Recently we had a chance to visit Cairo’s Al-Azhar mosque.
Despite visiting many countries where Islam is the primary religion I have never had the chance to actually see inside a mosque at prayer time. It was a fascinating insight. The wide open spaces, both outside and inside, feel airy and spacious and were full of local men, some talking, some reading, a few lying down for a rest, some praying, and several on laptops or tablets (of the modern variety).
We stood inside the mosque as the call to prayer was made – even in Arabic it had a profound, and moving effect on us. The ancient structures were beautiful and we were respectful and tolerated.
But to get in we had to dress up according to Koranic prescription. This photograph of four of us – from Marie from Derbyshire, Bev from Tyneside, me, and Jay from Toronto, all turned up with our headscarves and trousers on. But the lady at the door felt our trousers were too short, or too fitted, so she loaned us three shapeless skirts in black, grey and red. This is what an elasticated waist, full length skirt looks like – the idea, in a way, was to look as unappealing as possible, and I think we managed that quite well. I enjoy wearing “other people’s clothes” as I believe it gives a tiny insight into what another culture is like. Over the years I have managed to wear saris, African dress, shalwar kameez, Iranian chador, Tibetan coat, a Kimono, and now this.
Our heads and bodies were covered, but of course there are more than one way to achieve the correct look, and living in London I see many variations of covered hair and body. I try to guess the country of origin according to the style adopted. Some of our London girls really pile their hijabs high, making them look very elegant. By the way if you want to understand the terminology, this short guide may help.
If White British, broadly Christian, women were Muslim how would they dress? Perhaps with our baggy raincoats and a headscarf we could comply rather well.