Thursday, July 25, 2024

How to pack for summer like a travel editor

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HTSI travel editor Maria Shollenbarger

Cairo in June: “What are you thinking?” asks… everyone. No queues at the newly opened Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM), to start. Also: longer mornings and evenings for exploring Zamalek and the city’s downtown, which is one of the most atmospheric I know; day trips to the 4th-century Coptic monasteries at Wadi Natrun, and to Faiyum to buy ceramics. Everything in the suitcase is full-coverage, light fabrics, and wash-and-go, with one pair of standout earrings in case a dinner party breaks out.

Grevi abaca Cary hat

Grevi abaca Cary hat, €165
Grevi abaca Cary hat, €165

I’ve owned one of these on and off for much of the last 15 years. The fine-weave Manila hemp crushes right down to nothing, and bounces right back, making it supremely stuff-able into any overhead bag or rucksack. The slim, tanned-leather band says “adventure” but in lower-case, citified cursive. The colour is a perfect neutral. Even if my journalist’s salary allowed for a £500 designer hat splurge, I couldn’t countenance one, given there are so many OG makers producing Panama-style chicness for less than half that amount (and given how skilled I am at leaving hats behind in taxis, planes, lounges, cafés, etc). Grevi delivers, as the Italians say, excellent rapporto qualità-prezzo. €165, grevi-shop.com


Schostal cotton nightshirt

Schostal cotton nightshirt, €180
Schostal cotton nightshirt, €180

The cult popover sleep shirts from Rome’s favourite haberdashery bring both MVP style and utility-player versatility. Daytime, night time, in a mosque, church, museum or tomb, through the market, on the beach, to dinner, to sleep. The fine cotton gets softer with each wash, and has a mandarin collar with a button front to the chest. It looks good with silk trousers and a belt, and even better with jeans or cropped khakis and flat leather sandals. They make women’s versions, but you can’t go wrong with a classic guys’ Schostal pinstripe, which looks like a distant cousin of the Egyptian galabeya: ultimate menswear goals. €180, schostaloriginals.com 


Iosselliani Black Hole Sun earrings

Iosselliani gold-plated brass Black Hole Sun earrings, €114
Iosselliani gold-plated brass Black Hole Sun earrings, €114

As someone who’s lost or had stolen far too many precious baubles, I only travel with costume jewellery these days. Iosselliani has topped my list for years, delivering fun, sexy, slightly tough designs and quality workmanship at friendly prices. These earrings swing and sparkle; they’re so skinny you can pack them in the zip change compartment of your wallet, and the threads are removable, so you can dispense with the Studio 54 glitter and wear just the black crystal stud when you want. €114, iosselliani.com


City of Love and Ashes by Yusuf Idris

City of Love and Ashes by Yusuf Idris, £9.99
City of Love and Ashes by Yusuf Idris, £9.99

Yusuf Idris trained to be a doctor, but found himself drawn to storytelling as a means of making sense of the era through which he was living: the sun setting on British occupation, the dawn of Nasser’s regime, a country headed at velocity into the modern 20th century. Though he’s very famous in Egypt, I’d not heard of him until two years ago, when the man who runs the wonderful Obelisk bookstore in Aswan recommended this seminal 1956 novel. £9.99, bookshop.org 


P Johnson silk Chainmail head scarf

P Johnson silk Chainmail head scarf, A$220 (about £115)
P Johnson silk Chainmail head scarf, A$220 (about £115)

Sydneysiders Patrick and Tamsin Johnson collaborate on PJ Femme, the womenswear spinoff of Patrick’s small sartorial empire, with ateliers across Australia as well as New York and London. I love the sobriety and sleekness of their women’s collections; even the patterned silks, when they appear, are anything but girly. Case in point: this link-printed head scarf, which 1) goes with everything (including the earrings above), 2) looks great tied round the strap of your bag when you’re not using it, and 3) dresses up the aforementioned sleep shirt and jeans, knotted around your neck or tied over your hair. A$220 (about £115), pjt.com


Butterbur, Ceylon cinnamon and turmeric supplements

NOW Foods butterbur capsules, £24.53 for 60
NOW Foods butterbur capsules, £24.53 for 60

I love a desert; deserts do not love me back. In Cairo, Africa’s third-largest city, the combination of desert dust and pollution sends my autoimmune-response system to full Defcon 1. Over-the-counter antihistamines like Zyrtec and Benadryl work, but leave me feeling desiccated. Enter Butterbur supplements: enough quality studies have pointed to its potential natural antihistamine properties that I tried it last time I was in Egypt, and liked the result. For good measure I also pack turmeric powder (a powerful anti-inflammatory) and good-quality Ceylon cinnamon (a circulation booster, which may work as an antihistamine too) to stir into my morning coffee. Butterbur capsules, £24.53, landyschemist.com; turmeric powder, £1.50 for 50g; Ceylon cinnamon powder, £2.20 for 30g, spicemountain.co.uk

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