Saturday, October 11, 2008


My father had visited Cairo many years ago and then again last year after I moved here, and there were two things that stood out in his mind:

a/ He was shocked at the construction that had been allowed to take place right next to the Pyramids. When he had come, many years ago, you could only drive upto some distance away and then ride camels upto the Pyramids. He was appalled at the risk the Pyramids had been put to!

b/ He was also surprised by the number of women who were wearing the hijab or the head scarf. When he was here earlier, there were very few women sporting the traditional hijab but now he found an overwhelmingly large number of women wearing it.

The latter sparked off a discussion on hijabs and how would we feel if we had to wear one, and, more importantly, the amazing varieties and types of hijabs that one could see in Cairo. In fact, I remember an Egyptian wedding that we attended where my biggest regret was not carrying a camera, just to be able to capture the myriad ornate, colourful and very fashionable head gear worn by the women! I would happily wear one of those as a fashion statement!

Though I must admit, I am quite amazed by the difference in the hijabs worn here. Some are extremely fashionable, with two layers of cloth with each layer coloured to match the outfit being worn! While there are still others who will wear lifeless, dull black or brown, severely draped and extremely utilitarian. And then there are those, worn usually by older women, which are fashioned like exotic turbans and look very avant garde!

That triggered off an interest to find out the different kinds of head gear that are there for muslim women to wear, and, I came across the following. This is what I found browsing the net, on different websites, so if there is an error or misrepresentation its completeley unintentional.

a/ Al Amira is a 2 piece affair. It usually consists of a close fitting cap, and, an accompanying tube like scarf.

b/ Shayla is a long rectangular scarf popular in the Gulf. drapped around the head, flung across the shoulder, it is usually pinned at the shoulders to keep it in place

c/ Khimar Like a cape, it covers the head, the hair and the neck and usually hangs down upto the waist, but the face is clearly visible.

d/ Chador Worn by Iranian women, when outside the house, and is a full body cloak, usually accompanied by a small headscarf underneath!

e/ Niqab A full veil that covers the women from head to toe leaving the eyes uncovered.

f/ Burqa The most concealing of all the hijabs. It coveres a woman completely leaving only a mesh for the eys for the woman to lok through.

In fact, while browsing the web for different types of hijabs, came across this interesting template!

The other thing that amazed me while browsing the net for these, was the way different versions of hijab have been stylised to make them fashionable. I think that's extremely sensible & progressive. If a woman has to wear the head scarf, there is nothing which says that it should not be stylish!


Connie said...

I am all for letting people wear whatever they want - although I wish it was more about women wearing what they want, and not, as I've had many tell me, wearing it to stave off sexual harassment (doesn't work - I read the news).

What I do not like, is seeing the niqab or burqa wearers, who have tailored their clothes tighter (in strategic areas) than I'd wear clubbing clothes, have enough make-up on to shine through the mesh over their eyes, and make sure that all of their gold (both wrists and necks) is plainly visible OVER their clothes. I do not mind some fashionable dressing, but I thought the whole idea was to be humble before God? Not picking on Muslims. I see the same 'Religion as an accessory' on certain people in the US too - and don't like it there either.

Cairo Typ0 said...

The template is hilarious! I love how the "no hijab" woman looks dull dowdy next to "sexy hijab." One of the things i have found interesting in Egypt is the way women adhere to the rules about covering up but do so in super form-fitting clothes with matching hijab tied "in the latest style."

Manisha said...

Yup, the template was rather amusing. Kudos to the author!

Anonymous said...

Wahabism is responsible for the spreading of Hijab in Egypt in the last 30 years.

after a lot of Egyptians went to work in Persian gulf Arab countries, they brainwashed by the Wahabi shit and return just to spread the shit in Egypt.

i believe this Wahabism is also responsible for sexual harassment spreading in Egypt.

Anonymous said...

hijab is a necessity not just to avoid harassments. its a sign of modesty & privacy "at least thats wht its meant to be" really interesting research. thank u