Wild Wadi (Women Only)

One of the more contentious points of Islamic culture, from a Western point of view, is the wearing of the hijab.  While it is an issue receiving international attention, with France having outlawed it completely, we’ve had our own, more personal experiences with it here during our travels and daily life in the Middle East.

First, some definition of terms usually used rather loosely in the West:

Advertisement for Wild Wadi Waterpark in the UAE.

– Burka: the long, draping outer body covering, also sometimes called a jelaba or ghalabia especially when worn by men

– Hijab:  covering for the head

– Niqab:  covering or veil over the face

The wearing of these traditional garments varies from place to place in the Middle East and even from sect to sect within a country, or region, according to that sect’s interpretation and adherence to tradition.  Where this tradition springs from is briefly but nicely reviewed, with excerpts from relevant Islamic sources, in this article from Emory University.

As for our personal experience:  here in Oman some women wear it, some do not.  Foreign women are not compelled.  Muslim women seem to chose for themselves or adhere to the values inculcated in them as a part of their family upbringing.  In other countries, like Morocco, the hijab is rarely seen.  Or, on the opposite end, in Saudi Arabia it is mandated for all women, non-Muslims included (although, somewhat surprisingly, most western women we met generally did not wear a head covering, and were not often reprimanded for it by the Mutawwa, the Saudi religious police . . . )  My wife, Angie, actually enjoyed wearing the full body covering, feeling (for once) like she wasn’t being stared at and, moreover, feeling releaved at not having to wear make-up, nice clothes, etc.  I think she spent all our time in Riyadh clothed in a yoga outfit, her very favorite choice of apparel, tucked away under the burka!

Best of all, and perhaps most in-line with other Not Quite Right observations here, is the photo above, a quick shot Angie took of an advertisement she saw for a waterpark in the UAE.  It seems, at first, to be tongue-in-cheek with the woman wearing a fluffy pink towel in place of the usual black facial covering.  But, really, it is serious.  No men allowed.  Women only.  The fine print makes an allowance for boys under 8 years old entering the park on these particular Thursday nights in the company of their moms, but only if they can provide proof of their age!


3 responses to “Wild Wadi (Women Only)

  • Zoe Ferraris

    That is the fluffiest pink niqab I’ve ever seen! It looks like the spa version of the burqini.

    A few days ago I was talking with some people who’ve traveled extensively in the Middle East, and they observed that more women seem to be wearing the hijaab/niqab now than they did back in the 70s and 80s – all over the ME, not just in Saudi and Iran. A friend of mine from Oman said that coming to America was a shock for her, because Omani women here were almost ALL wearing hijaab, whereas they wouldn’t in Oman. It’s just become so politicized.

    I have to say, if they’re going to segregate a waterpark, at least they have a “women’s night”. Although they should be doing the opposite – have a women’s-only park, with men only allowed to come one night a week. Seems to me women would be more likely to go during the day, given that they’re the ones usually taking care of the kids.

    P.S. I totally agree with your wife – sometimes it’s nice being covered and not having to be stared at. Especially when you’re a foreigner…

  • richard merrill

    Loving this, Ben. You’re fighting the good fight. keep it up. Right in my inbox!

  • Benjamin Buchholz

    I think there is a pro-hijab ‘fad’ right now. What the impetus behind that fad might be, whether it is a reaction against the influx of western media and western media’s terrible monetization of femininity or whether it is just a cyclical thing, I don’t know.

    One of my friends here remarked to me the other day that two or three years ago he never would have seen schoolgirls wearing their hair so that it could be seen (a little tuft of bangs teased out at the front). Also, a lot of the wealthier/more fashionable women seem to be wearing these huge beehive-type devices under their hijab, making them look like the old Saturday Night Live conehead families, albeit with black coverings.

    So those are a couple of recent fadish developments, showing that the style/tradition of the hijab does change from year to year.

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