel all over the world and Egypt was my favorite trip. It is so exotic and fasinating. Enjoy
Lucretia is offline  
Jan 30th, 2004, 12:23 AM
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You will see a wide variety of dress in Cairo - from fully covered women to women in very western dress. Just some basic thoughts -

For business environments, pants are fine. I would just make sure they are "dressed up" a little with a nice shirt or blazer or light sweater. For both business and academic places - think "business casual."

For sightseeing in Cairo, capri pants or a skirt would be fine. I would save shorts (even long ones) for a Nile cruise. Make sure upper arms are covered.

For trips to religious sites, wear pants or a skirt and a shirt that covers the upper arms. In mosques, you will be asked to remove your shoes, so I would suggest shoes with socks - or take a pair of socks with you that you could put on.

I have never been asked to wear a scarf, but if you are traveling in the spring - that's sandstorm season, so a scarf could be handy to protect your face.

I would also suggest sturdy, comfortable shoes, especially in the tourist areas. There are paved walkways around the pyramids, but there is also a lot of uneven ground. As for the shopping bazaars - the little streets/alleys can be rather messy.
Grcxx3 is offline  
Jan 30th, 2004, 07:59 AM
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I just came back from Egypt 01/27/04 and it was in the 30-40F, cold to me from FL. I wore slacks, jeans the 2 nights we went to the sound & light show and a long beige cotton dress. I wore button shirts for jackets over the dress and slacks and had short sleeve tee tops under the shirts. I took a silk bomber type jacket and a pashmina type shall. I was toasty warm and we did not need to cover our hair at the mosques.
MauiMaui is offline  
Jan 30th, 2004, 02:17 PM
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You have received some good advice above. I might add that tightness of garment makes almost as much difference as length of sleeves or legs. I found looser cotten woven fabric better, and more comfortable, than clingy knits.

We also had a female tour guide and she did not wear any sort of head covering.
gail is offline  
Jan 30th, 2004, 06:29 PM
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MauiMaui - can we expect a trip report? Please! Thanks.
Jan 30th, 2004, 06:36 PM
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As an Egyptian, you shouldn't worry that much about clothing. As you have been told, wear skirts or pants, not too tight, tees are fine, and so is not wearing a scraf. However, if you normally wear slightly tighter clothes that's fine. My cousins, who live there, are always wearing supertight clothing (mind you they are in their early 20s and unmarried). Just know that Egypt having a small Christian population, is not as concervative as it used to be, and the American influence is allowing more North American style clothing to be worn, esp from tourists. Just be considerate and not to showy and you'll be fine!
moni_star is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2004, 06:26 AM
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Anyone who would like my trip report, please email me at: [email protected] I have comprised a summary of my trip that would be too long to post here.
MauiMaui is offline  

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