Saturday, September 22, 2007

Wearing the Abaya

The Abaya is a full-length black robe which is worn by every woman when they appear in public in the city of Riyadh. I'll post some pictures of myself in the Abaya when I get my computer connection. It is very, very hot here, so the Abaya is a bit uncomfortable. However, I haven't had too much trouble with it. In fact, it's fun wearing the Abaya here at the University because I feel a bit like Professor McGonogall teaching the students at Hogwarts!

The difficulty comes in regards to the head covering. Abayas are sold with a matching head scarf which is worn in different ways. Conservative Muslims will cover the entire head. You'll see them trip and fall occasionally, as it is almost impossible to see while walking. Another option for conservatives is to wear a separate piece which surrounds the face and leaves slits for the eyes. Most women simply drape the scarf over their head. Westerners usually wear the scarf around the neck and are occasionally asked by the religious police (Muttawa) to cover.

I quickly picked up the unwritten do's and don'ts of the head covering. I cover while walking from the shuttle bus to the front door of the University. I cover while entering the place of Mormon meetings. But I don't cover in the grocery store or other public places. I'm getting the impression that women here would like to have a bit more freedom in being seen uncovered, and appearing in the grocery store with the head uncovered is generally acceptable.

I thought that I had the whole thing solved until my husband began reprimanding me whenever he saw that I was wearing the scarf around my neck. I asked him nicely to please butt out of telling me when to cover. But he continues to nag me. Now I feel like ripping the whole black thing off my body and wearing a bikini in public! So, why do you think I'm having such an extreme reaction? Am I afraid DH is buying into the whole subjugation of women thing? Or is it my rebellious nature reacting to the nagging?

Heavy sigh.

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