Best Clothes for Hot Weather in the Middle East in 2022
What to Pack for Summer in the Middle East
The Middle East is a magical place. Filled with fascinating history, landscapes, and food, you shouldn’t miss this part of the world!
However, prices can be much more expensive in traditionally “cooler” times. Also, not everyone has the time off to travel to the Middle East during the North American fall, winter, or spring.
But you don’t have to let this keep you away from this part of the world! It’s still possible to stay cool and comfortable, despite a more conservative dress code for women.
Included below are my trip details from when I spent time in the Middle East during the summer to give some context. But I encourage you to adjust your clothing choices based on your own trip details. There are a few countries in the Middle East like Yemen that are more conservative than the countries I’ve been to. So, for a comprehensive list of dress code expectations, I suggest you check out Monica at Ahlan Monica’s excellent post on the subject.
Without further ado, beat the heat with the best clothes for hot weather during the summer in the Middle East in 2022, below!
My Trip Details
Destinations: Egypt, Jordan, & Israel
Travel dates: Mid-June
Season: Beginning of summer
Weather: Very hot and dry, with plenty of sunshine. Highs are most often in the mid-90s and frequently reach up to 102 degrees Fahrenheit. Additionally, very little rain falls during this time of year. Any activities, like hiking, need to be done in the middle of the night before the sun comes up. Otherwise, it gets too hot. However, things can cool down more than you might expect at night, especially in the desert. Because of this, it’s important to bring layers for these mid- to low-60 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures.
What to Expect as a Woman Dressing for Hot Weather in the Middle East
As I mentioned above, culturally, women are expected to dress conservatively in the Middle East. However, this doesn’t mean it’s either burkha or nothing. There are actually a lot of cute ways to dress conservatively.
I know, I know – I can already hear you saying, “But Claire! We’re strong, independent solo female travelers. We don’t give into oppression! Why are you encouraging me to wear anything other than what I want?!” So, before I go any further, let me address this point.
Keeping you safe and comfortable
Most of my suggestions below and the reason for this post are to keep you as comfortable and safe as possible. Trust me, you’re still not going to be comfortable in a crop top and short shorts if you have a million men giving you unwanted attention, staring at you, and even cat-calling and following you. I don’t agree with things being like this for women, and maybe you don’t either. So that’s why we choose to live in societies with different cultural norms. However, regardless of how we feel about this particular difference in cultural norms, it doesn’t change that this is how it is in much, if not all, of the Middle East.
In addition, while from an outside perspective, expectations for women to dress more conservatively in the Middle East may seem like oppression, it’s just not that black and white. Many women willingly choose and want to dress this way in the Middle East. It could be for religious or personal reasons, or something entirely different. In short, it’s none of your business why a woman chooses to dress how she does.
I am a feminist, as I’m sure many of you are. But when I went to the Middle East for the first time, I had to remind myself not to judge too quickly when a different culture’s norms and (gendered) expectations are different from my own. So, I encourage you to do the same and approach these differences from a perspective of curiosity and respect, rather than judgment and condemnation.
What to Pack: Best Clothes for Hot Weather in the Middle East
When you think about what are the best clothes for hot weather to bring for your summer Middle East trip, think first and foremost about comfort. After all, it’s going to be in the 90s and maybe even break 100 degrees! Comfort means loose, breathable clothing in light, neutral colors. But loose doesn’t have to mean frumpy. Keep reading for my essential best clothes for hot weather in the Middle East.
The first thing you’re going to need for hot weather in the Middle East is a cute hat. A hat will help you stay cool in the heat. Therefore, it’s one of the best clothes for hot weather in the Middle East. However, it doesn’t have to be dorky! Top off your Instagram-worthy Middle Eastern outfit with a cute hat like this adorable straw Panama hat. Bonus – it’s foldable, making for super easy packing.
A lightweight scarf has so many uses in the Middle East. Most importantly, it can be used to easily cover your shoulders or head for more conservative areas. It can also be a pillow or blanket on the plane or bus, an extra sheet on your bed, a cover-up for the beach, or a towel in a pinch. Bonus: it’s also an easy way to add variety to your outfits when you’re packing light! I never travel without my pashmina scarf.
Sunglasses, in general, are a necessity when it comes to hot, sunny places like the Middle East. However, a polarized pair of sunglasses is the best complement to hot weather outfits for summer in the Middle East. They will reduce glare and protect your eyes better in the sun. For instance, try these Carfia vintage style polarized sunglasses, which filter 100% of harmful UVA, UVB, and UVC rays and cut 99% of glare. They come in all sorts of adorable styles and colors!
Trust me, things are going to get hot and sweaty during summer in the Middle East. Because of this, bring plenty of breathable panties to keep things fresh and hygienic. Cotton is the best for your skin and delicate lady parts.
It’s going to be HOT so you’re going to need to stay hydrated. But because the water isn’t usually safe to drink in much of the Middle East, that means you need a bottle that will clean your water for you. Sound like too big of an ask? Not so. The Lifestraw water bottle is a classic choice using physical barriers to filter out impurities. But lately, I’ve been loving my LARQ PurVis self-cleaning water bottle. Featured on Shark Tank, it uses a powerful UV-C LED light in the cap to neutralize up to 99% of bacteria. This gives me total peace of mind that I can drink the water no matter where I go.
Finally, for the most flexibility, I’d recommend a rolling duffel-style bag that can become a backpack. I absolutely love my Osprey Fairview 65 for this! You can pack plenty into it with the various pockets, especially if you’re using packing cubes. Also, the rolling is super convenient and smooth, but it can convert into a backpack if you really need it! Great for if you’re taking a desert adventure – wheels don’t work so well on sand.
Tops & Layers
- Breathable tank tops ~ Whether you’ll be hiking or just lounging around, breathable and lightweight tank tops are some of the best clothes for hot weather in the Middle East. They will keep you cool and also help wick away sweat if they’re made of the right material. Make sure to get some solid, light colors so that you can mix and match them with the rest of your clothes. If you’re somewhere where it’s best not to show your shoulders, you can always cover yourself with your scarf or a lightweight shirt (see below).
- Cotton tees ~ The cotton ensures your tees are breathable and they have the benefit of covering your shoulders for more conservative areas. If you can, I would avoid a v-neck. V-necks weren’t usually a problem for me in Egypt, Jordan, and Israel, but higher necks ensure your wardrobe is as versatile as possible.
- Lightweight button-up shirts or blouses ~ A button-up shirt is one of the best clothes for hot weather in the Middle East as it adds style, versatility, and coverage. It’s easy to throw on to cover your shoulders if you don’t have your scarf on hand. Button-ups are my favorite stylish way to layer hot weather outfits in conservative countries. Similarly, a long-sleeve blouse will help keep you protected from the sun.
- Cardigan ~ Like I said above, it can get cooler than you might expect in the desert at night. This is especially true at elevation if you’re exploring the many mountains of the Middle East. A cardigan, as opposed to a pullover, is easy to throw on and allows you to have more breathability with the open front.
- Bralettes ~ If your cup size allows it, bralettes are some of the best clothes for hot weather in the Middle East (for reference, I’m a B/C cup and exclusively wear bralettes!). They are lightweight, breathable, and keep sweating to a minimum. In my opinion, they’re just way more comfortable than any other type of bra! I L-O-V-E my Adella bralette from Free People. Or, for girls who might need a bit more support, try the seamless Claudia bralette with removable pads.
Helpful tip: It’s unlikely you’ll need a jacket at all, so save some space in your suitcase and don’t bring one. However, you might want to pack a very light windbreaker if you prefer wearing a jacket over a cardigan.
Bottoms & Jumpsuits
- Lightweight linen pants ~ These are one of the best clothes for hot weather in the Middle East during the summer. However, make sure they’re a little open on the bottom to allow airflow. This could be an open palazzo pant or a loose skinny pant/jogger. Nowadays there are so many cute patterns and styles to choose from, you won’t have to compromise on style!
- Jumpsuits ~ A jumpsuit is one of the best clothes for hot weather in the Middle East when you want to dress things up while staying modest. To stay as cool as possible, try a culotte-style pant and loose upper half, maybe with a gathered waistline to still maintain a silhouette. Again, make sure the neckline isn’t too low. A button-front top for the jumpsuit can allow for some of the best flexibility for this.
- High-waisted denim shorts ~ High-waisted denim shorts that hit mid-thigh are a classic piece. They are perfect for less conservative areas in the Middle East. These were great to wear while I explored Petra in Jordan to stay cooler in the mid-day heat without showing all of my skin.
Helpful tip: Use your judgement when it comes to the clothing you pack. This will depend a lot on the degree of conservativeness of your destination. For example, while denim shorts were completely acceptable while I was in Jordan, maybe don’t pack them for a trip to Saudi Arabia!
Dresses & Skirts
- Maxi dresses ~ Great news: maxi dresses are both trendy and timeless and they come in all sorts of styles. Because of this, they are some of the best clothes for hot weather during summer in the Middle East. They cover your knees and your legs while allowing for airflow to cool you down. Opt for lighter colors so they don’t absorb the sun’s heat.
- Maxi skirts ~ Taking the maxi dress to another level of flexibility, maxi skirts allow you to mix and match with your tops. This will allow you to create as many outfits as possible with the fewest pieces. Perfect for ultralight packers!
- Bikini ~ The Middle East has some gorgeous areas where you’ll want a swimsuit, like the Red Sea in Egypt and the Dead Sea in Israel! Additionally, more touristy coastal areas usually have more relaxed expectations when it comes to modest dressing. However, if you pack a bikini, consider bringing less cheeky bottoms with a higher waist.
- One-piece ~ A more conservative go-to, one-pieces are the best swimsuits for hot weather in the Middle East. Luckily these days, there are all sorts of sexy styles that still allow you to maintain some modesty! I definitely recommend packing a one-piece if you’re traveling during summer in the Middle East.
Helpful tip: Acceptability of wearing a swimsuit varies widely across the Middle East. Again, use your best judgement here. In my personal experience, it was fine wearing a bikini on the coast of the Red Sea in Egypt. Israel is completely fine for this too, though you might want to wear a one-piece in the Dead Sea anyway because of how salty the water is! Wearing a bikini in Aqaba, Jordan on the Red Sea did lead to some harassment from men.
- Hiking sandals ~ Hiking sandals are hands-down some of the best clothes for hot weather in the Middle East. I loved my Tevas for summitting Mount Sinai in Egypt, before they got stolen a few years later in Saint Martin. 🙁 Since then, I’ve equally adored my Chacos for mucky hikes in Puerto Rico and Mexico. And if they can handle the muck, they can definitely handle the arid desert!
- Flip-flops ~ If you’re visiting coastal areas on your trip to the Middle East during summer, flip-flops are a clear choice. They’re the easiest to slip on to and from the beach as well as for shopping the bazaars in town.
- Versatile sneakers ~ Breathable, lightweight sneakers will also be a staple while traveling in the Middle East. They’ll allow your feet some more coverage during chillier nights or in larger metro areas like Cairo where you might want to protect your feet more. At risk of looking like a touristy American, Nike flyknits or similar can be a great breathable option. However, I’m looking forward to trying some all-terrain Tropicfeel travel sneakers soon as an alternate option!
- Low block heels ~ Heels are the perfect option when dressing up to go out for dinner in the evening – but not just any heels. Make sure to pick a low block heel for ultimate comfort and stability. For example, I love to take my pair of block heels from Lulu’s pretty much anywhere I travel – from Egypt to Mauritius!