Saturday, February 28, 2009

Back in the USA

Flew into Miami late yesterday, then another 2 hour car drive to the Keys. I’m here for a few days before heading back to CT and a busy March.

The last few days in the UAE went by more quickly than I would have liked. There were many tearful hugs and good-byes. I am hopeful that some of the girls will stay in touch via email. I made a few of them promise to send me their poetry to post on my website and there are some that I would just like to know how their lives are going.

Right now, my mind is full of flashes of faces, conversations and long, black abayas. For the next several blog entries, I will just randomly write.

I can't stop thinking about the 'long, black abayas', especially now that I am here in the Keys. It is warm outside and I am comfy in a Springsteen t-shirt and baggy shorts, barefoot. Comfortable clothing for the heat.

Consider the abaya - It is black (though sometimes the arms and backs are beautifully decorated with sequins and embroidery) and is NOT even cotton. It comes up high on the neck and drags on the floor (so as not to let anyone get a look at your feet). The sleeves are loose, but long (some of the women also wear gloves to cover their hands) and the whole robe is designed to wrap a bit (more cover-up).

Along with the abaya, the women wear the shayla or hijab (the head scarf) and some styles only leave the eyes exposed.

Originally, the abaya was designed to make a woman unattractive, based on the idea of retaining a moral society. This was 'interpreted' from the Qur'an (Sharia Law) and was obviously interpreted by men.

It is believed that the penetrating look of a man disturbs the privacy of woman, so the clothing protects her, hiding everything including 'all female body's round shapes'.

A woman is obliged to show beauty only to her husband, who in return (again according to Sharia Law), is obliged to buy her beautiful clothes.

The texts of the Qur'an were clear in promoting clothing decency and modesty, but did not state restrictions as to a certain type of clothing or color.

After reading all that, now consider the heat - The weather for the last 2 weeks was perfect. I wore sandals and capris and short sleeved tops. I'm told from late March through September or so, the weather becomes oppressive and it is difficult some days to breathe. How can anyone be expected to learn?

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