Egypt in the Summer: What to Wear

Whenever I plan a trip, of course I start to think about what sorts of clothes I'll want to pack and wear on my upcoming vacation.  When we booked Egypt, I knew that my outfits would take a little bit of extra consideration.  

I have a post coming up with details of what we did and where we stayed in Egypt, but to put this post in context, you should know that we were in country for ten days and spent some of that time on board a cruise boat on the Nile River.  Most of our meals were at our hotels or on the boat, and we traveled with a tour group who organized all of our transportation.  Because we had everything arranged through our tour company, and because the political situation in Egypt became a little more interesting while we were there, we had a limited amount of time out in the cities on our own.  I still think my outfits would have been alright had we been interacting with more people in public areas, but I can't say for certain, since we didn't get much of that experience. 

Evan and I, rocking the buddy-cop pose, at the Temple of Hatshepsut in Luxor.*
My two biggest concerns when packing for this trip were:

1 - covering up enough to be appropriate for the conservative culture
2 - not roasting alive outside in the dessert in July

In my research, I found that the advice articles and message boards fell into two camps.  Some said "You're a tourist, people won't care what you're wearing.  Pack as if you would for any other trip in the summer. Shorts and sleeveless tops are fine!"  The other group said "You're a tourist, as a guest in another country - respect the culture of the place you are visiting!  Also, wearing sleeveless tops and tight clothes might get you spit at in the streets or your butt pinched." 

So I aimed for somewhere in between those two extremes, and it worked out pretty well for me. Technically speaking, in Egypt, there are no laws outlining what should and should not be worn, as in some other Middle Eastern countries.  But many local women will wear dresses that cover their entire bodies, as well as a head covering while out in public.  Although it is not expected for tourists to follow this dress code, I wanted to do my best to be respectful with my wardrobe.  All of my "main" outfits for each day of sightseeing had my legs completely covered, but for the tops I sometimes left my collarbone and elbows exposed.  I added a tank underneath shirts that dipped a little low in the front, and I kept a scarf with me every day, in case I felt the need to add a bit more coverage.  For meals and lounging about the hotel and cruise boat, it is more lenient, so I went a bit more casual with a sundress, capris, and even some shorts. 

Once I saw dudes in Speedos on our cruise boat, I figured a bathing suit wouldn't be a problem!  I opted for shorts when I wasn't in the water, along with lots and lots of sunscreen!

As for the second worry - honestly, the heat was not that bad!  Certainly warm, but bearable, especially coming from the sticky, 95% humidity in the summers that we are used to in Southern Louisiana.  Picking out clothing with natural fabrics that breath was the real saving grace here, so we made sure to purchase and bring clothes with the high contents of cotton and linen.  The one afternoon where I put on a cover-up top that was 100% polyester was the time that I felt the worst!  And while covering up more when it's hotter seems counter intuitive, keeping the sun off is one of the easiest ways to keep your body cool in that kind of climate. Sure, there was sweat and cold water was always much appreciated, but we were able to stay relatively comfortable - and sunburn free - the entire time.

Since I found it helpful whenever I was saw examples of what ladies were wearing in Egypt when doing my research, I wanted to put my photos out there as well, with some break down of what worked and what I might change.  Let's not just limit ourselves to Egypt, though, these styles would work for any destination where the weather is warm, the culture is conservative, and the sightseeing involves lots of walking!

Airplane Outfits

What I wore on the plane there and back really weren't too different than any other trip - comfy layers and a pair of shoes that are easy to slip on and off.  I just made sure that everything I was wearing for the travel days could be worn again later in the trip.  The MVP item?  That vest!  It was a random purchase at our Target run the night before we left and all those pockets were so convenient when going through airports and while out and about sight seeing.  

Linen Cargo Pants

I bought two pairs of these (a tan and green-gray, by Macy's brand INC) and they worked out perfectly.  Lots of pockets, 100% linen, and very comfortable during the heat and while descending into the Great Pyramid (that's the photo in the middle!).  They looked cute with my vest, a button down shirt, and a cute tunic.

Loose Cotton/Linen Pants

The wider-leg, loose pants were nice and breezy, but given the chance to redo, I would opt for the slimmer cargo-style pants.  These just made me feel a bit sloppy (like in the middle photo), but tucking in the shirt worked better.  The white pair was fine for one of our relaxing days (right, shopping some local-made jewelry on a felucca boat ride), paired with an embroidered top I bought from a shop earlier in the trip.  Not a bad option overall, but I could have gotten away with not taking as many.

Maxi Skirts

I rewore the striped maxi skirt for our last day with a plain white top.  The aforementioned pink polyester cover up was just in case I needed forearms and collarbone covered when we visited the Mosque of Muhammed Ali, which actually wasn't necessary (left).  The center outfit was a bit more fitted than I intended, but I wore it on a day where we just had two quick temple visits and a lot of time on the boat.  The downside of the maxi skirt - no pockets!

Dinner Dress

I brought one nicer dress and a pair of wedges for our dinner cruise on the Nile one of our last nights.  My most unnecessary outfit, for sure, but it did feel nice to dress up a little.  I paired it with a scarf for my arms and a costume-y necklace that I'd bought from a street vendor a few days before. 


I had three scarves and either wore one or kept it in my bag every day (can you tell what's printed on the middle one?).  And on our first day (left) I found the scarves didn't just serve a cosmetic purpose - we got caught in a sandstorm and had to cover our faces just to leave the bus and get inside this site!  The wide-brimmed hats were also essential to protect our faces from the sun.  Mine were both packable, so I was able to roll them up and stuff them in my carry on - my justification for bringing two instead of just sticking to one.  As for footwear: solid, comfortable walking shoes are a must.  I liked that my flats came higher up on the foot, because I didn't have any issues with sand or gravel getting in my shoe.  

Overall, I was happy with how my outfits turned out: I felt comfortable and was able to dress within my personal style while also respecting the norms of the area.  And I didn't find it very difficult to accomplish with pieces I already owned and a few new items I picked up before the trip!  

If you're going to Egypt soon, don't fret too much about dressing inappropriately; just err on the side of being more conservative, wear natural fabrics, and have a few accessories to pull your outfits together.   Oh - and take me with you?  I'm dying to go back!  

*In case you were curious, Evan's outfits didn't have as many restrictions as mine, but he did do some research to purchase some new tactical pants, boots, a hat, and a satchel that would work for the desert.  His whole look was pretty much Indy/safari inspired and it worked well for him!  Those extra pockets in the pants really came in handy for carrying around extra bottles of water. And he looked pretty good too, if I do say so myself!


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  3. Seriously V, I Just love these photos! The trees and snow makes everything look so ethereal. Also, that outfit is killer -- I don't know how you do it, but you make everything look like it was meant for you. I am desperate for that coat now!

  4. Your post helped me a lot. I am going to Egypt and Jordan soon. Got some ideas... I am from Brazil. Thanks! Obrigada!