Living in Vancouver, B.C., a major port city in Canada, it’s common to see all walks of life walking the streets. I have seen practicing Muslim women before, covered head to toe no matter what the weather is. Long pants or skirts, long sleeve top, and a head scarf which is called a hijab. Sometimes they even wear a veiled hijab that only shows the eyes. I’ve never really thought about WHY the women choose to dress this way. I’ve always just made assumptions to myself, thinking it’s because the men in their culture don’t respect them and they are forced to hide themselves in public.
So, I entered Cairo with a very non-educated mind about the Muslim religion and soon found out my assumptions were half correct. Instead, the truth of the hijab is women choose to wear them, and dress they way they do to be treated with respect from men and not only thought as of sex objects. They believe that from the way they dress the men actually meet who they truly are and get to know the person inside first. Doesn’t sound so bad now does it ladies? Almost sounds similar to problems in our western society. How men react to you is, as much as we hate to admit it, a direct result as to how our men treat us. Dress like trash and guess who is treated like trash? Dress sexy and guess what thoughts are going through their minds? Etc, etc.
Muslim girls showing a sense of style paired with their hijabs
All of a sudden, how Muslim women choose to dress makes much more sense and many of them still have their own sense of style by pairing their hijabs with their outfits and wearing unique fashion tops or printed tees over their long sleeve clothing. However I have no idea how they can survive wearing that much clothing! It’s bloody hot in Cairo! Do they ever have some sort of internal stamina! Myself, to respect their culture made sure to get myself a pair of pants and a loose long sleeve top to wear while walking around the streets of Cairo. I had to do this shopping in October in Germany, which resulted in not many options to choose from since all the clothes for sale were made out of thick wools! I ended up with a pair of black yoga pants, and a semi see-through long sleeve top with a black tank top underneath, paired with a scarf to cover my chest. This outfit was still almost unbearable at the most of times and I often found myself rolling my sleeves up and loosening the scarf while sweating buckets.
My daily outfit in Cairo, as you can see amongst a heavy tourist site filled with westerners I have resorted to taking off my scarf and rolling up my sleeves the best I can
However, even with this respectful outfit I still felt a huge disrespect from most men in Cairo. They would never talk to me, only Scott, and if I said something it fell on deaf ears. It was always up to Scott to get the touts to go away as my comments like “We need to get back to our hotel to catch our plane” never worked in Cairo. Also, the further from the main core we went, especially while walking through the back lanes of the bazaar, I felt very perverted stares in my direction to the point that Scott could feel them as-well and told me to wrap my head up in my scarf. The moment I did that I instantly felt less stares. I only felt respect from men that worked in the tourist industry; the guides, hotel staff, personal drivers, and security. They would talk to me, make sure I was comfortable, ask my opinions, and I never caught them looking at my chest.
After my experience in Cairo, I feel I have more in common with Muslim women. Men across the world are the same and thus women have to dress in result of that. If you want to be respected you need to dress respectfully, and even though they cover themselves head to toe they are still very conscious about their beauty and style.