I packed my bags carefully for the conservative Muslim country of Jordan, where masking your curves and covering your hair with a hijab is the norm. Even though the weather would be relatively warm, there were no short shorts or little skirts in my luggage; they were replaced with lightweight long sleeved cardigans, lengthy loose t-shirts and colorful scarves.
There is an amount of respect that needs to be paid to the culture of a country and I wanted to be certain to honor it.
I erred on the side of conservative.
Turns out Jordan is a progressive Muslim country — most women were covered up, but they were also pretty stylish. Just about everywhere we went there were some local women wearing skinny jeans, cute tennis shoes, colorful blouses and snazzy sunglasses.
Still, don’t flaunt your goodies.
Unless you want to get extra attention, stay away from v-neck tees that will show your cleavage, shirts that expose your back or showing too much leg (nobody needs to see your butt cheeks!). Tight clothing was not as much as a flub as showing your skin, though most tight fitting pants were covered just past the rear end with a shirt or cardigan.
It will be surreal when you first land in the capital city of Amman. Some women will be wearing a black niqab, a face-veil that leaves only their eyes uncovered, while others will choose to only conceal their manes and a few will be in very discreet Western wear with their hair freely visible.
There’s a different expectation for Western women.
The typical assumption for Western women is that they will not be covering their hair or faces and you should feel comfortable having your head exposed everywhere you go with the exception of a mosque. BUT, make sure to thoroughly dry your hair before leaving your hotel, wet hair is seen as sexual.
The only times that I wore a headscarf was as a shield for the sun and when our Bedouin host wanted to show me the proper way one should be wrapped. Otherwise, my hair was exposed and I felt very comfortable everywhere I went.
With all that said, it is always a great idea to pack a scarf to ward off a face sunburn, use as a cover up and block the dust if you plan on spending any time in the desert of Wadi Rum.
» Shorts & Tank Tops
One of the number one clothing questions people want answered before they travel to Jordan is, “is it okay to wear shorts and tank tops?” And the answer is that is really depends on where you are. In the resort areas and heavily touristed places it is more common, but definitely not in the more rural areas of Amman or small villages.
Again, be discreet.
When in doubt, the key is to layer your clothing (for example, wear a cardigan over a tank top and carry a scarf for your neck). This way you are able to take off a layer when you feel comfortable in doing so and adding a layer when needed.
» Bathing Suits
At the beach or in a resort area like The Dead Sea, the dress is a little more lenient when it comes to swimsuits. Though you may see some women swimming in a burqini (full body suit), it is acceptable to wear a two-piece bikini and a majority of the women were doing so during my travels there.
Swimsuits are fine while swimming (or floating) at the beach, but don’t be walking through your hotel or on the streets wearing a hot pink string bikini. This ain’t spring break in Cancun.
Use a cover up.
Bring a couple of pairs of comfortable walking shoes to Jordan. For the city, sturdy and stylish sandals work well (I brought a pair of comfy b.o.c.). But, it is recommended that if you plan on going to Wadi Rum or exploring Petra to bring a pair of light hiking boots. It can be very dusty in these places and the ground can be uneven. With one pair of sandals and one pair of hiking boots you’ll be ready for almost every occasion in Jordan. I added a third show, my favorite pair of boots, Clarks Orinocco.
Don’t stress too much about your attire. With these simple guidelines you should feel comfortable wherever you go, plus the Jordanian people are so welcoming and hospitable which will put you even more at ease.
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