I visited Jordan after a three year obsession with Petra. As this was only my second visit to a Middle Eastern country (the first was Israel), I wanted to make sure I was appropriate in my choice of clothing. So I did some research over what would be considered respectful according to local culture, as well as what was appropriate for the time of year: late April in Spring. Here is the result – my guide on what to wear as woman in Jordan:
What to wear as a woman in Jordan
Local customs mean modest dress
The key thing for me when visiting a different culture, is to see what they expect of visitors. I know that plenty of people seem to equate a holiday ‘somewhere hot’ with wearing as little as possible, but this isn’t always appropriate, especially in the Middle East. Whilst tourists can get away with more leniency with regards to local customs, you should really try to be respectful to the culture. Also it’s important to note that Jordan is not hot all year round! If you are up high or in the desert, then it won’t be as warm as by the Red Sea in Aqaba.
Muslim culture, and even orthodox Christian culture, expects a certain level of modesty. In Jordan, whilst there is no strict dress codes for visitors, I would definitely recommend erring to modest dress. A headscarf isn’t required, except if you want to visit some religious sites, which may require men and women to cover shoulders and knees too. Whilst visitors don’t need to cover their hair with a scarf, I would recommend covering up with long sleeves and long trousers, especially if you are visiting Jordan in late April / Spring, when it can get chilly.
I did pack and wear some scarves, but mainly as an additional layer (this green scarf travelled around the world with me when I took my year off and then stayed in Quito, Ecuador at the end of my trip):
These are the items I would recommend you to wear as a woman visiting Jordan:
What to wear as a woman in Jordan: out and about in Amman, Jerash and other tourist sites:
Keep to the modest side – we ran into a lot of local kids on day trips at the sites around Amman and Jerash. We were considered exotic and had tonnes of them ask for photos, which meant I could ask for theirs back! You’d get a lot more attention if you were to walk around with strappy tops and short shorts as the locals aren’t used to seeing this.
Long sleeved tops/ T-shirts
It’s recommended for both men and women to cover their shoulders. I felt uncomfortable going out in short sleeved T-Shirts too (also I burn quick, so coverage is important to me!). So a long sleeved top or cover up on top of a T-Shirt worked well.
Tops also shouldn’t be too tight. The locals wear loose flowing clothes and it’s quite common to see a loose top over tighter trousers or jeans, like the girls in the photo above.
Trousers, long or midi dresses & skirts
It’s a good idea to cover to your knees for both sexes too. Trousers, either long or cropped at calf length, are ideal to wear with the longer line tops, as mentioned above. Skinny jeans can be good in cooler seasons (e.g. Autumn/Winter), but otherwise I’d recommend lighter and cooler cotton or linen for the rest of the year. I lived in my khakis as you can probably tell from the photos!!
A knee or midi length skirt keeps things respectful, whilst allowing some skin to show! Ideal in hotter times of the year, or by the coast.
Cardigan / jumper to cover up
I mentioned before that I felt uncomfortable walking around, even in the guest house with my arms on show. I got around this by using thin jumpers and cardigans with 3/4 sleeves to layer over my T-shirts, dresses and other tops.
These are also very useful in Spring and Autumn, as it can get chilly when the sun goes down.
Basically comfortable shoes you can walk around sightseeing in! I used one pair of trusty leather sandals for most things, except hiking. Which moves us nicely on to:
What to wear as a woman in Jordan: when visiting Petra
You’ll be hiking a lot when you visit Petra. Even if you don’t ‘hike’ and take full advantage of the horse/donkey hire, there is still a lot of walking. If you decide to visit the high place of sacrifice, the Monastery or the overlook of the Treasury, then you’ll have a fairly strenuous day ahead of you. Make sure to pack plenty of water and some snacks if heading out to the far reaches of Petra (although the tent selling lemon and mint juice outside of the Monastery was an awesome find!)
Walking & other shoes
Proper walking shoes are a must if you are going to visit Petra. I wore trail runners as the soles are reinforced they are way more comfortable on rocky surfaces. Whilst you can get by in sturdy sandals, I wouldn’t recommend hiking the more strenuous paths without some proper footwear.
We also took layers – long sleeved tops, light weight scarfs and a fleece. I hiked in my khaki trousers, but you might be more comfortable in leggings or work out pants, especially if riding.
Remember to take sun glasses and sun screen. I didn’t take a hat, because I’m silly, but as you will spend a lot of time outside without much shelter from the sun, this would be a good idea!
What to wear as a woman in Jordan: when visiting the Dead Sea
Obviously if you want to float about in the highly saline waters of the Dead Sea, you are going to need a swim suit.
If you want to make sure you cover as much of you as possible with Dead Sea mud pack then you’ll probably want to wear a bikini (they say the mud is good for you! My skin certainly felt softer afterwards…)
Where we were – the Movenpick Resort – they had private access, so you could wear what you wanted. I would recommend not wearing your best bikini and certainly to avoid light colours if you do the mud pack!
You’ll also want to pack some flip flops for getting to and walking around the beach.
Sarong / lightweight towel
Always useful to have for the beach or Dead Sea. Don’t pack a light colour if using near the Dead Sea mud! This can also work as a pillow or blanket on a cold bus ride too.
A note on public beaches
If you head to the public beach in Aqaba then you may feel uncomfortable in a swimsuit. When I was there the local women were fully covered with abayas and wading in the sea at most. Even in a double layer of wet suits I still attracted people’s attention! If you are on a private or hotel beach, then this isn’t an issue.
Packing list for women in Jordan
So having talked you through what to wear as a woman in Jordan, what should you pack as for your Jordan visit?
I’ve made a short list to help you remember everything:
- Long sleeved tops & T-Shirts
- Trousers or jeans (depending on season)
- Long or midi dresses & skirts (at least knee length)
- Cardigans or jumpers for layering
- Walking shoes or trainers for walking (in Petra or Wadi Rum)
- Flip flops (for the Dead Sea or Red Sea) if they are pretty you may not need any additional sandals
- Swimsuit or bikini (preferably dark if you are going to mudpack in the Dead Sea!)
- Sarong/lightweight towel – can also double as shawl or a blanket/pillow on long bus rides
- Scarf, both for warmth and for additional layers/coverage
- Fleece – for cool evenings and when hiking, the desert gets cold overnight
- Underwear, pants, socks, bras and sports bra if you need it for hiking
- Sun cream
- Hat – don’t be like Katie, wear a hat and prevent sun burn!
Your packing list may change a little depending on the season and the activities that you do, so be sure to think about that also.
Let me know in the comments below if you have any questions on what to wear as a woman in Jordan
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