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I know from visiting many catholic churches that many require knees and shoulders to be covered, so dressing appropriately is essential for hassle-free travel. Are there similar rules that might apply when visiting a mosque?

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Is this question really travel related? –  Michael Pryor Jun 24 '11 at 18:20
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Why would it not be? I'm unlikely to be visiting unfamiliar places of worship unless I'm travelling, and appropriate clothing is something a traveler will need to keep in mind. –  fredley Jun 25 '11 at 0:44
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This kind of information is in print travel guides so I think it's on topic. I got in trouble last year when entering a Georgian Orthodox church that it turned out the travel guide did advise me about if I had looked. –  hippietrail Jun 25 '11 at 17:38
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def travel related, it's amazing how many times I've been in danger of causing offence, simply by wearing shorts! –  Mark Mayo Oct 1 '11 at 18:14
    
It might depend on the country, e.g. Turkey is more liberal than Iran (even in mosques)... –  dbkk Oct 2 '11 at 11:40

4 Answers 4

up vote 19 down vote accepted

The most common rules (may vary of course):

  • you have to remove your shoes.
  • men: trousers, not shorts
  • women: long skirt (or trousers)
  • women: shoulder and arms cannot be exposed
  • women: scarf (sometimes)
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Well, to be religiously specific. Men are required to cover their knees (a man's non showable area is from the belly button to the knees)so in many parts of the Muslim world it is ok to wear shorts long enough to well cover your knees(such as in main cities of Egypt, Lebanon, Tunisia, Jordan, Algeria and even Libya) outside of main cities I personally wouldn't recommend it. –  msk Nov 12 '11 at 18:44
    
for women, i would say for visiting mosque, scarf is almost always necessary ... –  kmonsoor Feb 18 '13 at 10:33

Clothing restrictions in mosques often vary from country-to-country, and even within mosques in a country. Everyone is asked to take their shoes off at an entrance area. For men, no shorts are allowed; for women, no skirts or bare shoulders, in addition to this some countries also mandate women to wear a scarf.

Those are the basics, but how 'welcoming' a mosque is to tourists depends usually on how many tourists visit a place. The more frequented ones often have robes that they give you for free to 'cover yourself up' in case your clothing is deemed inappropriate. Smaller and/or less frequented mosques may not have such provisions.

Off-topic: Mosques often have special entrances for non-Muslim visitors. Don't go barging in through the main entrance; if unsure, ask. Most mosques also do not allow visitors into the main prayer area. Having said that, most people - or staff, if the mosque has them - are friendly and will help you out with trying to resolve clothing restrictions or other questions.

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even they may lend something "ad-hoc" to cover you up. –  kmonsoor Feb 18 '13 at 10:35
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I would like to add a relevant fact with this good answer. rather than religious identity, entrance to mosques mainly depends on the "taharah (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taharah )" of the person in question. for example, muslim women (while on period) & men when they in need of mandatory shower are strictly prohibited to enter any mosque. hence, for men, a good shower is enough, whereas for women the fact will vary wildly depending on the location (while from scholar POV, well-showered and not-on-period is well enough). –  kmonsoor Feb 18 '13 at 10:51

Generally it would be said to you if you need to do some specific - rules are various from country to country and even from town to town.
I can't remember something applied to all except that you really should not eat or sleep there, or something like that :)
Dogs are banned too.
Calm, peaceful and polite non-Muslim will not attract negative energy during visiting the mosque.

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It does depend on the specific country and the norms of the place. In the Putrajaya Mosque in Malaysia you get given a pink robe to cover up, and even then you can't enter the mosque proper if you're not Muslim; yet while visiting the Netherlands with a youth travel group of all sorts of backgrounds (and attire) we were welcomed into a Turkish surau (a mini-mosque of sorts) as we are.

Loose and modest tends to be the way to go really.

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