A main tenant of traveling is being respectful to the country and its citizens when you are visiting. As a visitor in someone else’s home and country, tourists need to show respect.
This is even more important in Muslim countries where what women traditionally wear can differ significantly from other countries. Packing for a vacation is never an easy feat, but packing for Muslim countries can be even more challenging and can vary based on what country you are visiting.
Being aware and considerate will go far to ensure you and your hosts are comfortable. Here are some tips to help guide women’s packing lists for the best experience possible in Muslim countries.
- Always opt to cover up.
- Wear loose clothing that covers your arms and legs when in public. Loose clothing is modest and can be more comfortable in the heat.
- Knees should be covered at all times.
- Pack large square scarves for extra coverage and to, when appropriate, cover your hair, which can help deter unwanted male attention.
- Covering your hair is a must in mosques for women locals and travelers.
- Wearing traditional dress, such as a burka or hijab, is not required. But female travelers need to learn more about typical Muslim clothing and may dress accordingly.
- Pack sandals or slip-on shoes if you’re visiting a country where it is custom to remove your shoes when entering a home.
Observing local customs and traditions when visiting Muslim countries can help tourists feel more comfortable, physically and socially.
For those traveling to Iran, consult the dress code information from the Iranian Visa website as the Islamic dress code for women goes into effect when your airplane enters Iranian airspace. Capital city to note: Tehran
In UAE/Dubai, westerners can dress as they wish at resorts, but must wear modest clothing in public.
If you are planning a beach day in Dubai, plan accordingly depending if you are visiting a public or private beach. Most private beaches in Dubai are owned by hotels and apartment buildings, and visitors can pay a daily fee or buy a membership to use the beach. It is appropriate to wear whatever you want on private beaches. For public beaches, shorts and t-shirts are appropriate. Dress modestly, even when swimming. Cities to note: Abu Dhabi and Dubai
For your time in Saudi Arabia, be mindful of the country’s religious tradition. Even though the country’s laws have started to relax, women cannot dress in western-style clothing that exposes skin, including shorter skirts, dresses and loose tops. Women are required to wear an abaya, a long black cloak that covers clothes, at religious sites. Wearing an abaya is not required when visiting sites with no religious significance.
Wearing head scarfs is optional, but is commonly worn and recommended to wear when in public. Women can wear makeup, but it should be modest, simple and not include bright colors. Women can also wear jewelry if it is tucked away and has no symbols from other religions. Saudi Arabia’s Visa website has more information about dress code. Capital city to note: Riyadh
For female tourists traveling to Turkey, the rules are more relaxed. “Smart casual” clothing in cities, and summer dress is nearly universal, but not in mosques. In mosques, clean, modest clothing and headscarves are often required. Do not show thighs, shoulders or upper arms.
Women and men should not wear shorts, sleeveless tops or revealing clothing. Find out more. Cities to note: Ankara and Istanbul
In Egypt, wearing clothing that covers your arms, stomach and shoulders is recommended. Depending on location, some people might feel more comfortable covering their hair. Capital city to note: Cairo and Luxor
For female tourists traveling to Israel, casual clothing such as jeans, t-shirts and shorts are suitable for most settings. When visiting religious sites, avoid wearing short skirts, short shorts and sleeveless shirts. Women cover their shoulders, knees and chest when visiting religious sites.
In Morocco, dress modestly in clothing and accessories that do not reveal the body or draw excessive attention. Recommended clothing includes long skirts, dresses, jeans or pants that cover the knees. Draping tunics and camisoles that can be worn under sweaters and cardigans are also suggested for women. Men should wear long pants with collared shirts. Cities to note: Casablanca, Fez and Rabat
Always ask permission before taking someone’s photos. Some conservative parts of Islam think a women should not show her face to a man (or one other than her husband.)
Remember you are a guest. Through observing, you will not only understand how to behave by watching others, but you will also learn a lot about beautiful cultures.
Need more guidance? Check out recommended dress for every country at Journeywoman,
Do you have questions or need help planning a trip to these exotic destinations? Email Kathy at firstname.lastname@example.org.