Born of the snowy tundras of central New York and transplanted to the ancient deserts of the Middle East, Amy McMahon is an avid adventuress, dirt-digging archeologist and educator extraordinaire. For insights on her explorations you can visit her archeology blog at www.thedirtdetective.typepad.com. We asked Amy to help us pack our suitcase for Egypt. Here are her suggestions.
1. Avoid shorts and tank tops as they only make you stand out as a tourist. Skirts are a cool and comfortable choice but not a requirement by any means. As long as your shoulders, knees and the bulk of your cleavage are tastefully covered youíll be considered respectful. Also keep solar-safety in mind. Its not such a bad idea (and surprisingly cooler) to keep as much skin as possible covered with cloth.
2. No need to bring headscarves to Egypt. There are no requirements for women to cover hair in holy places. Plus, scarves in Egypt are beautiful and inexpensive souvenirs that are very easy to find if you really do want to have one.
3. Bring a hat. Sunburn is very common, even in winter. Baseball caps are not always the best option (although perfectly acceptable if its your style) because in addition to making you stand out as a tourist they donít necessarily protect your neck from the sun.
4. Bring sun block with you. Being in the desert is a lot like being on the water: sand reflects sun upwards. Hats are not sufficient to prevent sunburns. The stuff is not so easy to find in Egypt and it ainít so cheap when you do find it.
5. Bring only TWO pairs of shoes: one for walking and touring, the other for evening and casual wear. I swear it can be done!
6. Choose to pack any article of clothing that could be easily washed by hand in a sink. Including underwear!!! Spending five minutes rinsing out clothes at the end of the day and letting them dry overnight is such a space saver.
7. Select ONE set of jewelry that will go with all of your outfits and that does not announce to the shopkeepers that you are made of money! Besides simplifying your wardrobe and reducing the chances of loosing favorite pieces, it makes bargaining with the merchants so much easier if they don't see you wearing expensive stuff.
8. If you are planning on shopping and bringing back a lot of things, be sure to pack an empty duffle bag that you can use on the way back. There's no sense in stuffing already full luggage and running the risk of damaging any new items. Duffels are lightweight and can be collapsed/condensed into your arrival luggage, taking up next to no space at all.
9. Plan on bringing no more than THREE outfits with you. The only people you will see for longer than three days are your travel companions and who cares what they think of your wardrobe! Select very comfortable outfits (including your flight clothes) that are roughly in the middle of fancy and dress-down. That way you'll never be too over or under dressed. I suggest selecting clothes that also share a color spectrum so you can easily exchange individual pieces when levels of dirtiness or temperature are factors. Black/white works best for me when I travel. Shades of brown are always appropriate for the desert.
10. Don't bring full sized bottles of toiletries, especially for short trips. Dollar stores almost always have travel sized clear plastic containers to fill with shampoo, moisturizers, etc. Also, Wal-Mart has miniature soap bars, deodorants, toothpastes and even hair spray that are all acceptable sizes for carry-on regulations. Sharing with your travel companions also reduces bulk.
Harassed in Egypt...
A reader reports another point of view...
Based on her travels, the following is part of a report sent to us from Elizabeth Eaves, a Journeywoman based in Seattle,Washington.
Make no mistake, you will be cat-called, whistled at, proposed to and, occasionally pinched. This is particularly true in big cities and in crowded, developing countries like Egypt and Indonesia. It can certainly be annoying. I find the best policy for dealing with the constant verbal barrage is simply to ignore it. In nearly all cases, it presents no physical threat. It helps to dress conservatively, and in ultra-orthodox countries like Yemen and Pakistan, I often felt more comfortable covering my hair as well. If you are actually touched, immediately turn around and shout at the offender, in the local language if you know any -- it helps to learn a few good insults. This will attract unwanted attention to your harasser, and most likely cause him to scuttle away in embarrassment.
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