If you're going through your closet in preparation for your big Egypt adventure and wondering what you can pack and what you can leave at home, keep the two Cs in mind – cool and conservative.
Summer temperatures in southern cities like Aswan can reach heights of 50°C (122°F) and don’t always drop at night. Light fabrics like linen, cotton and athletic gear made to take the heat are best. Just remember to cover up from your shoulders to below the knee. While women are expected to dress more conservatively than men, even the fellas should leave the short shorts and tight singlets at home.
Also, avoid packing anything in white. While standing in front of the pyramids in an all-white linen suit makes for a great photo, the desert dust will quickly turn those light-coloured clothes a not-so-delightful shade of brown.
If you’re travelling outside of winter, don’t underestimate the cool change that can come in the evenings, especially if you spend the night in the desert or on a Nile cruise. A light fleece or jacket should be sufficient to keep you warm on Egypt’s chillier nights.
In terms of footwear, sneakers and/or sandals made for walking are essential. Pathways on historical sites are often rocky and uneven, and the footpaths in the main cities aren’t much better.
Women are held to a more conservative dress standard than men in Egypt. While the expectations for travellers are less strict than for local women, you will draw less attention (and have a more immersive journey) if you pack clothes that cover from at least shoulder to below the knee.
The looser your clothes are, the better. Form-fitting clothing can be just as poorly received as exposed skin. Packing a couple of tunics and long-sleeved shirts that you can slip over the top of your outfits is also a good idea for easy layering in more conservative areas.
For mosque visits, female travellers should wear clothing that covers from ankle to elbow as well as decolletage and hair. Don’t worry if you have a few stray strands hanging out beneath the head scarf, it’s more about being seen to make the effort. Aside from mosque visits, female travellers are not expected to wear a headscarf.
So, what if you want to swim? The good news is you can pack your regular swimsuit when travelling to Egypt. Hotels with pools that cater to foreigners do not have dress codes.
Must-pack items for Egypt
Long, baggy skirts and/or pants
Comfortable walking shoes
A scarf or shawl for women to cover their hair when visiting mosques
A light fleece or jacket if travelling outside of summer