The first time I landed in the Middle East I was shocked, not because of the temperatures or that everything was covered in sand instead of snow, but because everyone dressed so differently to me. Or now that I am on their turf, I dressed differently to THEM. I stuck out like a sore thumb!
In all honesty the women in long flowing black robes intimidated me, I was naive and ignorant to different cultures and why women would choose to cover themselves completely. I thought of what me and my friends would wear on a Saturday night out dancing in the town, I couldn’t imagine myself ever wearing what these Muslim girls did. I grew up in the Northern parts of the UK, away from the large Muslim communities in London, Bradford and Birmingham so it was all new to me.
But after spending the past 7 months of my life in Oman I have a whole new found respect and understanding for the way these women behave and dress. The long black robes are infact called an Abaya and calling them a “black cloak” just doesn’t do them justice at all! They may just look simple but infact there is alot that goes into it – the fabric, the cut, the length, the fit, the details. They really are beautiful once you stop for a minute to appreciate the style. The way these people carry themselves and respect one another is amazing, no one is falling about drunk or too much pasty flesh on show, gag!
With blogs posts from people such as ‘How to live like an Omani Princess’ and ‘Madmoiselle ShoSho’ showing the latest in Abaya chic and how to dress without showing too much flesh or being disrespectful you can’t really go wrong.
This week I had my brother in town to visit and we decided to take a trip to the Sultan Quaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat, it is the most beautiful place I have ever been (I have blogged about it quite a few times already) so I wanted to take him to show him the Mosque in real life. This particular Mosque allows non-Muslim visitors during their set times as long as they are covered up appropriately, traditional dress is not mandatory like some other places of worship.
In an effort to be respectful myself and my brother went shopping for our new clothes. He bought a Dish Dasha, the mens long white robe, and I bought my very first Abaya.
Several Omani people thanked us for making the effort to dress this way so that was lovely that they appreciated it and wanted to take the time to speak to us.
But incase you have got this far and you are missing the point of the blog post, we are not trying to mock anyone by dressing in this way nor are we trying to be funny – we wanted to be respectful in the Mosque to the Muslims and the Omani people who have treated us so well.
To my surprise I actually enjoy wearing my Abaya and understand so much more now about why women dress in this way, it is not suppresive or a terrible thing to wear at all. It is comfortable, practical and stylish.
And now when I think back to what I used to wear on a Saturday night in the town and how I would behave – I cringe! Who would of thought it would take just 7 months to completely change my outlook on life?! We could all learn something from the Muslim way of life.