What to Wear in Egypt – Dress Code guide for tourists

Egypt is no stranger to foreign tourists with more than thirteen million people visiting in 2019. Whilst in popular resorts such as Sharm El Sheikh, you will see people wearing all sorts of skimpy outfits, as Egypt is a Muslim country we would suggest dressing conservatively when outside of your resort hotel to avoid getting unwanted attention and offending local sensibilities.

What to wear in Egypt

It’s also important to dress for the weather and the activities that you will be undertaking whilst on your trip, a glamorous gown might be suitable for a cocktail party on a Nile Cruise, but when visiting Egypt’s many archaeological sites more robust clothing will be needed.

We’ve put together this list of frequently asked questions to guide you in what to, and what not to wear in Egypt. 

You can see our complete guide to planning a family holiday in Egypt here along with our suggested Egypt packing list that you can download

What do people wear in Egypt? 

Whilst ninety per cent of Egypt’s population are Muslim, there are no specific laws on how Egyptian women should dress. Most women do, however, dress modestly and cover their hair with a hijab (headscarf).  

Some women do wear a full length over coat known as an abaya over their regular clothes – whether these are jeans and a blouse, or a more traditional kaftan dress. Even if women choose not to wear an abaya, they still tend to cover as much skin as possible and favour loose fitting clothes that hide their body shape.  

Most men, tend to wear western style clothing, opting for trousers and short sleeved shirts rather than shorts and t-shirts. Some men will, however, wear a traditional djellaba and or kaftan especially on special occasions.

Children can also pick and choose what they wear. In general, they tend to wear western style clothing but may wear traditional clothing at parties, family gatherings and on other special occasions.  

What should women wear when visiting Egypt? 

Egypt is a hot and dusty country. In general, it is a good idea to wear loose fitting clothing made of natural materials like cotton or linen to help keep you cool. You should take care to cover your shoulders and cleavage and avoid having your back exposed. 

Tight-fitting clothes can be as poorly received as bare skin so be careful not to pack anything too skimpy. Long loose blouses or kaftans over Capri pants or linen trousers are an ideal choice as are longer dresses with shorts or leggings underneath. 

Maxi dresses can look very elegant for an evening out but are not very practical at the archaeological sites, which are very dusty and uneven.  

Whilst white clothes do reflect the heat of the sun, they can quickly get dirty and may appear transparent in the bright sunlight revealing your body shape, which is considered immodest. 

Do female visitors need to wear a headscarf in Egypt? 

Female visitors to Egypt do not need to cover their heads unless they are visiting a religious building but having a scarf handy is always a good idea. Scarves can be used to protect your head and face from the sun, or as a wrap if you feel like you’re getting unwanted attention because of your outfit.  

If you do want to visit a religious building you will also need to ensure that you are covered from wrist to ankle in a loose fitting garment like an abaya, a jalabiya or a kaftan as well as wearing a headscarf. 

Can I wear a bikini in Egypt? 

You can wear a bikini at a hotel pool and at beaches in resorts. Once you leave the poolside, it is polite to cover up with a kaftan or wrap and you should avoid walking around in just your bikini anywhere indoors.

It is prudent to avoid bikinis on public beaches outside of popular tourist resorts. Many local women wear a burkini – an all in one swimsuit which covers the head and the body from wrist to ankle. You do not need to wear one but they are available to buy locally if you would feel more comfortable wearing one. 

What should men wear when visiting Egypt?  

In urban areas, especially Cairo, it is preferable for men to wear long trousers and a shirt or T-Shirt.  Social etiquette is a bit more flexible at the beach resorts, although we still would not recommend speedos and vests. 

Walking trousers with detachable legs are particularly useful if you have varied day of sight-seeing and kind sleeved collared shirts are great at protecting you from the sun. Even on cooler days, the sun is still very powerful and you can get easily burnt. 

All visitors to Egypt should avoid T-Shirts, bags and sweaters with political slogans, emblems or potentially offensive language.  

What should children wear when on holiday in Egypt? 

Boys can wear shorts and T-shirts as can very young girls.

Girls under 12 can also wear sundresses but older girls should follow the advice given above for women, or at least wear leggings under any short dresses or skirts.

We recommend packing several wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses as well as UV suits for the beach and pool in order to protect your child’s young skin from the powerful Egyptian sun.  

We have a complete Egypt packing list for families here

Be mindful, Egypt in the middle of winter can be cold! Make sure you are not only packing sun protection but warmer layers if you are visiting over the cooler months – we have a complete guide to Egypt’s seasons and what to expect here.

What sort of bag should I carry in Egypt?  

Petty theft can occur in Egypt and we suggest keeping your valuables in the hotel safe. Only carry as much cash as you think you will need and keep it, along with any ID in a bum bag (fanny pack) or another close-fitting bag or pouch.

If you need to carry a larger bag for maps/nappies/snacks etc, a rucksack is recommended, although you may be asked to leave these at reception desks/lockers in museums.  

What sort of footwear should I wear in Egypt?  

Flip-flops are useful at the beach and by the poolside but shouldn’t been worn in urban areas. Pavements are uneven and sometimes non-existent. For this reason, we’d also warn against heels when out and about. 

The whole family should wear sturdy, breathable footwear when visiting archaeological sites. Cotton socks help to keep your feet feeling fresh and protect them from the dust and insect bites.  

Top Tip! Whilst it might not be a fashionable combination, we really do recommend cotton socks with walking sandals!  

Will I need an umbrella in Egypt?  

Whilst rainfall from April to October is low, there is always the chance of an unseasonal downpour. Having a small, microscopic umbrella with you ensures that a sudden shower won’t spoil your trip. An umbrella can also be used as a parasol to provide shade from the hot sun.

Do I need to take a jacket to Egypt?  

Whilst Summer temperatures can reach as high as 50 degrees, night-time can be chilly and carrying a lightweight jacket or fleece is highly recommended. 

On the coldest nights of winter, the temperature can drop to freezing so if you’re traveling between October and April, it’s a good idea to have some warmer clothing with you. 

A cardigan is also useful when visiting shopping centres and hotels with vicious AC throughout the year. 

Further information for planning a family trip to Egypt

Now we have your packing sorted, here’s some more planning resources for your trip to Egypt:

Travelling further around the Middle East

You may also like to see how dress code guidance changes as you travel across the Middle East, there are small and subtle differences you will want to observe, particulalry as you head to the Gulf countries.

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Family Travel Middle East
Family Travel Middle East

The Family Travel in the Middle East team of travel writers are all parents based in the Middle East, sharing first hand experiences and reviews from across the region to help you plan your next family adventure.

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