Saturday, July 29, 2006
Clothes maketh the (wo)man - Re-post
Okay, we have reached the highly un-PC subject of the National Dress of the UAE. I am sure you all know and recognise the long black coat-like dress (abaya) and the head scarf(shayla) that the women wear. (As seen here, being worn by the blue-eyed infidel – Dear Moi and DD who could easily pass for one of Arab descent!)
Although abaya’s are basically black and basically shapeless, you would be amazed at the number of variations you see. Hemlines, cuffs and necklines are exquisitely embroidered and beaded – making each one a fashion statement in a subtle but very clear way. Some have a small train which drags along the filthy pavement, but most are about ankle length. This means that the ladies have carte blanche to decorate their feet with the most exquisite (and expensive!) shoes oil money can buy!
The other “must-have” accessory is a highly decorated Prada or Gucci or similarly over-the-top handbag.
Shayla’s are mostly black, but we have seen them in every other colour as well. Some are patterned, some fringed, some even have pom pom’s hanging around the edges! Women are constantly fiddling with and flicking their shayla’s – much like European women fiddle and flick their hair! We have seen shayla’s that leave the face uncovered, some that leave just the eyes uncovered and some that cover the entire face. The women have become very adept at eating and drinking and talking on cellphones whilst wearing the face-covering shayla’s. A Macdonalds hamburger is tucked under the chin part, thereupon follows some wiggling and squirming and viola (!) out pops the empty wrapper!
I feel most sorry for the babies who never get to see their mother’s face once outside the home. No smiling, winking or contortions of the mouth that normally accompany a mommy talking to her little one.
Some of the most devoted Muslim ladies wear elbow length black gloves and thick black stockings as well. And one of the most perturbing accessories I have seen is the burqa which is a stiff leather mask which covers eyebrows, nose and mouth – much like those awful braces some teenagers are unlucky enough to have to wear. The first time we saw one of these, on an elderly lady, I felt terribly concerned for her, believing that she must have been in a terrible accident and was wearing some sort of corrective headgear! They remind me of a horse’s bridle and I cannot see how these awful things can be considered anything other than gross. But, to each his/her own, I suppose.
Ladies who don’t have to cover their hands with gloves, often have them ornately decorated with henna painting. Each finger then also sports a flashy, flamboyant ring which glitters and glistens as the hands express what the face cannot. Feet are often also decorated and look very fetching in sexy high-heel sandals - another post for another day.
You know, we Westerners may feel that the abaya and shayla are offensive symbols of oppression, and maybe in certain parts of the world, they are. But I figure, anything that can cover you up when you are having a feeling-fat, bad hair, no makeup kind of a day, can't be all THAT bad!!