Post Overview: What to Wear in Egypt (Egypt Packing List + Egypt Outfit Ideas)
Will and I just returned from a two week trip to Egypt. The trip evoked a whirlwind of emotions and took an emotional toll I was unprepared for. I felt that the resources I relied on (blogs, guide books, online forums, etc.) didn’t adequately prepare me for the experience, but at the very least I knew what to pack for Egypt.
We spent 5 days in Cairo, 4 days in Aswan and 7 days in Luxor. We challenged ourselves to pack one carry on for the duration of the trip and (somehow?) succeeded. Below is a quick rundown of my personal Egypt packing list, along with some outfit ideas for Egypt.
How to Dress in Egypt (Important)
Conservative attire is the best way to dress in Egypt. During our first two days in Cairo we hired a local guide and I quickly learned to cover up because I felt like I was getting too much unwanted attention (honestly, I felt judged). The tourism industry in Egypt is hurting like mad and locals aren’t used to seeing their streets wandered by foreigners (save for the popular tourist spots like the temples, pyramids and handful of mosques).
In my experience, 99% of the local women were completely covered (wearing hijabs + niqabs). To be respectful, I gauged the local environment and if women were covered I followed suit. As such, I found myself covering my head with a scarf 99% of the time while exploring Cairo.
In Aswan I had a different experience because we spent most of our time recharging and relaxing at the hotel (Cairo was a lot to handle). To keep it simple, we signed up for a tour through out hotel and visited the top three attraction in the city. As such, my attire reflected that of most tourists that aim to be respectful –my body was covered but my head wasn’t.
In Aswan we saw the Temple of Philae, the Unfinished Obelisk and the High Dam. The Temple of Philae was crowded with tourists and the dress code seemed much more casual. I asked our guide whether I should cover my head and she responded with a confident “no.” I followed suit and didn’t feel uncomfortable at all, but perhaps because she was around.
In Luxor we spent most of our time at the hotel and embarked on tours with a guide (booked through the hotel). Just like in Aswan, I asked if I should cover my hair and he said it wasn’t necessary so I didn’t. I wasn’t uncomfortable walking around the sites because he was around, but still felt unwanted gazes from the local men.
In sum, I read many stories from female travelers who said packing for Egypt wasn’t as difficult as they expected. They spoke of an Egypt that adapted to tourists and was okay with foreigners dressed differently. However, what I discovered during my trip to Egypt is that old traditions still ring true and the only way to feel comfortable it to play by the game, rather than trying to change it. For what it’s worth, I felt most comfortable when I was completely covered up in Egypt, unless in the presence of a guide.
Did I feel uncomfortable in Egypt?
Honestly, yes. Especially while adjusting to the culture during the first week of the trip. I didn’t like being stared at by (what felt like every man) we passed even though I was dressed conservatively and had my hair completely covered. Cairo was especially difficult for me, but we got smarter by the time we got to Aswan and Luxor.
We started hiring tour guides through the hotel and spent most of our days hotel-bound, too frustrated to leave and explore. As such, Aswan and Luxor felt like a breeze because we seldom left the hotel (we were so burned out by that point).
P.S. I plan to write more extensively about my time in Egypt because I feel most travelers glorify or romanticize the country. I was so frustrated by the reality of the state of things and even more frustrated because no one seems to talk about them. Stay tuned.
Do I need to cover my hair in Egypt?
One of the biggest questions I had before my trip was if I need to cover my hair in Egypt. I strive to be respectful of cultures, norms and rules when traveling and am not one for making waves or changing the status quo.
I read that the general rule of thumb for tourists is no, women don’t need to cover hair in Egypt. But speaking from personal experience, I kept my hair covered 90% of the time while exploring the city. I only felt comfortable leaving it uncovered while exploring temples with guides because those spots were full of tourists.
In sum, answering the question of if you need to cover your hair in Egypt is kind of dependent on your comfort level — unless you’re visiting mosques, of course (you will absolutely need to cover your hair). Speaking from personal experience, I was surprised by how often I felt compelled to cover my hair in Egypt (mostly to stave off unwanted male attention).
Regardless, I noticed that most female tourists did NOT cover their hair, so to each their own. It seems to me that no matter what you do or wear, as a foreign woman, you will undoubtedly get a lot of attention in Egypt.
Easy Egypt Outfit Ideas | What to Wear in Egypt
Egypt Outfit Ideas: #1. White dress + scarf
Let’s start this list of outfit ideas for Egypt with my go-to: the classic white dress and scarf combo. Easy to pack and wear, this was my favorite outfit to wear in Egypt.
Egypt Outfit Ideas: #2. Capri pants + long sleeve shirt
This Egypt outfit idea was inspired by the adventurous explorers that came long before me. I imagine folks dressed like this as they discovered the treasures of ancient Egypt. I re-wore this outfit a handful of times during my trip, but felt it was most perfect at the pyramids.
Egypt Outfit Ideas: #3. The one-and-done jumpsuit
I typically pack a jumpsuit regardless of the country I visit and packing for Egypt was no exception. The only dilemma I faced in Egypt was making it conservative enough (the jumpsuit I packed for Egypt didn’t have sleeves).
The solution? My handy dandy white button down shirt served as a light jacket and it worked like a charm! I topped it off with a scarf and felt covered enough.
Egypt Outfit Ideas: #4. Loose linen pants + blouse
Loose attire is essential when packing for Egypt. In fact, when I was researching what to pack for Egypt I was surprised this wasn’t mentioned more often. Pack loose linen pants and even go up one size if you can — the less left for the imagination the better.
Egypt Outfit Ideas: #5. Skirt + short sleeve shirt
Here’s yet another classic combo in terms of conservative outfits for Egypt — a midi skirt and button down shirt. I found that this was a great outfit to wear in Egypt for days I toured mosques and temples. The scarf was a great addition because I could cover my hair at a moment’s notice.
What to Pack for Egypt for Women
The Egypt packing list I curated below is flexible and makes mixing-and-matching a breeze. Let’s get to it!
1. Two midi or maxi dresses
When packing for Egypt I decided to pack two dresses and was glad I didn’t pack more (or less). I brought along one breathable floral maxi dress and one white cotton dress. Both dresses hit just above the ankle to ensure I was dressing appropriately in Egypt.
What to Pack for Egypt: Here’s the white dress I wore more than any other item during my trip to Egypt. The other dress I packed was this floral maxi dress, which is a beloved staple in my wardrobe but it’s old (no longer sold), here’s some similar ones.
2. Two (or three) scarves
No Egypt packing list is complete without a minimum of two scarves. I decided on three scarves to pack for Egypt because they all served a different purpose. My light gray scarf was a perfect neutral complement to an outfit, the floral scarf added a great pop of color and the blue cotton scarf had more weight for cooler evening weather.
3. Two long-sleeved shirts
We visited Egypt in May and the temperatures were soaring high (98° – 108°F), so proper sun protection was essential. Rather than run through a tube of sunscreen per day I decided to wear my long-sleeved shirts most days. I ordered my shirts one size up (for a looser fit) and made sure the material was breathable — linen works best.
In terms of my Egypt packing list, I landed on two neutral white button down tops because they paired with everything else I packed for Egypt. They made my Egypt outfit planning a complete breeze. My biggest challenge most mornings was choosing between a skirt and pants.
Plus, another perk of the classic white button down is that it doubles as a light jacket over sleeve-less outfits. As mentioned, my jumpsuit didn’t have sleeves, so I paired it with one of my tops to make sure I was properly dressed in Egypt. See below.
4. Three short-sleeve blouses
Chances are good that you’ll be wearing short-sleeve shirts the most often, which is why I recommend adding at least 3 to your Egypt packing list. The short-sleeve tops were perfect when I was lounging at the hotel! I also wore them while exploring temples and made sure to have a scarf on hand, just in case I wanted more coverage.
5. Two pairs of long loose pants (above ankle is fine)
Ah, the moment we’ve all been waiting for! Is it okay for women to wear pants in Egypt? Yes! I’ll be frank, as a female in Egypt you will get unwanted male attention regardless of what you do, however if you’re dressed conservatively then it will be harder for it to get to you.
When packing for Egypt, I suggest opting for loose, long pants. If your pants hit above the ankle that’s completely fine, but speaking from firsthand experience, I wouldn’t feel comfortable with anything above the knee.
6. One long skirt
A skirt, much like a dress, is an essential item to pack for Egypt. Just make sure the skirt is long (the closer to your ankles the better) and breathable. Here’s the skirt I packed during my trip — it was light, didn’t take up much space and fit the occasion perfectly.
7. One (good quality) jumpsuit
What is better to pack for Egypt than a classic jumpsuit? I love jumpsuits because they require no thought. This is as close as it gets to your mom laying out tomorrow’s outfit for you the night before.
However, not all jumpsuits are not created equal and you’ll want to make sure that you choose a modest one when packing for Egypt.
I searched around for a while before my trip and was happy to find this jumpsuit from Everlane. It was breathable (but not see-through) and the color was perfectly cheery without being over the top. Can’t recommend it enough!
What to Pack for Egypt: Here’s the exact jumpsuit I tagged along. I LOVED it and wore it often and was surprised by how well it held up by the end of the trip. And yes, I purchased a second one when I got home – ha.
8. Best shoes for Egypt: sneakers + sandals
When researching what to pack for Egypt I came across some helpful advice: pack comfortable closed-toe shoes. And while I’m glad for the advice, I think sandals are an essential packing item for Egypt as well.
I’m a sucker for Birkenstock’s (I own six pairs!). As such, when pondering what to pack for Egypt I decided on my oldest pair of Birkenstock sandals, knowing full well they wouldn’t make the return journey home (RIP #5).
The streets of Egyptian cities are dirty (factual statement, no judgement — heck, I hail from NYC) and sandals aren’t necessarily the best thing to wear in Egypt, but I wore mine almost daily regardless.
Your sandals and feet will get dirty while you’re exploring around, so don’t bring a pair of sandals you “can’t live without.” Which is helpful to know when determining what to pack for Egypt!
9. Bras: one strapless + two regular
I chose to pack light bras on my trip to Egypt because most of my attire was white (or light colors). I added one strapless bra and two regular bras to my Egypt packing list and didn’t feel like anything was missing.
10. Light cotton jacket
While packing for Egypt I was hesitant to bring my cotton jacket but am so glad I did. As mentioned, we visited Egypt mid-May when temperatures were soaring, but two evenings were chilly for me. I was glad to have a light cotton jacket to throw over myself when needed, which is why I recommend adding one to your Egypt packing list.
Egypt Packing List: Let’s Talk Accessories
1. High quality sunscreen
Make no mistake, if there’s only one thing you don’t miss while packing for Egypt it should be high quality sunscreen. Shade is hard to come by and the sun blazes throughout the day regardless of the season.
If helpful, here’s the ONLY sunscreen I use. I discovered it in France six years ago during our honeymoon and have repurchased it more times than I can count. Can’t recommend it enough!
2. Polarized sunglasses are non-negotiable
I brought two pairs of sunglasses when packing for Egypt. One pair of polarizes sunglasses and one pair of regular glasses I picked up during a trip to Portugal. Needless to say, I wore the polarized pair exclusively after realizing the regular pair wouldn’t cut it. The sun is harsh here folks, and your eyes will need solid protection.
What to Pack for Egypt: Here’s the classic pair of polarized sunglasses I’ve owned for 5+ years. They never go out of style!
3. Straw hat (or any hat, really)
As you know, hats are critical when traveling to sunny places. As such, I consider hats an essential item to pack for Egypt! My preferred hats for sunny climates are straw hats, but any light-material hat will do. My husband spent most days in a regular baseball cap.
P.S. I definitely had some hat envy while visiting Egypt, so many cute ones to choose from!
4. Small tote or bag
I opted for a small straw bag when finalizing my Egypt packing list and it worked like a charm. I was able to carry small items like chap-stick, my cellphone and extra sunscreen. My husband donned our beloved sling (which we never leave the house without) for other items like wallets and camera gear.
What to Pack for Egypt: Here’s a dupe of the small straw tote bag I tagged along when packing for Egypt.
5. Undergarments (don’t forget skirt/dress slips)
If you’re wondering how many undergarments to pack for Egypt I suggest keeping it simple. My rule of thumb is to pack one daily pair of underwear + socks for each day of the trip. I visited Egypt for two weeks (14 days) which means I ended up with 14 pairs of underwear and socks and didn’t have to do any laundry during my trip.
Most hotels in Egypt are equipped with pools, so make sure to pack a swimsuit! We spent 90% of the time by the pool, so our swimsuits were probably some of the most worm items on the trip.
What to pack for Egypt: Advice on jewelry
Let’s get real, the only time I’m qualified to discuss jewelry is when being used an example of what not to do. I seldom wear it, but decided to bring some fun earrings along for the ride. I was glad that I kept jewelry to a minimum and couldn’t imagine how much more unwanted attention it would have attracted.
Based on my personal experience, I highly recommend not wearing jewelry or sticking to cheap items. Locals treat foreigners like ATMs (no judgement, based on my firsthand experience) and jewelry will only act like icing on the cake.
What to Pack for Egypt (Post Summary)
In sum, here’s a quick overview of what to pack for Egypt, based on firsthand experience.
- Two maxi dresses
- Two (or three) scarves
- Two long-sleeved shirts
- Three (or four) short-sleeve shirts
- Two pairs of long loose pants (above ankle is fine)
- One (or two) skirts
- One pair of sneakers + sandals
- One jumpsuit
- Bras: one strapless + two regular
- Light cotton jacket
- High quality sunscreen
- Polarized sunglasses are non-negotiable
- Straw hat (or any hat, really)
- Small tote or bag
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