We Four in Egypt

Now back in the US!

Your questions about my clothes

Lenore (whose question got stuck in my spam filter–sorry, Lenore!) asked

Are you able to dress normally when traveling through the city or do you have to wear a scarf or other head covering? If you don’t, are there places where it is necessary? What about long sleeves?

Egypt is pretty liberal for the Middle East. I dress, mostly, like I did in the US, with a few exceptions. My skirts are longer, at least mid-calf. My sleeves are a bit longer; I wear short-sleeved blouses but never sleeveless. I do make sure to wear a tank top underneath any blouses that are even a tiny bit sheer. Capris are fine. Pants are fine.

The unofficial rules seem to differ in different parts of Cairo. My area of town is full of expats and here men (including Mr. Four) and women wear shorts. Women wear knee-length skirts and sleeveless tops.

And some parts of town are more conservative, like downtown and the part of town called Islamic Cairo. If I were to go there, I’d wear long sleeves and long pants or a long skirt.

Most Cairene women wear headscarves (covering their hair and neck but not their face), long sleeves, and long pants or skirts. However, there are many women, Christian of course but also Muslim, who don’t wear headscarves and who do dress in more western styles, with short sleeves, for example. The phenomenon of covering one’s hair is relatively new in Egypt. And many Egyptian women cover their hair and skin but otherwise wear very western fashions, including low rise jeans and snug, fitted tops. So the paradox is that while they seem conservative because of their headscarves, their clothing is not.

The only time I would cover my hair would be if I were to visit a mosque. Otherwise, there is no expectation that a woman would wear a headscarf for anything other than religious reasons. And many practicing Muslim women don’t either.

And this weekend, at the resort at the Sinai, we’ll dress like we would at any beach, in shorts and swimsuits. At resorts that cater to westerners, western styles rule.

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8 October 2007 - Posted by | expat scene, our life in egypt

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