Dress Codes for Women, Cairo
I noticed that all the ladies in Egypt dress different, you see some girls who dress casually with normal clothes & show off there arms, then you see girls who wear a head scarf that still shows off there faces, then there is a gown you see some ladies wear which totally covers there face & body.
I wanted to see what it was like to wear these so i went to a shop & purchased one of each & spent a couple of hours wearing it, the Egyptians loved to see me joining in & trying it out & the girls in the shop showed me how it was worn. I enjoyed trying this & seeing what the different cultures were like. I asked people if it was ok to do this as i didnt want to offend any of the Egyptians but everyone was fine with it.
Having lived in Cairo for several months I would advise visitors to wear loose clothing which covers their legs and arms completely when walking around downtown. If you're blonde like me then you will get a lot of unwanted attention - be careful of teenage boys and crowded streets in terms of unwanted hands!
The minimum clothing to wear should cover your shoulders so if you can't bear full sleeves wear a short sleeved tshirt or shirt (not sleeveless) and as someone else said avoid deep v necks and tight figure hugging outfits.
In the The Red Sea resorts you can pretty much wear what you like but remember to cover up if going into town / local areas.
Egypt is supposed to be one of the most modern country in entire Middle East & Africa.Contrary to the belief the all women here use veil( Hizab), I found almost every where married and un married work freely with or without the usual head scarf, speak English, mix freely and speak very politely. Most of the Egyptian women are very beautiful, smart, and can easily be compared with women of any other part of the world.
See the picture of Rania, our Cairo city guide, who speaks very good English, just like the Europeans, married to a senior govt.servant, smokes frequently, wears European clothes, very friendly, people just love her as guide. She has very vast knowledge on Egyptian Civilisation. Read about her more.
As I mentioned above, I had been warned about wandering in the city by myself in Cairo. I didn't ignore it though. I'm always be careful everywhere I travel. But I didn't find Cairo any uncomfortable or anything. Everytime there I felt very safe. I dressed normal with long sleeves shirt, blue jeans, no problem, no hassels, nobody cares.
I saw many tourists in sleeveless tops, shorts though. I understand that it is hot in such area on earth but dressing up yourself like that you can't blame the people those they stare at you anyway. It's showing no respect and "Dont know Dont care" attitude.
Get yourself a light cotton long sleeve shirts, light cotton pants is good idea. I couldn't believe my eyes seeing 2 chicks in almost-a-bikini in the Mosque area. Or cover your hair with scarf is always OK but you don't really need to do it though. Only if you want to and if you feel comfortable doing so.
Respect the others and their customs so you will be respected aswell. Same as tourists I see in our Grand Palace here, How many guidebooks they have read but they still dressed up as if they're on the beach?
well, I hope you see what I mean
For those who already dressed like that and still getting too much unwanted attention. Don't think you can do much with it anyway. Same in Thailand, we love looking at foreigners, just like that. No reasons :-)
Don’t forget that appropriate dress covering the body including shoulders and legs is required for entering both Coptic Orthodox and Islamic churches.
I’m always surprised when I see women without scarves dressed in trousers or jeans while visiting Orthodox churches. Thank men who take their hats off when enter the church. I advise to think over in what you are dressed when intend to go into the churches.
95% of Egyptian women wear the hijab (hair and shoulder covered) or burka (full body covered except the eyes... some have the eyes covered as well). Some of the younger women wear tight jeans and tops with color-coordinating hijabs, which actually looks pretty darn fashionable. But don't be fooled - Egypt is a strongly conversative Islamic country.
My guidebook said that, in Egypt, western women are basically viewed as being on the same level as prostitutes. And sure enough, at the tourist sites throughout Egypt there are women wearing revealing clothing, showing their legs and cleavage. While this is the sexy standard in the western world, it gives us a bad name in the Arabic countries.
Your best bet is to wear any sort of clothing that covers your arms, legs, shoulders and cleavage area. I heard advice not to wear tight clothing, but I could have definitely gotten away with tighter jeans.
Your hair is fine however you want to wear it. However, I tied mine in a bun and wore a scarf over it, knotted at the back. There are plenty of vendors selling beautiful scarves in Cairo and Luxor - don't pay anything over 20LE for one.
It is definitely possible to be stylish but still modest in Egypt. Do us westerners proud.
As a blonde I did get my fair share of attention but it was only staring and smiling (nothing that was offensive) although even when travelling around in the car other vehicles would choose to follow and many car horns! I felt extremely safe for the entire time I was in Egypt and was treated fantastically (extremely warm and genuine friendliness by all.) I bought some truly beautiful scarves there, thinking it would be necessary to wear one at the Mosques but I found that it was not expected. Remember though that you are expected to remove your shoes before entering.
I only learnt a few phrases of Arabic before travelling but really did not feel I needed to speak the language to get by. Most people speak English very well or at least understand it when spoken. Dont forget to say Shukran as often as you can. Not only is it good manners to thank people for helping or for service but they seem to really love the fact that you are appreciating their assistance in their own mother tongue. I was not harassed by anyone anywhere and only treated with the greatest of respect. I cant wait to go back!
The saying is 'when in Rome, do as the Romans do' and it applies to everywhere we travel. This is particularly applicable to Egypt. Women will be treated as 'Queens of the Nile' if they dress suitably.
i.e. no strappy tight fitting or low neck tops. no short shorts. Please be respectful of their customs and enjoy the benefits of the additional respect. Lastly you are likely to get extremely sun burnt anyway and gone are the days of exposing our skin to the elements anyway. Coming from Australia I am keenly aware of the devastation of skin cancer. It seems to me that they are most sensible in covering up from the sun and maybe its for more reasons than just modesty.
How would you feel if somebody come to your country and do not respect it? I think that's the proper way to think while getting dressed in Egypt.
Even though Egyptians sometimes do not wear their traditional dress, they do dress moderate. You can travel with:
*3/4 sleeve shirts, or regular shirts (no sleeveless).
* Capri pants
* Long skirts or at least covering your knees.
* tennis shoes, flipflops, sandals. All your shoe wearing is ok.
* Take a light scarf with you to protect from the sun, or entering religious sites if required.
Cotton made shirts are great for the Egyptian heat. The sun is really strong.
You dont have to cover your hair to walk around in Egypt.
But why wear mini skirts, or hot pants? Tank tops showing exactly how your boobs are? Do you really need every man staring at you? We already know that you are a sexy lady, but you dont need to show that much skin in an Islamic country. As I said before, respect is the key. Egyptians like their tourist to come along, but why show off so much skin where it can be noticed as uncomfortable. If you are in a resort, then the story is different.
As a western woman, I respected my dressing when I went there. I was all ok!
Most of the foreigners get completely confused about the different ways Egyptians dress, Especially females in Cairo.
There are 4 Cases:
Case 1: Long dress in popular areas.
-In the streets of popular areas and some touristic areas, most of the women are either veiled or wearing long clothes even in summer.
Well simple wear long clothes.
Case 2: Long dress in modern areas.
-In the streets of some other areas you will find women wearing either trousers or long dresses.
Wear the same, as long as it is light dress during summer because it is hot.
Case 3: Whatever you want in the evening.
-In some other areas, and the hang outs in the evening, you will find many sleeveless and "soiree" dresses.
Well simple as well, you can wear whatever you want in these places.
Case 4: Whatever you want in the morning.
-In the hotels, day use places, you normally find people wearing shorts, light T-shirts and so on. Also in many areas where many foreigners and modern class Egyptians are living.
By the way outside Cairo in the Meditteranean sea and red sea, the dress code is very natural and no need to worry much about it... Come on it is sun, sand and sea, No compromise on that;)
Which areas in Cairo That are compatible to each of the four previaopusly mentioned cases:
-Case 1: Long dress in popular and touristic areas.
Areas of: Old Islamic Cairo, Old Coptic Cairo, The Pyramids, Shoubra, Downtown (Tahrir Square), Attaba, Ramsis, Fagala, Azhar, Sayeda Zeinab, Dead city , Imbaba+ Any other area you did not hear about (Just in case, in order to respect local sensitivities)
-Case 2: Long dress in modern areas.
Areas of: Mohandeseen, Agouza, Giza, Dokki, Nasr City, around the trade center of Cairo.
-Case 3: Whatever you want in the evening.
Areas: All evening spots (Pubns, Bars, Discos and some hang out cafes)
Case 4: Whatever you want in the morning.
Areas: Zamalek, Maadi, Heliopolis, Garden city, Setta October and some parts of Mohandeseen and Dokki.
I was a single woman traveler when I went to Cairo in 2005. I'm happy to say that I didn't experience any problems during the week I was there.
When asked what to wear in Cairo, I always suggest that women dress conservatively. You don't need to completely cover up but capri pants and short sleeve-shirts are highly recommended. I wandered around in capris, tunic shirts, and sandals for most of my trip. I noticed that most of the other women also wore similar clothing.
It is not necessary to cover your head. Sometimes as a sign of respect, you may wish to wear a scarf when you go into a mosque but it is not required. However, if you plan on going into a mosque, it's advised that you wear light but long-sleeved shirts and at least capri-length pants. In some mosques, anyone not meeting these requirements will be refused admittance or be asked to wear a big funny-looking robe/sheet thing in a bright blue color (you'll easily be picked out as the person who didn't dress properly!)
Wearing sleeveless shirts or tight clothing can draw unwanted attention and sometimes the wearer will be groped/pinched if in close proximity to local men. It was during one of my friend's trips that a woman chose to wear skin-tight lycra pants and a tank-top when going to the museum and they said that in the block walk from the bus to the entrance she basically got pinched black and blue by the local men.
either way you will get stared at. you are foreign. we found it to be a lot worse in cairo than anywhere else. especially at the pyramids and spinx - that was becasue there were a lot of egyptian women and locals. we were dressed really sensibly - long trousers, jumpers and caps! but we still got a lot of hassle and a lot of frankly scary men following us.
dress conservatively and they will respect you a little better, but to be honest we were treated pretty much the same in sharm in our shorts and teeshirts as we were in cairo.
just remember you are in a different country that looks at women in a very different way. having said that, i did find cairo city to be more liberal and lots of local women were walking around in western dress without veils. country people will always have different values, as in any country.
This might be inappropriate to publish, but I thought that many tourists have no respect for the local culture and religion.
I saw a young girl with very little clothing, an Egyptian man made a comment as they passed one another. She confronted him, and shouted at him in English. I wonder if she knows anything about the country she's visiting?
My tour guide said that they do tollerate these tourists, as tourism is important, but it is not acceptable in their culture.
Dress code for women' travellers is not really strict. A pair of slacks and short sleeve t-shirt is fine while travelling in the city. However, if you're walking along the alleys or unknown areas, do dress modestly as you'll likely to get stares from the locals.
Have in mind that you have come to an islamic country where women are mostly covered. Cairo is a conservative enviroment and you have to respect this! Short skirts, deep "V" on your blouse will be unapropriate in this city. You might come to being misstreated, and Cairo could become a nightmare for you instead of wonderful experience. You don't have to cover your head or anything like it, just try not to look "too European", if you know what I mean (or too Western, for that matter)
It is important to understand that regardless of how you are dressed you can still get harassed, this goes for any country whether it be the UK, America or Spain..
A 2008 survey by the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights found that 83% of Egyptian women and 98% of foreign women had experienced harassment... so as a foreign women travelling in Egypt and especially if you're travelling alone it does unfortunately mean that you have a high chance of harassment.
Baher Ibrahim, Guardian 5/9/2012 wrote ..
"Many of the women harassed were fully dressed in hijabs and full lengths abayas, rendering the "women are to blame" excuse redundant for anyone who cares to think"
I feel that harassment has a certain element of opportunism to it..firstly men do it because they can (they feel they can anyway..) and secondly they are more likely to do it again if they aren't told to back off.
If you don't feel comfortable it is important to shout (loudly) as this will embarrass the person, I admit that telling a person to stop or go away if spoken won't work as they only keep harassing you...this isn't the time to be polite!
Shout loudly - Laa (for no) and Kef (stop)
Keep Safe and have a wonderful time in Egypt