Sunday, April 17, 2011

getting your darks darker than dark

I was going to call this post "getting your blacks blacker than black" but I was worried you might think I had taken on some of those post-colonial attitudes I have talked about in earlier posts.

It's another amusing cultural difference post I'm afraid but here is a placard advertising laundry liquid I found in the Al Maya supermarket:

Yes, it's an Abaya-clad lady advertising how to keep your Abayas a really nice, deep, jet black, lest they should fade to charcoal grey with repeated washings.  Not that I bother buying different laundry liquids for different types of laundry, but I seem to remember you can buy stuff especially for black clothes in the UK that features a glamourous strappy, velvety-looking dress on the bottle. 

I fluctuate in how I feel about women wearing this all encompassing garment on a regular basis.  In some ways it doesn't feel as restrictive as it would if I saw it in the UK because the men wear a nearly as all-encompassing garment in the form of white Dishdashas (basically an ankle length shirt that looks like a night shirt) with a scarf on their head known as a Smagh.  I've already talked about how the young Emirati women particularly go out of their way to look glamourous with designer heels, immaculate makeup and fiercely styled hair, which in some ways makes it feel both more and less repressive. 

However, I  have noticed a lot more what we in the West call Burkhas when they're actually Niqabs recently.  I can't decide whether I'm noticing them more since they were banned in France on April 11, which was obviously big news over here, and this is because more women are showing solidarity with women in France by wearing them more, or whether I am just looking out for them for this reason. 

We were at an Indian restaurant down near Mall of the Emirates recently and a young married couple rocked up and sat behind us.  I noticed he was in jeans and a checked shirt while she was wearing trousers with an abaya and head scarf over the top of her outfit.  I spotted that she had the words FIRST LADY picked out on diamante around the hem, which amused me a little, but I also spotted when her robes fell away to reveal her trousers, her husband picked them up and wrapped them around her legs again. 

I think with my Western attitudes, I'd probably say: "Screw you, if you're wearing Western dress, so am I" and dump the pesky garment in the bin.  But the sense I get from reading interviews with Emirati women here is that many couldn't fathom being seen in public without it, while rumours abound that at the same time some feel free to go out without it so they can pass as a non-Muslim, drink in the hotels and do all the western-style stuff they could ever want. 

It is indeed a strange society.  We were discussing this morning what would make us leave the Emirates in terms of our rights.  I certainly wouldn't be happy living in a society in which it is compulsory for women to wear headscarves and abayas, and definitely not niqabs or burkhas.  Abayas aren't compulsory here, it's just the done thing.  I just about cope with covering my knees and shoulders in the shopping malls (that applies to men too, but there are plenty of people who disobey it without problems).  If there was any nonsense about women getting permission from their husbands to leave the country, as with Saudi Arabia, I'd definitely want out.    

1 comment:

  1. Always great to read your perspective, Imo! Thanks for your posts.