I’m sure many who have traveled to Egypt can relate to the (at times) tricky subject of what to wear when there. To be honest with you it really depends on where you go and what time of year you’re there. Either way, I’m sure those seeking advice on this topic would appreciate some helpful hints.
Firstly I’ll talk about the varying regions of Egypt and how this can affect dress code. If you’re visiting a resort such as the Red Sea resorts or Sharm el Sheikh then you don’t have to worry so much about what to wear. Seaside resorts are catered for Western guests. One thing to keep in mind is the heat. Wear cotton and linen and if like me you’re prone to burning then wear a hat or cover your shoulders. It can get particularly cold at night so carry a shawl around with you in the evening.
It’s a whole different story when you get to the cities, such as Cairo. Egypt is a Muslim country and though they don’t expect you to cover up or wear the hijab, it’s decent to show some respect and modesty by not letting it all hang out! If you don’t mind and decide to go out in denim shorts and a vest, don’t be surprised if people stars or make comments, it’s not the social norm. It can get very hot in Cairo so the trick is to wear light colour, cotton and linen. Steer clear of synthetic materials.
When visiting a mosque, Old Cairo or even downtown, dress conservatively. Low necklines should be avoided ladies, make sure there is no chest or lower neck on show. Cover your arms with a long sleeve cotton top, white and cream are your best friends. Carry a big bag around with you so you can keep a scarf (pashmina) with you at all times as you must cover your hair when inside a mosque. If you’re visiting various mosques in one day then wear shoes that you can easily slip off and carry in your hand as shoes are not permitted inside mosques and you can be charged to put your shoes and socks away.
I always wore a white tunic top with a high collar and long sleeves, you’d be amazed at how much attention a girl can get for wearing a thin t-shirt in more conservative areas. I mostly wore baggy boyfriend jeans or a long black skirt when visiting mosques. I wouldn’t suggest wearing high heels as the streets are dusty and uneven. I wore my Swedish clogs by Lotta From Stockholm. They’re secure, comfy, sturdy and cute and I absolutely love wearing them. When I wasn’t wearing these I wore simple open toe sandals, the pair I’m wearing in the picture I bought from a shoe shop in Zamalek for 140LE which is around £15, not bad for real leather.
You can buy Lotta From Stockholm clogs via their website (they even come nicely wrapped up like a present!):
The bag I’m carrying is a 14 inch Cambridge Satchel in Navy. I chose to take my satchel with me because it’s sturdy and has buckles to secure it shut, which I believe is safer than a zip bag. Plus I can wear it across my chest and hold it in front of me when walking through busy streets. Take a look or purchase a Cambridge satchel online, they even come in various colours:
There are more relaxed areas such as Zamalek (which hosts some great sheesha bars and restaurants), Maadi and Garden City which aren’t so conservative. I felt comfortable wearing skinny jeans, maxi dresses/skirts and short sleeve t-shirts. I would still advise ladies not to wear mini skirts or anything too figure hugging even in these areas. T-shirts are fine though even the most relaxed and Western dressing Egyptian girls tend not to expose their shoulders.
V-neck, batwing top and palazzo pants are both from Zara. These trousers are incredibly comfy and airy. The clogs are the same as before, Lotta From Stockholm. I do love my clogs! I found that Christian areas were less conservative. I was comfortable wearing t-shirts and clothes that didn’t cover me up as much in Coptic Cairo. I would suggest covering your shoulders when entering a church though this a custom when entering most Christian religious sites around the world.
I’ve recently developed a love for jewellery from Tribu a small boutique in Camden Market, London. Tribu source some of the finest and most delicate pieces from the East. The shop assistants are at hand to explain the history and symbolism of each piece, whether it be a tree of life pendant or a Hand of Fatima ring. The brass piece I own was originally a bracelet which I hung on a chain. The bracelet cost £25 and the chain cost £12, they have various sized chains to pick from. The second piece is gold plated, the Buddha cost approximately £30 and the disk was £75. I love them both equally. They are minimalist yet classic and different from anything you’d find in a chain or high street store. You can find Tribu stalls tucked away in the heart of Camden Market in London. Or alternatively, check out their website:
Lastly I’ll mention Alexandria. Alexandria appears to be far more conservative than the last time I visited the city back in 2006. I would definitely suggest covering arms, chest and legs at all times and especially when visiting mosques, Pompey’s Pillar and the Roman catacombs. Pompey’s Pillar and the catacombs are in a small district of Alexandria some 20 minutes out from the main train station. It can feel a bit extreme whilst walking through the small winding streets, Alexandrias staring at you and pointing you to the catacombs, small children trying to shake your hands and chasing after you down the street. Though it’s heart warming to see how welcoming these people are it can also be very in your face for the first time visitors to Alexandria. I loved every minute of it! Egyptians are warm and welcoming people and I only hope for the best after the revolution.