Let’s get this out of the way: not every Muslim country in the world is the same all around the world; what is appropriate to wear in Muslim countries differs by country and this is your guide to as many Muslim majority regions/countries that I could find advice for. Even within one country, what is appropriate clothing in one Muslim country might vary between the city and the countryside. Keep reading on how to dress appropriately for various Muslim countries for female travelers with tips on what to wear in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa by country.
What’s covered in this article about appropriate clothes for Muslim majority countries
- Why should non-Muslim travelers care about dressing appropriately in Muslim majority countries?
- Overview of Muslim clothing coverings
- Appropriate Clothing for the Middle East for women
- Appropriate Clothing for Asian Muslim majority countries
- Appropriate Clothing for African Muslim majority countries
- Missing countries/regions that I’d love input on!
Why should non-Muslim travelers care about dressing appropriately in Muslim majority countries?
This is my opinion, however if you’re traveling somewhere new, you want to experience another country/region’s culture. Sometimes, religion plays a significant role in that country’s history and culture–and even if you don’t personally believe in that religion, it’s best to respect the culture of the place that you’re visiting.
We travel to experience different and new things. It may seem minor, let’s show people living in the places that we’re visiting that travelers are interested in learning about their culture and trying a little to fit in instead of doing whatever we think is best.
The Quran sets forward a few rules regarding clothing for women. However, it is a woman’s choice of what she ends up wearing. That said, as for travelers, it’s good to try even if you’re NOT Muslim as a woman traveling in a Muslim majority country.
In many places, you’re not required to adhere to wearing Muslim coverings, while in others, you can be fined for the same item of clothing. However, there’s something to be said for being a responsible traveler who is aware of cultural beliefs.
Wearing appropriate clothing in Muslim majority countries makes it easier for you to visit mosques, interact with locals, and not attract attention in public. For women, dressing appropriately in Muslim countries can make a big difference in terms of how we are treated and perceived.
However, it’s very important to note that it’s unacceptable to blame women for things that happen to them as a result of other people’s’ actions based on their clothing.
I’m including this note written by one Egyptian girl who wanted to make this clear: It might be best to note that for a majority of the Muslim world, modesty is in no way connected to oppression, but rather the desire to be modest. Modesty is a theme that is seeped into the way we dress, the way we communicate with each other, and our hospitality, etc.
Overview of Muslim coverings for women
Appropriate clothing for the Middle East
I couldn’t get a submission for EVERY country, but these are covered:
- Saudi Arabia
- United Arab Emirates (Dubai)
What to wear in Iran for women
Many Iranians will tell you that Iran is not a religious country. However, a hijab is required for women in Iran and Iranian women are fashionable despite the restrictions. In the bigger cities (such as Tehran), headscarves are looser, but in more rural cities, you’re less likely to see this.
Before coming to Iran, I was worried whether my clothes would be appropriate for Iran, however I should have been more concerned about how fashionable my clothes were.
I clearly felt out of place in my travel gear and wide tunics covering my arms and bottom. The chador, a black tent like cloak that shows the face, is not worn most of the time, however you might need to wear a chador when you go to an Iranian mosque.
So what to wear as a female traveller in Iran? Keep in mind that Iran is a big country with different climates. I travelled in April and when I arrived it was snowing, but by the time I visited the desert regions around Yazd it was hot.
Tehran is one of the most liberal and fashionable cities in Iran, but smaller cities can be more conservative. At its core, the dress code in Iran is actually very simple. You need to make sure that you cover your chest, legs, arms and hair. Nobody cares if some of your hair peeks out of your headscarf at the top.
Keep in mind that if you dress more traditionally (think a looser top with bat sleeves that covers your body shape), you can wear a pair of comfy sweat pants underneath. It’s a great way to stay cool in the heat. 😉
What to wear in Saudi Arabia for women
Saudi Arabia is hard to get into. And it doesn’t get easier once you are in – at least for women. The country follows one of the strictest interpretations of Sharia Law – women were until recently not allowed to drive, are under the guardianship of male relatives, and must be covered in public. And yes, this applies to foreigners as well. Women have to be fully covered up from the moment they leave the airplane.
There is just one type of clothes to wear in Saudi Arabia for women: a full-length black cloak known as the abaya, plus a scarf to cover the head. There is no need to cover the face.
The clothing beneath the abaya, should also be conservative, but as long as the clothes are not visible, it pretty much doesn’t matter what you wear. Whenever you are inside hotels, you may remove the head scarf.
What to wear in Turkey for women
Turkey is not a Muslim country (although the current political wind might change things soon) but is a secular country with a Muslim majority. When I traveled to Turkey, I was amazed by the tolerance and openness in Istanbul.
True, there were Hijab and burqa sightings in the city, but they went hand in hand with short skirts and shorts and everything else that you could imagine wearing in a Western European country without anyone batting an eyelid.
I wore what I feel most comfortable in: long linen pants and chambray/cotton shirts. Honestly, long pants or skirts and some half to full sleeve blouses are a good bet since there are parts of Topkapi Palace (where the prophet’s hair is kept for example) where you cannot enter without being fully covered (hands and feet that is).
A scarf is also a must have and you can wrap a pretty stole or scarf around you as I did with my apparel since you will have to cover your head when you enter mosques.
Personally, the best way to dress up is to mix and match and wear a tee or a shirt with Turkish Shalwars, those loose fitting colorful pants that everyone wears in Turkey and which are super stylish and comfortable.
You can buy some from the Grand Bazaar on a good bargain if you want.
Finally, carry a bathing suit or at the very least shorts if you are planning to visit Pamukkale and bathe in one of the pools there. I had to roll up my pants and it was a major pain! Thank you to Paroma for her tips about Turkey.
What to wear in United Arab Emirates for women, including Dubai
Dubai was the least conservative city that I visited in the UAE. In very touristy areas like the Gold Souk, the Dubai Mall, and the Burj Khalifa, I saw everything from skimpy tanks and revealing shorts to women who didn’t show an inch of skin from head to toe.
Pretty much anything goes in those areas, but I did see signs posted around the mall warning that modest dress is required. It’s best to avoid shorts if possible. Men can blend in without wearing the traditional Emirati clothes, but only tourists wear shorts, even in the summer.
In any other city in the UAE, or any area outside of downtown Dubai, long, loose and modest clothing is the most respectful choice. I personally chose to wear the abaya and hijab almost the whole time that I was there, but anything that covers cleavage and legs at least until the knee would be acceptable.
When visiting the markets, I recommend wearing closed-toe shoes that are easy to walk in, and that you don’t mind getting dirty. I also found that simply covering my hair made unwanted advances a non-occurrence.
In mosques that are open to non-Muslim visitors, it is required for female guests to wear opaque clothes that cover the skin from wrists to ankles, as well as covering their hair.
Large masjids like the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, provided long loose gowns with attached hoods for those whose clothes don’t meet requirements. Men need only be covered from shoulders to ankles. Since everyone removes their shoes, it’s also helpful to wear shoes that are easily taken off and put on.
At non-resort beaches in UAE, I didn’t see any bikinis or swimsuits. If you plan to go to the beach to swim, it’s worth paying a little extra for a hotel beach so that you don’t feel out of place.
Thanks to Reesa from Adventurae.com
What to wear in Lebanon for female travelers
The most important thing to know about appropriate clothing in Lebanon is that the Lebanese place a lot of importance on appearances.
It is frowned upon to be in public without appearing put together and groomed. This means that one’s hair is neat and styled, makeup is applied, and clothing is stylish. The Lebanese often tend to go all out with their appearance; applying heavy makeup or wearing lots of accessories. They ascribe to a “more is more” attitude. While you do not need to go to this extreme, it is important to look like you put some effort in.
As far as conservative dress, you generally do not need to cover up. You will not see a lot of people wearing shorts, but sleeveless shirts and skirts above the knee are acceptable almost everywhere, especially in the major cities, such as Beirut and Byblos.
The only times you will need to cover up, in terms of covering your shoulders and knees, would be if you are visiting the smaller villages in the South of Lebanon, a church, a conservative family’s home, or a refugee camp. If you are visiting a mosque, you will be expected to wear long sleeves and a scarf. I have gone all over the country during several visits and worn a sleeveless knee length dress.
At night it is acceptable to wear more revealing clothes, especially if you are visiting a nightclub. Bikinis are acceptable at beaches and beach clubs. In terms of Lebanon, you mainly need to worry about looking your best and not about being covered up.
Click for aninsider’s guide to Lebanon by Lena (whose husband is from Lebanon.)
What to wear in Palestine for women
What to wear in Qatar
I found Doha, Qatar to be a much more conservative city than anywhere that I visited in the UAE. Most men wore the traditional thobes and ghutra head scarves, or wore pants and long sleeved shirts.
I did not see any women wearing anything except an abaya and headscarf in the market. I personally wore an abaya and hijab the entire time we were there. Even younger girls who didn’t cover their hair were still modestly dressed.
In the airport, male officials generally seem more comfortable speaking to a woman if she is modestly dressed, but I saw plenty of women in western dress styles.
In mosques that are open to non-Muslim visitors, it is required for female guests to wear opaque materials that cover the skin from wrists to ankles, as well as covering their hair. It is preferable for clothes to be looser, not form-fitting.
Men need only be covered from shoulders to knees, but it is generally more acceptable to cover from shoulders to ankles. Since everyone removes their shoes, it’s also helpful to wear shoes that are easily taken off and put on. Thanks to Reesa from Adventurae.com
What to wear in Jordan for female travelers
Michele’s experience: Traveling through Jordan, I instantly got the vibe that while the country is majority Muslim (and conservative clothing is appreciated), it’s a little more open and understanding to tourists than most.
On my first day in Amman, I wore a maxi dress to the ankles, and a shawl over it (as it was short-sleeved). I noticed many non-Muslim local women were not even this covered.
On day two, I began to wear a slightly more conservative version of my typical clothing from home. I received no unwanted stares or attention, and did not feel strange or out of place. As long as you cover to below the knee, and have short sleeves with no cleavage, you will be fine in Amman and the main tourist sites in Jordan (Petra, Dead Sea, Wadi Rum, etc.) Thanks to Michelle for this contribution.
What to wear in Yemen for women
Mind you, mainland Yemen is currently embroiled in a devastating proxy war being fought on the ground therefore travel there at the moment is nearly impossible.
During my visit in 2014 conservative dress in mainland Yemen was key. There is no legal dress codes for women, however there are societal expectations for modest dress.
Popular street style you see in cities is the black abaya and niqab, many times adorned in rhinestone designs. Less common, but very traditional is the Sana’ani Curtain, a colorful abaya traditionally worn by the women of Sana’a. For mosque it is important to at least cover the hair with a hijab with outfit the covers the arms and legs.
My outfits I chose to wear was a long flowing black dress or a loose long sleeve shirt paired with a long boho style skirt, of course paired with a headscarf. Yemenis, no matter how you dress are generally very kind and welcoming. Thanks to Nicole from adventuresoflilnicki.com.
What to wear in Kuwait for women
A local recommends wearing the following clothing in Kuwait: t-shirts with sensible bottoms (knee-length or longer). Similarly, women can wear knee length dresses that aren’t too tight and that are strapless although it’s best to carry a scarf/cardigan to cover up the shoulders with as needed.
It’s best if you wear shirts in Kuwait that are not tight, shirts come to hip height, and show no cleavage. Similarly, if your shirt is a bit tighter, try to wear looser pants although a long shirt means that it’s okay to wear leggings with it. Avoid shorts.
On public beaches, it’s best to wear a one-piece swimsuit although bikinis are okay IF covered up with a long shirt. On private beaches, any beachwear is fine.
What to wear in Oman for women
It took me a while living in Oman to figure out what I’m comfortable wearing in Oman, because everyone seems to have their own idea of what’s appropriate clothing for women in Oman.
I have one friend who covers everything from chin to ankles, but I’ve also seen women in Muscat (a little more liberal than the rest of the country) with bare lower legs or in sleeveless tops. However, there are some general rules that are best to stick to…
Showing skin is more of a problem than tight clothing, although I would avoid anything really tight. Light and loose is better anyway, if only because of the heat! You should keep knees, shoulders, and cleavage covered, and don’t have any bra straps or underwear showing.
I prefer to wear ankle-length pants or skirts, but you might find that you’re comfortable in capris. Avoid shorts or skirts that fall above the knee unless you wear a pair of leggings under them, and I wouldn’t wear short shorts or miniskirts at all.
On top, a normal shirt with short sleeves is fine, but if it is low-cut at all you may want to cover it with a light scarf, whether for modesty or just for sun protection! If you’re at a Western-style resort you can wear whatever you like (including bikinis), but be aware that you might still get stared at if there are locals around.
No headscarf is required unless you’re visiting a mosque, but it’s always good to have a scarf with you in case you need to cover up for any reason. Omanis do like to be quite fashionable, so feel free to dress yourself up with fancy shoes and accessories!
(Thanks to Jenny for her helpful tips for what to wear in Oman.)
What to wear in Bahrain
What to wear in Afghanistan
Dressing properly in Afghanistan as a female tourist serves two purposes: to fit into cultural norms… and to help you blend so you’re not an obvious target. Ominous, but necessary given the state of things.
There’s no official rule about covering your head with a hijab, but expect to be the only uncovered woman on the street if you do so! Aside from the hijab, dress in more neutral tones to avoid standing out.
Gravitate towards the dark blues and pale colors, and leave your rainbow clothes at home. Skinny jeans are fine and common on young women in cities, just make sure to wear a longer shirt over top.
Long-ish sleeves are necessary, and showing cleavage is a no-no, but aside from that, so long as your butt is covered you’re in the clear!
Finish off your outfit with any dark shoes or sandals; the colorful trainers trend doesn’t seem to have caught on here just yet.
Thanks to Alex from Lost with Purpose for her tips on how to travel as a woman in Afghanistan.
What to wear in Syria for women
My father is Syrian and I’ve visited several times. Women dress differently depending on the area. In Aleppo, where many Christians live, the dress code is more relaxed than in Damascus. In both cities, you see a mix.
Some women wear headscarves, some don’t, but all dress modestly with the majority of arms and legs covered, usually in lightweight fabric. Women are stylish, usually on the dressy side and often coordinating the headscarf with outfits. Outside the cities in bedouin villages, women are more traditional and may wear a niqab or burka.
Tourists can mostly wear what they want. I have seen tourists in shorts and tank tops, but they do tend to attract a few stares. Syria is not touristy and there is typically no harassment of women, regardless of their clothing.
As a basic guideline, choose shirts that don’t show cleavage and skirts that come to the knee. In mosques, women (and men wearing shorts) are given a Jedi-ish robe. I wore jeans, t-shirts, and sleeveless shirts but not tank tops.
In my photo I wore a wrap dress as I danced around a restaurant with my cousins. Syrians are incredibly hospitable and they love tourists.
Thanks to Cherene for her amazing guide to Syria.
What to wear in Muslim majority countries in Asia
Countries covered on this list:
What to wear in Brunei
What to wear in Indonesia
One may hardly notice Indonesia is a Muslim country, as different women dress in different styles. Some follow the requirements of wearing modest clothing, others dress in the western fashion, wearing shorts, bikinis, and whatever is the latest trend. Women who visit Indonesia can wear pretty much whatever they want. (Editor note: it does vary a bit by region, so it’s best to be more conservative in more rural areas.)
Though I never felt obliged to cover up, I generally made sure to dress modestly (ie covering shoulders and legs) whenever I visited places such as mosques. Mind you, I would do the same if I were to visit a Catholic church in Italy.
Read more tips for travel in Indonesia by Claudia.
What to wear in Malaysia
What to wear in the Maldives
The Maldives is a tropical paradise and a Maldives honeymoon is pure paradise but make sure you know what to wear in the Maldives and respect the Muslim culture. The Maldives is made up of 1,000’s of islands in which there are over 120 resort islands.
You can wear whatever you want on a resort island but when you are exploring a local island or even around the Male international airport you’ll want to cover up, shoulders & knees should be covered. Bikinis are not allowed on local islands or beaches, a few local islands have added bikini beaches which are blocked off, so that boats passing by won’t see women in bikinis. Thanks to Hannah for her contribution.
What to wear in Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan is one of the most liberal Muslim countries I have visited. I happened to be there during Ramadan, but I didn’t notice much of it. Most restaurants were still open and busy.
Baku is a cosmopolitan city and if you walk through the main shopping area you could be in any Western European city. Obviously things are more conservative outside of Baku, but even in the small places like Sheki and Quba things are changing.
The older generation prefers the more traditional clothes. A long skirt, top with long sleeves and a headscarf. The younger generation wears prefers Western clothes, including tight jeans, short skirts and colorful t-shirts.
As a traveller you can’t really go wrong in Azerbaijan, especially if you stay in Baku. The real beauty of Azerbaijan is not in the city though, but in the mountains.
Here people are Muslim, but also still practice some traditions from their animist past. If you are lucky enough to make it out there, it is better to leave your short skirts or short pants at home and to bring more modest clothing with you
. Thanks to Ellis for her contribution.
What to wear in Kazakhstan for women
What to wear in Kyrgyzstan for women
What to wear in Uzbekistan for women
Although Uzbekistan is a Muslim country, they are reasonably relaxed when it comes to appropriate dress.The local ladies are conservative but colourful; knee-length dresses in bright patterns are matched with simple headscarves for older ladies; younger women wear modern fashions, or tunics and trousers in bright colours with plenty of sparkle.
Men’s clothes are simple; long trousers are the norm, with cotton shirts for older men and tshirts for the younger generation. Despite the women’s headscarves, covering the hair is not required in Uzbekistan and hijabs are uncommon. Face coverings are banned.
For western visitors, rules are relaxed but it’s not a case of “anything goes”. Shoulders should be covered for both men and women; shorts are acceptable but should reach the knee. Personally, I combined cap-sleeved t shirts with full-length cotton trousers and felt I was being respectful.
Foreigners are not expected to cover their heads other than when visiting mosques; even then, it is not enforced. In Uzbekistan, it is more about being respectful than complying with any law when it comes to appropriate clothing. If there was any country which will challenge your preconceptions about Muslim dress, this is it! Thanks to Jill for her tips for Uzbekistan.
What to wear in Bangladesh for women
Entering Bangladesh, you immediately feel its synergy with the rest of the subcontinent: brightly coloured sarees and salwar kameez are far more prevalent here than the burqa, despite Bangladesh being a Muslim country.
While younger men often wear western style dress, this is not the case for women in Bangladesh. You won’t see a pair of skinny jeans even in bustling Dhaka.
The easiest thing to wear in Bangladesh as a visitor is a salwar kameez. You can get them made cheaply locally, or if you’re coming from India, stock up there!
A salwar kameez consists of baggy or more fitted trousers (pants), a tunic style top to the knee with side slits below the waist, and a scarf (“una” in Bangla). They’re possibly the most comfortable clothing invented! And you can be as colourful as you want.
If you don’t have / want a salwar kameez, then baggy trousers (ankle length) and a long loose top that covers your bum, with scarf would do. Most importantly: make sure your full legs, chest, and arms are covered 3/4 of the way.
The scarf part is important as it is code for “modesty” and you can either wear it western style, Indian style (draped backwards and across your chest with the tassles over your back) or on one side. Another advantage of wearing a scarf around your chest is that you can just wrap it over your hair whenever your feel like it! Sarees are not usually appropriate for foreign visitors unless you are attending a function.
To headscarf or not to headscarf? I’d read in advance that a headscarf was a good idea, but on arrival in Dhaka I quickly noticed that as many as 50% of women I saw were not covering their hair. What to do? I experimented and found that I definitely got less attention when wearing my headscarf (I have dark brown hair. If you have light hair, you may find it easier to cover your hair).
In urban centres I left my hair uncovered, when in Muslim areas or small villages I covered my hair. It’s fine if the front part of your hair shows – if in doubt, do as the locals do!
If entering a mosque of course covering your hair is mandatory.
Read more about travel to Bangladesh on Soul Travel Blog by Ellie.
What to wear in Muslim majority countries in Europe
What to wear in Albania
What to wear in Bosnia and Herzegovina for women
Dress code for women isn’t really that strict in Bosnia-Herzegovina. If you stick to major tourist destinations and larger towns like Sarajevo and Mostar, you’ll find few women in hijab.
The Bosnian approach to Islam is a lot more ‘secular’ and less strict compared to countries like Egypt and even Turkey, and this attitude is reflected in the dress code, which is similar to that of other European countries.
There’s no need for a tourist to take headscarves or long coats as you might have to do in places like Egypt and Iran for example – if you want to visit a mosque and head coverings are required, more than likely they’ll also be provided.
Personally, I always like to wear long-sleeved shirts when travelling in summer, because they protect me from the heat and also because it’s good form to cover your arms when entering religious buildings – including churches as well as mosques.
If you’re heading to Bosnia in winter, you don’t need to worry about the dress code for women in Bosnia and Herzegovina; it’s bitterly cold so you’ll probably be wrapped up anyway! Thanks to Margherita for her tips
. Keep reading Margherita’s tips for Bosnia.
What to wear in Kosovo
What to wear in North Cyprus
North Cyprus and its locals are generally very relaxed when it comes to clothing. As an island, Cyprus is a beach destination for many of its visitors and wearing a bikini is more than common by the sea.
Around the city, you are fine wearing your normal clothes – whatever that may be. Since there are many universities attended by students from a variety of cultures, you will see many different fashion styles in the streets.
People are generally relaxed and I felt very safe, even as I hitchhiked alone all around North Cyprus. (If I got bothered by some men, they were never of Cypriot origin.) While you might want to cover yourself to a certain extent.
If you are a hitchhiker too, it is not a requirement at all to wear a hijab, long sleeves and long pants unless you are entering a mosque. Thanks to Karin for her tips for North Cyprus.
What to wear in Muslim majority countries in Africa
What to wear in Egypt for women
The majority of Egypt is Muslim. As a result, many women on the street wear a headscarf or full chador, but not all do. Tourists are not expected to cover their head unless they are entering a mosque. There are no laws about dress code in Egypt.
You might see women wearing shorts and tank tops in touristy areas, such as Hurghada, however this kind of outfit is not appropriate and it’s best to dress a bit more conservative.
Women should make sure their legs and shoulders are covered and try to wear looser fitting clothes. There are specific areas of the beach where bikinis are allowed, but expect to see local women taking a dip in full length clothing! Thanks to Rohan.
What to wear in the Gambia for women
The Gambia is a very laid back country in West Africa with extremely welcoming people. Most of the population are Muslims with about 10% Christians. Marriages between tribes and religions are not uncommon and neighbours celebrate some of their religious festivals with each other.
In the tourist areas, people are very used to western style clothing and in your hotels and on the beaches people walk around in their swimming costumes although women should never go topless. I have found though that you will gain more respect if you dress more modestly than you might when at home.
If you leave the tourist areas, strappy or cropped tops should be avoided and definitely don’t wear short shorts! Other than that, normal western clothes are perfectly acceptable. Read more tips on travel in Gambia by Kat.
What to wear in Morocco
What to wear in Sierra Leone
What to wear in Sudan for women
Sudan is a Muslim country, but it is not expected for foreign woman to cover her head. However, the extreme heat (40 to 45 degrees C during the day) makes covering head with scarf a practical thing due to sun protection and helps women to blend you in with other local female population.
Sudanese people are very nice and proud; by being dressed properly you might encounter compliments and thanks for respecting their culture.
For the rest of the outfit I recommend loose comfortable clothes made by breathable natural fabrics, not too sheer though, always cover the cleavage and shoulders and wear at least ¾ sleeved tops while trousers or dress should be covering ankles. Hot pants, mini skirts, and too tight leggings without covering bottoms with tunic are not appropriate. Thanks to Nina for her tips on travel in Sudan.
Have you been to any of the Muslim countries/regions listed above? Do you agree? If not, what would you recommend?
If anything is incorrect, please correct me in the comments and I’m happy to update the post accordingly.
- Burkina Faso
- Western Sahara
- (Am I missing any!?)