Egypt’s climate in the summer is pretty much going to be hot! If you’ve been considering a trip, you’ve undoubtedly had questions on what to wear to stay cool while keeping modest. Below you’ll find our packing list for eight days spent in Cairo and on a Nile River Cruise during August/September. Iylana’s list for the ladies is first, followed by a few notes from Shane on a good men’s wardrobe, and lastly the gear and other items we share. Remember, virtually any place you stay will be able to provide laundry services for you, so you can keep from overpacking by planning to recycle your outfits a few times.
HERSEgypt is a Muslim country, but women are not required by law to follow a dress code. As a tourist, you can wear whatever you want, but you will be more comfortable if you dress on the modest side. Think maxi dresses, tunics, and wide-leg linen pants. But also don’t be afraid to wear shorts. I certainly did, because it was summer and miserably hot, and I never experienced any kind of street harassment that many tourists complain of (although Shane was offered a thousand camels for me). If you’re visiting mosques, carry a pashmina scarf so you can cover your head. And don’t be surprised if what you thought was a modest outfit isn’t enough—at Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo, I was outfitted in a full body covering.
1) Pants x 3 Skip the skinny jeans—wide-leg linen pants and some cotton elastic waist pants will be much cooler in the heat of the Egyptian desert! Plus they roll up tiny and barely take up any space in your bag so you won’t feel like you’re overpacking.
3) Basic Tee x 3 Simple solid or striped tees will go a long way in creating multiple outfits.
6) Dresses x 3 For dinners on the ship, you don’t need to worry so much about modesty. I rotated a few simple dresses. I saw many ladies wearing maxi dresses out during the day for sightseeing, which is the best way to be modest and stay cool at the same time. Just none of those thigh high slits! You may also want to purchase a galibaya as a souvenir. Our ship even had a “Galibaya Party” night!
8) Leggings and a tunic On travel days, I like to be very comfortable with a piko tunic over leggings.
9) Purse I hate wearing backpacks, so I usually take a small purse to carry my cash, phone and room key.
10) Comfortable Walking Shoes Sanuks are my go-to sandal for everyday vacation wear. I have worn them on three trips now and am very happy with how well they have held up and how comfortable they are for all day walking!
11) Wedges can be heavy, so I wouldn’t have normally taken these if we were hauling our bags around from location to location. But since this was a very nice ship with fancy dinners, and since our luggage was staying put in our cabin for the most part, I decided to bring them. And I was glad I did!
12) Swimsuit If your cruise ship has a pool, or if you’re visiting Sharm el Sheikh.
13) The Essentials ExOfficio underwear, bras, a couple pair of socks… you know what you need. Also don’t forget sleepwear! I like to take something that can be worn as an outfit if needed, like an extra simple tee and running shorts that I could wear on a travel day.
Expect sweltering hot weather in Egypt and pack cool, lightweight clothes. Men in Egypt don’t really wear shorts, but you’re okay to wear them as a tourist. You’ll definitely need pants for dinners on the cruise ship and for visiting mosques.
Shirts x 4: These roll-sleeve shirts from Toad & Co are a lightweight cotton, giving you a dressier option for cruise dinners, while also being comfortable enough to wear during the day with the sleeves rolled up. I also really love this Toad & Co short sleeve shirt; extremely light and breezy with nice pocket organization.
Tees x 4: Take some cotton or active tees that are simple and versatile. Along with collared shirts, don’t worry about taking too many. Laundry services are affordable and readily available.
Shorts x 2: Ditch baggy cargo shorts for these Marmot shorts that feature plenty of pocket space without being excessively bulky.
Swimsuit: You’ll want to cool off in the pool on the top deck of your Nile cruise ship. Make your swim trunks pull double duty by taking a hybrid short that also works as a hiking/travel short.
Pants x 3: Pants are essential for dinners aboard the cruise ship. prAna makes a lightweight hemp-blend pant that is a great choice to stay cool in the sweltering heat. Toad & Co Boarding Pass pare also great for travel days with their hidden organization.
Underwear x 7: The moisture wicking properties of ExOfficio Give N Go boxer briefs is essential in the Egyptian heat. Their quick drying ability makes it easy to wash them in your cabin.
Socks x 8: Go for lightweight walking socks that’ll provide cushion without trapping too much heat. Smartwool makes the best when it comes to performance and comfort.
Luggage We love our Osprey Sojourn Convertible Wheeled Backpacks because we can wheel through airports and then convert to backpacks on the cobblestone streets. The 60 liter capacity was more than enough to pack everything we took with enough extra space for the stuff we picked up along the way so that we only had to maneuver one bag each on travel days.
Packable Duffel These are a great solution to bring souvenirs home if you think you may run out of space.
Packing Cubes These allow you to roll your clothes and save tons of space.
Cameras I use my iPhone for photos when traveling, and Shane uses a Sony A7s. Remember to pack your camera battery, charger, and memory card. Shane carries a 256GB memory card and that’s usually more than enough for a two week trip.
Universal Power Adaptor This is the one we use because it has usb ports.
Flat Iron If you’re going to take one, just be sure you have the right voltage. This is the one I took.
Headphones Shane always carries these noise-canceling headphones for plane rides.
Passport and Travel Documents I print out receipts of everything we booked in advance—airline tickets, hotels, airport transfers, tours, everything. US citizens will need a tourist visa, which you can get at the airport when you arrive. And if you need something to hold your passport and documents together, get one of these travel wallets that have RFID blocking.
Debit Card ATMs were easy to find to get cash. You may want to check with your bank before you leave to make sure they don’t charge international ATM fees. You’ll also want to inform them of your travel plans so they don’t block access to your account.
Bug Repellent Bracelets Since we were on the river, we wore these mosquito repelling bracelets and never had a problem with bugs!
Thieves Oil Call me crazy but I like to think I am helping myself not get sick by wearing some thieves oil on my neck when I’m traveling. Plus, it helps you smell nicer since you’ll be outside sweating all day!
Shower Bag Pictured is my favorite shower bag by REI, but you can find a similar version here.
Essentials Chapstick, toothbrush, deodorant… you know what you need. All of the hotels we stayed at provided shampoo, conditioner and soap, so you can save some room by not packing those. I always carry ibuprofen, but you won’t have any trouble finding pharmacies if you need to pick up anything on the way.