How to Adjust Your Wardrobe for a Trip to the Middle East/North Africa

In case my readers haven’t been able to decipher from my posts, or tweets, I’m a feminist. I do not believe that anyone has the right to tell women what to wear, no matter the circumstances. I do not believe middle schools should be sexualizing teenage girls and outlawing leggings in school. I do not believe “Christian” fathers should be kicking a teenage girl out of prom because they cannot control their thoughts. I believe that France is Islamophobic and does not have the right to ban headscarves or burqas in school or in public. Perhaps most importantly, I do not believe that women are responsible for men’s lust and actions; I see men as people, not walking penises. I do not believe that men are animals who can’t “help themselves” but to cat call, assault, or rape women based on how they’re dressed or how they’re acting. I believe that women can wear as much or as little clothing as they want at any given time and still must be treated with the same amount of respect given to any man. I believe that the idea of “modest dress” doesn’t exist because it is impossible to dictate what is or is not “modest.” What is appropriate for one person could be seen as very immodest for another.

I am an advocate for solo female travel. I believe that women can travel anywhere and at anytime alone. However, I am not naive in the fact that solo travel is vastly different for men and women. For example, women have to think about their monthly cycles every month, and sometimes have to plan travel stints or events around them. Women are the oppressed majority in every country, religion, and culture. We are often treated unfairly and unequally all over the world. Unfortunately, this also comes into effect when women are planning their travels in certain countries or parts of the world.

When I traveled to Istanbul and Morocco, I definitely thought a little bit harder about my wardrobe. I, like all women, have the right to wear whatever I want, whenever I want, but I made the personal choice to pack and wear a “less revealing” wardrobe in Morocco and Turkey. (For me, that interpretation meant covering my shoulders, cleavage, and knees.) I wanted to be respectful of the Islamic cultures where I was visiting and also feel comfortable while exploring a culture so different from my own. As a side-note, despite my “modest” clothing, it did NOT stop the catcalls or street harassment from men (even when I wore a headscarf.) This again proves my point that “modesty” is a spectrum and something that doesn’t exist, and that “dressing modestly” will not necessarily stop you from getting harassed (again, because women’s clothing has NOTHING to do with the actions of men. Cat calling and harassing are a part of rape culture, and is something that men do to feel powerful and “put women in their place.”) However, despite the catcalls, dressing the way I did made me feel more comfortable during my trip. If you as a woman decide to make a similar choice in regards to altering your wardrobe when traveling to more conservative parts of the world, then my examples could be a great start for you!

The weather in Morocco was extremely hot, with humid temperatures in the lower 90’s. These totally stylish pants were a lifesaver! They covered my legs but were still breathable, unlike jeans! (In Turkey it was a bit cooler and perfectly acceptable to wear jeans.

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My long-pants romper was a great way for me to cover my knees and torso. Paired with this white cardigan, which was buttoned at the top, my shoulders were also covered and I was good to go while still being quite comfortable!

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I loved my long, green dress that I bought in Turkey. Paired with this green cardigan, it was the perfect combination between modest and chic!

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Because I have large breasts, many of my shirts show cleavage. So, pairing many outfits with light scarves was a great option! Additionally, in Turkey it is required for women to cover their heads when entering mosques. So, my scarves were very functional!

I also wore big, dark sunglasses mostly for my own safety. In many cultures even looking at a man can be taken the wrong way. Sometimes avoiding gaze also avoided catcalls and comments.

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I always wore close-toed shoes mostly because of how filthy the streets are. Something to keep in mind while traveling in Morocco!

Since I traveled directly to Rome from Marrakech, my cardigans and longer skirts were a lifesaver in churches, where you are required to also cover your knees and shoulders.

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Overall I had a very functional wardrobe while in a vast mixture of climates (Paris, Normandy, Marrakech, the Sahara, and Italy.) Do you have anything else to add in regards to wardrobe tips? Have you traveled to these parts of the world and have chosen to dress differently (or not differently at all?) I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Bisous,

Dana

6 thoughts on “How to Adjust Your Wardrobe for a Trip to the Middle East/North Africa

  1. Honestly, I don’t know which one is worse between Turkey and Morocco for cat calls and harassment. I went to Turkey with my ex-boyfriend, but was unmarried so I still had problems there. In Morocco I was with a girlfriend and had a headscarf on and still had a man touch my breasts. I would love to think that women everywhere can wear whatever they want, but realistically this is not possible. I had a long skirt and the headscarf in Morocco and maybe it did save me from some harassment, but they knew I was a foreigner anyway so I don’t know if “it worked”.

    I wish I could visit these countries more often, but it too much of a hassle and not relaxing at all. I love the food there, though, and there is so much beauty. Maybe if I go back now that I am married things will be different.

    1. I had a harder time in turkey so I think it prepared me well for the shock and expectations of morocco.

      As I state in my blog, clothes and “modesty” have nothing to do with the actions of men. If they’re gonna cat call they’re gonna cat whether you’re wearing a mini skirt or an burqa. I simply chose to modify my wardrobe because it made me more comfortable- and in respect to Islamic cultures.

      It’s too bad that women have to pretend to be married in order to be “respected.” We are seen as the property of another man, not as people, which is why they *sometimes* lay off.

  2. While my European travels didn’t require flexibility of wardrobe for cultural standards, it did for the weather. When I finished teaching, I traveled for three weeks. I went to Oslo and Bergen in Norway, London, Paris, and Nice. I only had a regular backpack, not even a special traveler’s one. Leggings, leg warmers, colorful tank tops, one gray long-sleeved shirt, and a medium-weight rain jacket got me through the trip. I wore my leggings/leg warmers with my shorts in Norway, and I layered the gray shirt over a different tank top to create slightly different looks.

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