What to Wear in The Middle East

Last updated on November 17th, 2021

Go to the open market and buy an Abaya (a full length cloak that covers from neck to ankle) and wear it over your own clothes. You will have far less problems with men. It does not mean that you are Muslim — only respectful of covering up due to their religious beliefs. An abaya is cool and lightweight to wear. Each country has their own style and colour according to region.

Katherine, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emeritus

Travelling to the Middle East? If you want a lot less hassle, wear long sleeved tops and long skirts/trousers. When you think that the local women wear trousers and a dress and a bhurka/jashmak – the men fall over themselves when they see someone prancing around in a bikini. Save yourself potential trouble — being a foreigner you’ll get hassle anyway whatever you wear but not as much as when you’re covered. You’ll feel a lot less exposed and people will stare less.

Sam, Southend, USA

I packed loose, long skirts and conservative tops. Jeans and pants were OK for horseback riding and hiking around and shopping. I saw some Europeans in shorts and scant tops…bad taste for sure. Locals wear black till summer even though it is very hot before then.

Susan, Florida, USA

Take a sarong – it can double as a towel and when its really hot (I was there in midsummer) you can just wrap it around as a skirt and avoid offending the locals. They are also thin enough to dry overnight saving you from packing several different skirts (I hate carrying too much weight when carrying my own luggage)

Andrea, Wellington, New Zealand

Make sure your male partner knows about the boy’s dress code. Cover up his legs with full length trousers – Arabic men never wear shorts. Long sleeves are probably a better bet too. Ties are usually not necessary and sandals are fine. Men’s clothes are cheap, especially cotton in Egypt and Turkey. But beware, if he’s larger sized — there’s not a lot available.

Ailsa, Adelaide, Australia

Always, always cover your arms and legs. Let your t-shirt hang loosely around your breasts. Wear pants that don’t hug your bottom. Tie your blonde hair back so it doesn’t shine in the sun. Dress this way and the local women will be much more comfortable with you– just what you need when you’re in trouble. You’ll get better bargains in the bazaars, and a safer room in the hotel. And finally it keeps the sun off, even if you seem to be boiling with heat at the time.

Ailsa, Adelaide, Australia

When traveling on a long car trip alone or with a female friend, or with my small children, I always wear a baseball cap on my head, so that anybody passing might think that a man is driving. I have short hair so that’s easy for me, but if your hair is long just tuck it up in the cap. I have never been bothered and of course the car doors are always locked.

Ann-Marie , Boca Raton, USA

In some places in the Middle East it’s best to cover your hair – but it’s not necessary all the time. I carry several favorite scarves, with one around my neck when I’m out. That way, I can slip it up over my hair if the situation requires (or someone looks disapproving). Dressing this way means I’m always ready for interesting visits to religious sites!

Joanne, Nicosia, Cyprus

As a woman who used to be married to an Arab Muslim man, I have a few tips for women traveling to the Middle East or Northern Africa. Dress modestly! Do not wear shorts, tight pants or short, tight skirts, or anything sleeveless. It isn’t always necessary to cover your hair, unless you are traveling to a small village or the country-then I would suggest at least wearing a loosely draped scarf.

Brenda, Seattle, USA

My advice to single women travelling in the Middle East is: Dress conservatively and pretend that you are married (because respectable single women in this part of the world do not travel on their own). Wear long sleeves, full length skirt, nothing tight or sexy, light scarf head cover. This attire makes one seem a “foreign muslim” woman. A fake wedding ring and photos of your (imaginary) ‘children’ complete the outfit (and an imaginery ‘husband’ somewhere in the Middle East helps too)

Karen, Sydney, Australia

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1 Comment

  1. Kathy Ozery

    Israel is a modern country with a Jewish majority and a Muslim minority. Everything is allowed, but immodest clothing is inappropriate in religious sites and neighborhoods, primarily low cut and sleeveless tops, shorts, and uncovered hair. It is good to carry your own coverup, such as a scarf and/or sarong for those occasions, because otherwise you may need to wear a cover up from a basket of well-worn cover ups.

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