Saturday, August 2nd, 2014

What Should Women Wear in Jordan?

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What should a woman wear when visiting Jordan?  As this was my first time in the Middle East, I didn’t want to make any missteps, so I erred on the side of caution and dressed somewhat conservatively.  Since it was November and cool, it made it easier.

Unlike Iran and Saudi Arabia, women in Jordan are not required to wear hijabs or cover up otherwise.  Jordan is quite liberal compared to some of its neighbors, and in parts of Amman, nearly everyone is dressed Western-style.  Beyond that, Western women are held to different standards than locals.

That being said — Jordan is still a Middle Eastern country, and you should respect the local culture.

I tried to emulate the conservative but insanely fashionable Muslim women I’ve seen around the world — cover to your wrists, ankles and at least halfway to your neck, but anything else is game.

Here are some examples of what I wore in Jordan:

While driving from Ma’in to Petra and stopping at the Dead Sea, I wore a long-sleeved cardigan over a tank top and a pencil skirt over leggings and flats.  I usually wore socks; I didn’t here.

Jordan Travel Tip: Tightness does not have the same taboo as showing skin.  I saw many Jordanian women in tight dresses and skirts worn over leggings.  Don’t think that you need to wear flowing hippie pants with everything.

In Jerash, I wore a fleece over a t-shirt, jeans, and hiking boots.

Jordan Travel Tip: Pack your hiking boots.  They’re mandatory for exploring Petra and Wadi Rum properly, and they’re also great for anywhere you do a lot of walking, like Jerash or Ajloun.

In Petra, I wore my fleece over a t-shirt, yoga pants, and hiking boots — and added an awesome scarf.

Jordan Travel Tip: Wear lots of layers to Petra.  It can go from very hot to very cold in seconds, depending on how much sun the area gets.

In Wadi Rum, I wore the same outfit, but shielded my head from the sun with my scarf.

Jordan Travel Tip: Even if it’s cold and windy, it’s still easy to burn in places like Petra and Wadi Rum.  Bring sunscreen.  You’ll see these red and white scarves everywhere, and they’re perfect for shielding yourself from the sun.

Later in Wadi Rum, the Bedouins dressed me up — and they even let me keep this beautiful outfit!  (Yes, those are sequins on the sleeves!)

Jordan Travel Tip: Learn how to tie a headscarf properly.  They’re only required if you go into a mosque, and many mosques provide them.  But if you wear your own scarf instead, it’s not enough just to cover your head — make sure to cover underneath your chin, and don’t let any hair, including bangs, peek out.

Of course, there are exceptions to the dress code.  I stayed at the Kempinski Ishtar at the Dead Sea, and the surrounding beaches are filled with Westerners in bathing suits.  I joined in.  Keep in mind that this is okay at resort beaches, but not at public beaches.

Jordan Travel Tip: Wear bathing suits at the beach, but don’t walk around in them.  It’s not a Hawaii vacation, and the Dead Sea isn’t Maui.  I stayed in my bathing suit at the beach or pool, then covered up before walking anywhere else.

Of all my Jordan travel tips, this is the most important:

Hide your cleavage.  Hide your cleavage.  Hide your cleavage.

You don’t even see a hint of cleavage in Jordan — showing your chest is a major taboo in this country.  Keep it under wraps at all times.

Overall, don’t stress too much about your wardrobe.  It’s really not that difficult, and I didn’t consider it a sacrifice at all.  And while Jordanians are incredibly kind and welcoming, they’re even happier when you respect the local culture.

Many thanks to the Jordan Tourism Board for hosting me in Jordan.  All opinions, as always, are my own.

Comments

37 Responses to “What Should Women Wear in Jordan?”
  1. Tamsin says:

    The skirt over leggings look is my fave – nice and casual but respectable, too.

    Great tips (I hope I can put them to use in the not to distant future!)

  2. Amanda says:

    Great post, Kate! I was curious as to what you were wearing, so I appreciate this post! I knew women in Jordan didn’t wear the hijab, but I didn’t know much else!

  3. Shaun says:

    Hi Kate,

    Did you see anything as conservative with men’s clothing?

  4. Colleen says:

    I am LOVING your Middle Eastern travels – they are so fascinating! Keep up the great look and the great writing.

  5. Cat says:

    Thanks so much for going more in depth on the clothing topic. Very interesting that tightness is acceptable more so than revealing skin. It’s nice to see you can be both conservative and fashionable.

  6. Antoinette B. says:

    The Dead Sea on the Israel side is definitely THE opposite of the one in Jordan! All the tourists, who at the time when my bf and I were visiting were mostly Russians, and everyone else were walking/running around in their bikinis and tight speedos/swim trunks. BTW did you recently cut your bangs? They look good on yah!

  7. Really great tips Kate! So important to respect the local customs when traveling in foreign countries.

  8. Peg says:

    Good post! I’m also loving reading about your middle east experiences. I think the donkey was my favorite so far.

    I’ve been spending a bit of time browsing your blog today and I’m hooked. Adding to you my list of regulars!

    Thanks for writing, traveling and sharing your photos.

  9. I keep seeing all these posts about Jordan. I want to go now!

  10. Akila says:

    Fantastic description, Kate! We’ll be in Turkey next year so it’s so good to know about what’s considered appropriate attire at the mosques, too. And, I’m so envious of you that you’re getting to experience Jordan – it looks like you’re having an amazing time there!

  11. Sabina says:

    Kate, I really admire the fact that you dressed respectfully in Jordan. You covered up more than I usually do. The reason I don’t so much of the time is it’s just so freaking hot in the Middle East most of the year. Depending on who I’m with and where I am, I might even wear sleeveless tops, although I always keep my legs covered entirely or at least well below the knee. The best way I’ve found to cover up and not faint from the heat is to drape a large scarf over my shoulders and upper arms, draping the ends of it over my chest. When I do this I can wear a sleeveless shirt while staying modest and as cool as possible. I also like to wear skirts every once in a while. I fit in better when I’m wearing them, they’re relatively coold an they look good.

  12. christy says:

    Well, just found this post after I wrote the other comment. Can’t wait to read the rest of your blog.

  13. Lily says:

    This is so useful for me especially since I am going to Jordan in 2 days. I was stressing out what to wear since I will be in my honeymoon and your post helped me so much. A bit off topic, do you have recommendations for great souvenirs to bring back ? Also do you have a post on what foods we should try?

  14. Natasha says:

    Thank you thank you for this! The other half and me are going to Jordan next week, and I have been wondering what on earth to wear. This was really helpful :-)

  15. Swathi says:

    Thank you for all the info, Kate! I will be staying in Amman for a few months starting this week and I have been trying to find all the exact parameters for what isn’t respectable to wear!

    I saw that in one of your pictures that you wore a mid-length skirt with leggings underneath – is that a common look in Jordan? I was actually planning to wear those two together, but wanted to make sure it was done. I love my skirts (which are usually knee-length) and I would hate to leave all of them behind =(

    • Some of the more Western-dressing Jordanian girls dress in leggings underneath a skirt. I would say about 75% of Jordanian women wear hijabs and only the non-hijab-wearing girls would wear a look like that.

      • Swathi says:

        Thank you so much for your help, Kate!

        Just a note for other people checking out this post: By now, I have lived in Amman, Jordan for over a month and I have to say that most of what Kate listed is a good measure to go by. However, I think it’s important to note that there is a difference between West Amman (the more expensive district) and East Amman (the older part of Amman and where the historical sites are). In West Amman, I see many many girls walking around in tank tops and halter tops and it’s all chill and cool. Also, lots of leggings (yay!). However, even though the women in West Amman are okay with showing more shoulder and chest, they legs are still modestly covered (long shorts that almost go to the knee, capris). It’s uncommon for legs to be uncovered, even though the shoulders and chest are to some degree.

        However, in East Amman, they are MUCH more conservative and you want to cover anything that can be seen immodestly. Wear those pretty shawls and scarves!

        Camping in the desert – mixed bag, but more conservative than not
        Petra – more lax, I wore a tank top with long shorts, and I saw many Jordanians and foreigners in the same level of dress

        Because Jordan, even with all its development and sights, is a developing country, you can kind of match the style of dress allowed by the socioeconomic nature of the region you’re in.

        I hope this helps!

  16. fiona says:

    Hey! Thank you for your blog! Can I ask if it is acceptable for foreigners to wear more bright colour (e.g. coral, red, or ethnic print), thanks!

  17. Rawan says:

    I am native Jordanian and I see you’re carious about how to dress here more than Jordanian women themselves :) we don’t have much conditions about clothing but I really appreciate you for respecting our traditions where some of our ladies here do not.
    I wish you had a memorable trip, please visit us again ;)

  18. Amanda says:

    what would you recommend wearing for someone traveling in May when it is much warmer?

  19. Lots says:

    I’ve actually lived in Amman for 2 months, it’s really not as conservative as you think. Like another user said in West Amman you see girls wearing all sorts of things even skirts. And I always went to the Dead Sea and saw lots of girls wearing bikinis so I don’t think you’d have to hide yourself as soon as you get out of the sea. Anyway that’s just what I saw from my experience of living there.

  20. Debrah says:

    Hi Kate,

    I see here that you suggest wearing the same things in May that you wore on your trip, but I’m going in late August and I’m afraid leggings and black clothing would be too hot. Do you have any suggestions for what I should wear in August and any suggestions on where to shop before I go would be greatly appreciated as well. :) We will be doing a lot of walking and hiking so I’d like to be comfortable but respectful at the same time.

    • Hi Debrah — it’s really not that different. If you don’t like black, wear another color. If you don’t like leggings, wear looser pants or a long skirt. Just keep your boobs covered up.

  21. I’m impressed, I must say. Rarely do I encounter a blog that’s both equally educative and interesting,
    and without a doubt, you have hit the nail on the head.
    The issue is something which not enough folks are speaking intelligently about.
    I am very happy I found this in my hunt for something regarding this.

  22. Karen says:

    So glad to see this post because some of the finer details about wardrobe have been eluding me. Thanks for the tips because I will need to be getting some leggings asap!!

  23. Gypsy Dharma says:

    Love this post, it’s great to see people who aren’t afraid to get out of there comfort zone and travel around the world but it’s also good to know the customs of the land you are in so as to be as safe as possible.

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