No questions asked, I love to travel. I am off somewhere new every chance I get. In March I had the opportunity to go to Jordan as part of my Masters program at George Mason University in International Conflict Analysis and Resolution. (P.S., I graduated in May!!!!) The trip focused on the Syrian civil war and the resulting refugee crisis. As Jordan is Syria’s southern neighbor, and host to the third largest number of Syrian refugees worldwide, it was the perfect place to learn.
While my trip consisted of a lot of formal and informal meetings, there were also many opportunities for tourism: the amazing ruins of Petra and soaks in the Dead Sea just to name a couple! And I had to pack for it all, which can be really intimidating! While my packing list could have been scary, Jordan was not. If anything, I want this post to convey that a) packing can be easy if you do it strategically, and b) parts of the Middle East should not be considered off limits to your exploration. It’s filled with amazing sights, wonderful people, and fascinating culture and history.
There are a couple things you can do to make packing easy and your packing list short. You’ll notice that I stuck with neutral colors that mostly blended together. This way mixing and matching is made easy. You also want to make sure you have one to two easy and chic layering pieces in your suitcase. I could swap in and out any of these jackets to change the outfit and keep it fresh without packing a million different outfits. Jackets are also important because depending on the time of the year it can be really chilly over there. Make sure to check the weather before heading out. Jackets will be your best friend.
While at the Dead Sea I spent as much time as possible soaking up the sun and the mineral rich water. While swimming in my bikini wasn’t a problem, I wanted to make sure I was appropriately covered while walking around the resort. Pack a lightweight beach cover-up and/or a tunic style top to make this easy.
Packing a scarf is critical to a successful and respectful trip. As mentioned previously, there were several formal meetings on the itinerary for this trip. One of these meetings was with the Grand Mufti of Jordan, the top appointed Islamic scholar of Jordan. This meeting required all the women on the trip to cover our heads. You’ll notice that, despite being wrapped poorly, the simple addition of a scarf made my U.S. appropriate work attire to a culturally and professionally appropriate outfit for Jordan.
While the scarf I brought was necessary for getting into the meeting, a scarf comes in handy even if you aren’t meeting with high-ranking religious officials. 1) Warmth, duh. 2) Touring places of worship that require a woman’s shoulders and/or head be covered. Religious sites all over the world – Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, and Jewish, alike – often times require women to be covered. Scarves are an easy way to make sure your outfit complies with these standards.