21 January 2005

A Note on Head Scarf Fashion

An observation in Egypt made me realise that there are lots of different ways to wear them, as long as they cover the head in some way.

Head scarf fashion in Egypt was quite different from the way the hijab is worn in Dubai, although there are of course different cultural groups here, who, while all subscribing to the Muslim requirement for a head covering, all have their own ways and means, depending on their nationality. In Dubai women who wear the hijab (the black head scarf) also wear the abaya, the black cloak (not to be confused with the burquah, which covers the body from head to toe including a mesh for the face, sometimes coloured blue). Some also cover their faces with a part of the hijab, only showing their eyes, or, even more restrictive, some women wear a thin black piece of fabric across their face that even obscures the eyes, often also covering their hands in gloves. All of those outfits are black, a local tradition, although the outfits are frequently decorated with embroidery and very glamourous beading.


A Glamourous Local Lady

Eyptian women displayed a variety of colours in their headscarf, although many local women don't seem to wear it at all (unlike here, where a woman with an uncovered head is usually an expat). Scarf colours in Egypt were usually co-ordinated with the rest of the outfit, there were few abayas, instead women wore floor-length narrow skirts or trousers.


Egyptian Head Scarf Fashion on Display

In Dubai fashion requires the headscarf to be wrapped twice round the head with some fabric tucked in to cover the forehead. In order for the construct to hold up, the (long) hair has to be tied up in a high bun under the fabric so that the end of the scarf can be casually thrown over the knot. The whole thing is quite fragile and requires a lot of fixing. So fiddling with the scarf is a common sight and constant occupation for elegant local ladies who lunch. The most commonly worn scarf in Egypt was a large square piece of fabric, folded in half to cover head and shoulders and pinned at the front or on the side of the face. The long edges either fall across the shoulders or are hidden under a jacket, very stable, practical and less prone to collapse than the flimsy constructs of Dubai.

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