Sunday, November 15, 2020

MODEST FASHION: How To Dress For Your Safari In Kenya


Preparing for your safari to Kenya can be a difficult task. When preparing what to carry, a lot of questions will cross your mind...and one of them will be, “Can I wear shorts in Kenya?”

The answer to this question above is yes. You can wear shorts in Kenya but only in your privacy like your hotel room and in your tour van or car. You have to be mindful of where you will be going when wearing them. This is because wearing shorts by men and women is generally frowned upon in Kenya and wearing them in public will not be appropriate. In this article, I will mention the places where wearing shorts is appropriate and the place you should avoid going to when wearing shorts.


What I mean by shorts
The shorts I am referring to are those that are above the knees. An example of this is hotpant. Shorts below the knees are completely appropriate and are not what I am referring to in this article.

Why Women Don’t Wear Shorts in Kenya.
Most Kenyan women value modesty in dressing. According to them, modesty, is expressed by wearing clothes that do not expose their body shapes like thighs, shoulders or torso. They, therefore, hardly tolerate anyone wearing something they consider indecent. This norm restricts most Kenyan women to stay away from shorts or anything that is very revealing when out in public.

Kenyan Primary School Boy wearing a Short
All primary schools in Kenya enforce their students to wear uniforms. The boys, in particular, are required to wear shorts to school and this changes when they move to high shcool where they are allowed to wear pants. The transition from shorts to pants when going to high school is always a moment of pride for many Kenyan boys. It is perceived as a transformation from being a boy to being a man. This is the more reason why wearing shorts by a man in Kenya is considered indecent and immoral.

Places where shorts are appropriate for tourists in Kenya

These are the following places where you can be free to wear shorts without feeling that you are offending anyone in Kenya:

    The beach and Swimming Pool: Kenyans dress very casual when they go to the beach. Even though topless swimming is not allowed on the Kenyan beaches, you still find people in swimsuits and the men wearing shorts.
    Your Hotel: People who work in hotel in Kenya are more familiar with seeing people dressed in more revealing clothing or body-fitting outfits than the rest of the Kenyan public. I once interrogated my friend who used to work at the Intercontinental Hotel on this. He said to me that a normal place to see men and women in shorts are at the restaurants and lounges.


Places where shorts are inappropriate for tourists in Kenya

When you are wearing shorts in Kenya, you will definitely want to exempt going to the following places:

    Religious buildings: If you want to visit religious places like a mosque, church or temple in Kenya, you have to stay away from shorts or anything that exposes the thighs, shoulders, and chest. The rules are stringent, therefore, you may risk offending the people there enough to be asked to leave.
    Markets and Bazaars: There is a quote in one of the Kenyan languages that says “every market has its mad-man”. Markets in Kenya are usually really crowded and the sometimes have individuals who may not be as calm as the rest of the people. You, therefore risk being harassed, if you wear very revealing cloth to a Kenyan market. To avoid any form of harrassment, you should do away with wearing shorts.
      The streets of big towns like Nairobi and Mombasa are crowded places yet you will be visible as a foreigner. To avoid being a target for pickpocketers on the streets, try to blend in with the crowd. This begins with what you are wearing and it should be noted that wearing shorts is out of it.

More Appropriate Alternatives to shorts
These are the good alternatives to wearing shorts in Kenya:
  •     Long Pants
  •     Maxi dresses
  •     Shorts that go below the knee

As mentioned earlier, any short cloth or body-fitting outfit that exposes the thighs and chest are considered inappropriate in Kenya. They include:
  •     Tank Tops
  •     Skirts cut above the Knee
  •     Crop tops
  •     Open back dresses

Towns are more liberal than villages.
Dressing in Kenyan towns and cities are permissive than the dressing in villages. It is more acceptable in Kenyan towns to wear revealing clothes. City dwellers are more used to dealing with foreigners. They will be less offended if you are wearing shorts or other clothes they might be considered revealing.

Can I wear shorts when on Safari?
Yes, you can wear shorts when on safari or game drive. You will be in your tour van, the driver and other staff are used to seeing tourists dressed in different ways, so they won't be offended. The only challenge with this is the mosquitoes, tsetse flies and other bugs that may attack you. The National parks have many different bugs that may bite you and when on a safari game drive, you may encounter some of these. The most comon is the mosquito and you know how annoying they can be.
The best choice when going out on a game drive is to wear brown or green khaki pants. Wearing black or blue pants should be avoided as these colours attract tsetse flies and might spook the animals if you are in an open tour van.

Can I wear shorts when going on a mission trip?
If you are coming to Kenya to do non-profit or volunteer work, you will be interacting with very conservative communities. It is very important in this case to avoid wearing shorts as you are likely to offend the people you will be serving. Therefore, it is best to avoid wearing any revealing clothing.

Can I wear shorts to and from the airport?
You can wear shorts when arriving the airport or departing from the airport in Kenya without the fear of offending anyone. This is because you will be going from the airport to your hotel room and you definately will not run into any locals before getting to your hotel. Therefore, wear what is comfortable for you and this includes shorts.


The rules in this guide are not cast in stone as you can even break them without getting into trouble. However, my sole aim of writing this article is to give you the Kenyan perspective to dressing and what is considered offensive to the average Kenyans. You might find a number of more liberal-minded Kenyans dressed in shorts but this is more likely to be in urban areas. When you arrive to Kenya, observe what other people around you are wearing and quickly adapt yourself to this.

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