What do people wear in the desert?


In this article, we will explore the various clothing options people wear in the desert to protect themselves from the harsh environment. The desert poses unique challenges such as extreme heat, sandstorms, and limited water sources, which require appropriate clothing choices. Let’s delve into the details of what people wear in the desert.

1. Traditional Desert Clothing

Desert dwellers have developed traditional clothing that is well-suited to the desert environment. These garments are designed to provide protection from the intense heat and sandy conditions. Here are some examples:

1.1 Thobe

The thobe, also known as a dishdasha or kandura, is a loose-fitting ankle-length garment commonly worn by men in the Arabian desert. It is made of lightweight fabric, usually cotton, to keep the body cool. The loose fit allows air circulation, preventing excessive sweating.

1.2 Abaya

The abaya is a loose-fitting black cloak commonly worn by women in the Middle East, including desert regions. It provides coverage and protection from the sun’s rays. Abayas are often made of lightweight materials such as chiffon or cotton to ensure breathability.

2. Bedouin Clothing

The Bedouin people, known for their nomadic lifestyle in the desert, have specific clothing traditions that are both functional and culturally significant. Here are some key elements of Bedouin clothing:

2.1 Keffiyeh

The keffiyeh, also known as a shemagh or ghutra, is a traditional headdress worn by Bedouin men. It consists of a square scarf made of cotton or wool. The keffiyeh provides protection from the sun and can also be used to cover the face during sandstorms.

2.2 Thobes and Abayas

Bedouin men and women often wear traditional thobes and abayas similar to those mentioned earlier. However, their designs may have distinct patterns and embroidery that reflect their cultural heritage.

Desert Survival: Layering & Sweat Management

3. Western Clothing Adapted for the Desert

Many people visiting or living in desert regions choose to wear western-style clothing that has been adapted for the extreme conditions. These clothing options offer a blend of functionality and comfort. Here are some examples:

3.1 Lightweight and Breathable Fabrics

Choosing lightweight and breathable fabrics such as linen, cotton, or moisture-wicking synthetic materials is crucial in desert environments. These fabrics allow for better air circulation and help in moisture evaporation, keeping the body cooler.

3.2 Long-sleeved Shirts and Pants

Long-sleeved shirts and pants provide protection from the sun’s rays and prevent direct contact with the skin, reducing the risk of sunburn and heat absorption. It is advisable to choose loose-fitting garments that allow air circulation.

3.3 Headgear

Wearing a wide-brimmed hat or a cap with a neck flap provides shade for the face and neck, minimizing the risk of sunburn. Additionally, wearing a scarf or a bandana around the neck can help protect against the sun and sand.

4. Protective Accessories

Aside from clothing, there are various accessories that people wear in the desert to enhance their protection and comfort. Let’s explore some of these accessories:

4.1 Sunglasses

Sunglasses with UV protection are essential in the desert to shield the eyes from the intense sunlight. They also help reduce glare caused by the reflection of the sun’s rays on sand or other surfaces.

4.2 Desert Boots

Desert boots, also known as tactical boots, are specially designed to withstand the harsh desert conditions. They offer ankle support, are lightweight, and have durable soles that can withstand walking on hot sand.

4.3 Scarves and Bandanas

Scarves and bandanas serve multiple purposes in the desert. They can be used to cover the face during sandstorms, as head coverings, or as protection against the sun and sand.

5. FAQs

5.1 What type of clothing is best for extreme heat in the desert?

The best clothing for extreme heat in the desert is loose-fitting, lightweight garments made of breathable fabrics such as cotton or linen. These materials allow for better air circulation and help in moisture evaporation, keeping the body cool.

5.2 Do people wear shorts in the desert?

While shorts may seem like a comfortable choice in hot weather, they are not commonly worn in the desert. Exposing the legs to direct sunlight increases the risk of sunburn and heat absorption. It is advisable to wear long pants or skirts that provide more coverage and protection.

5.3 Should I wear dark or light-colored clothing in the desert?

Light-colored clothing is generally recommended in the desert as it reflects sunlight and helps to keep the body temperature lower. Dark-colored clothing absorbs heat and can make you feel hotter. However, it is essential to prioritize sun protection over color choice by wearing clothing with UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) ratings.

5.4 Can I wear sandals in the desert?

While sandals may seem comfortable, they are not the best choice for desert environments. Sand and rocks can cause discomfort and potential injuries to the feet. It is advisable to wear closed-toe shoes or desert boots that provide better protection and support.

5.5 What should I consider when choosing headgear for the desert?

When choosing headgear for the desert, opt for wide-brimmed hats or caps with neck flaps. These provide shade for the face and neck, minimizing the risk of sunburn. Additionally, consider wearing a scarf or bandana around the neck to protect against the sun and sand.

5.6 How do I protect my eyes in the desert?

Protect your eyes in the desert by wearing sunglasses with UV protection. The intense sunlight in the desert can be harmful to the eyes and may cause eye strain or damage. Ensure that your sunglasses provide adequate coverage and have a high level of UV protection.

5.7 Are there any specific clothing considerations for sandstorms?

During sandstorms, it is essential to protect your entire body from the blowing sand. Wear long-sleeved shirts, pants, and closed-toe shoes to minimize exposed areas. Cover your face with a scarf or shemagh to shield it from the sand and dust.

5.8 What are the benefits of traditional desert clothing?

Traditional desert clothing, such as the thobe and abaya, have been designed over generations to provide optimal protection and comfort in desert environments. They are made of lightweight and breathable fabrics that allow for air circulation and offer coverage from the sun.

5.9 How can I stay cool in the desert?

To stay cool in the desert, it is important to choose loose-fitting clothing made of breathable fabrics. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and seek shade whenever possible. Applying sunscreen regularly and wearing sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat also help in staying cool.

5.10 Can I wear makeup in the desert?

Wearing heavy makeup in the desert is not recommended as it can clog pores and make the skin more prone to heat-related issues. Opt for lightweight and oil-free makeup products, if necessary, and prioritize sun protection by using sunscreen with a high SPF.


When it comes to clothing choices in the desert, it is crucial to prioritize protection from the harsh environment. Whether opting for traditional desert clothing or adapting western-style garments, choosing lightweight and breathable fabrics, covering exposed skin, and wearing appropriate accessories are key to staying comfortable and safe in the desert.

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