This packing list is created based on my experience in Jordan on the State Department fully funded Critical Language Scholarship. This packing list is best suited to help study abroad students who plan to travel to Jordan or elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa over the summer. Of course, many people have many different needs but this is the list of items that I found I actually used and I don’t feel like I overpacked or under packed.
I have created a downloaded PDF packing list for a comprehensive and usable list. In this post, I wanted to highlight some items that I found to be highly useful and not commonly thought of as essential.
For clothes, I recommend sticking to a color palette so you can easily mix and match items to expand your wardrobe. The clothes I wear in the Middle East are different from the ones I wear in the U.S. so I have a special Middle East wardrobe that I have collected over the years. I have found most of my pieces from TjMaxx and the Gap. Here are some example outfits. The main thing I consider when buying and packing for the Middle East is if the item is loose, lightweight, and versatile.
I brought two pairs of jeans with me (blue and black) and I wore them but they were definitely my least comfortable pants because of how tight and hot they were. I preferred my culottes which I wore most days. Most of the loose and light tops that I found at TJMaxx were sleeveless which is appropriate to wear in private settings such as at school or with a host family, but this is why I had a coverall that I loved to wear. It covered my shoulders and my butt which helped a lot with modesty in public spaces and helped prevent sunburn.
After this study abroad, I mistakenly told myself I would not need that blue coverup anymore and I donated it. I really regret that. I had to buy a new one and I couldn’t find a neutral one. The one I had in Jordan was crazy multicolored and not really my style but it worked.
For shoes, I had a pair of Adidas tennis shoes and Birkenstocks. I usually traveled with a lightweight backpack which was very helpful for carrying necessities such as sunscreen, phone, wallet, and water.
I personally do not like wearing long skirts or dresses. I don’t feel like “me” and I feel like I stand out more as a tourist.
Beyond the basics, I recommend bringing a towel, especially if traveling to Morocco. In my experience, towels are viewed as very personal items and my host families have never provided me with one and neither have my Airbnb. I also recommend bringing nail clippers and tweezers, both are very helpful tools but easily forgotten.
I normally don’t use flashcards in the U.S. when I study Arabic, but I found flashcards to be super useful on long bus rides in Jordan. Luckily, my roommate brought a lot of index cards and we were able to study together while going to the Dead Sea and Petra. Scissors and tape are always useful and even when I don’t expect to use them, I always do.
Both Morocco and Jordan use European outlets so a plug adapter is necessary. I have always brought a powerstrip too because many times a room only has one outlet and I have had to charge multiple things. Also, if you are going to have a roommate then a powerstrip is even more helpful.
Luggage locks are helpful for storing valuables within a host family especially if you have younger host siblings. I also recommend bringing ziplock bags because they are so helpful and useful. I usually bring both gallon and sandwich size. Host moms also usually love Ziplock bags so it’s a nice gift to leave behind at the end of your trip. The tap water in Jordan is not potable. Most host families have a water jug in the kitchen that can be used to fill water bottles, so I would recommend bringing a reusable water bottle.
HOST FAMILY GIFTS
I want my gifts to my host family to be both useful and memorable. I have found that food-related gifts are the best. Often, I haven’t known any information about my host family prior to departure so it’s hard to predict if I should get a state T-shirt or what size or how many. With so many variables I have leaned away from T-shirt gifts and personalized gifts for each member of the family. Local jam and honey from your farmer’s market is a great gift. In Morocco, breakfast is usually bread with honey, jam, cheese, Nutella, or olive oil which makes this idea very useful. I usually don’t bring coffee or tea as a gift because the Middle East makes a very different kind of coffee compared to American coffee and in my opinion, they are very set in their coffee and tea ways. Bringing dried fruit (not date, figs, or apricots) is also a great idea. Dried fruit is very popular in the Middle East but some fruits are not readily available such as strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries. These berries would be a wonderful and delightful surprise. If you have host siblings, candy (without gelatin) is a great gift. If you’re going to be staying with your host family for an extended period of time, you can bring a picture book of your city/ town. I have made a personal scrapbook of my family as well. During the first week, I sat down with my host family and explained to them who I am, who my family is, and my hobbies which were all in the scrapbook. In a pinch, you can pick up a fun keychain. Everyone has keys and adding a keychain to keys is useful.
PDF PACKING LIST DOWNLOAD
This list is not completely comprehensive but will help get you started on packing. It’s been created with summer language study abroad students in mind.