How to pack for the Middle East

The conservative cultures of the Middle East can make this part of the world one of the most challenging for Westerners to pack for. If you’re American and have never been immersed in a place with such drastically different values and customs, it can be tough to know exactly what is appropriate and how to plan within your existing wardrobe. Truthfully, it will vary from country to country, as some are much more conservative than others, but of the countries Western tourists are more likely to visit, some general tips and advice apply.

As a blonde American woman, I was certainly a little apprehensive when planning what I’d wear on my trip to Jordan and Egypt a few years ago. Standing at my closet, looking at my clothes and struggling to think of new, more conservative outfit combinations, I thought to myself, “But I already dress fairly modestly for the United States!” And as a trained, skilled artist who has an appreciation for the beauty of the human form, I felt perplexed at the idea that showing knees or shoulders would offend someone. But I was thinking in the mindset of someone who grew up in American culture and had traveled extensively to areas where the cultural norms for dress weren’t very different from my own. I had to step away from that and remember: More important than my own opinion is the act of showing respect for the culture I’m visiting.

Note: In 2014, I wrote a weekly blog series on budget travel for eHow. This post is from that series, so you'll have to head over to their site to read it in full. Thanks for reading!

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