By Melody Heath
While in Alexandria,
like most first-time visitors to Egypt, I felt a need to
the main tourist attractions. Settling
in the ultra-modern Alexandria Library, I pulled a large pile of books
of me to go through. Three months away
from a sufficient library to read and relax in, I felt starved for the
of books and isles of shelves.
time I looked up from my book and saw a veiled woman wearing the full
was shocked. Perhaps it is because in
the library I could forget that I was in Egypt.
Or the shock could have stemmed from the fact
that I had never seen anyone in the full veil in person before.
my innocence I couldn’t help the mystery I felt toward these women. The only part of their bodies left uncovered
was their eyes. I wondered is that
comfortable? Can they look from side to
side, or do they have to turn their whole head to see to their left or
right? Still filled with questions about
this ancient uniform donned by Muslim women, I left the main library in
of the ladies’ room.
per usual, there was a line stretching outside the woman’s bathroom. After some minutes, when I was finally
standing in the doorway, located next to the sinks and mirrors, I was
again mildly surprised at what I saw. Five
teenagers about thirteen or fourteen were standing in
front of the
mirror obsessing about their hair. Their
veils were draped around their shoulders and the pins that held them in
were held between their lips. One was
trying to put a younger girl’s hair into a pony tail, but bumps and
kept frustrating the process. I was
surprised that girls so young wear the veil. In
“Remaking the Modern,” by Farha Ghannam, while
explaining how she did
her field work in Egypt, Ghannam mentions that an informant suggested
wear a scarf so that people know she is a Muslim and that she is
married (12). Therefore, I assumed that
most of the women I
would see wearing a scarf in Egypt
would be married. Next I had time to be
surprised that these girls were fretting over their hair.
I could have, I would have asked them, “You care what your hair looks
like? Why?” It
seems crazy to me that people would care about certain
aren’t even visible publicly. If my hair
was covered, I wouldn’t worry about what it looks like.
If my face was covered, I wouldn’t put make
up on. These teens don’t wear the full
Burka and they may not have to wear it even after they get married. However, I presumed that in a society that
seems to encourage this traditional and religious dress, women would
about visible aspects of beauty.
could be that Egyptian society has turned hair and make up into more of
personal beauty. Maybe requiring women
to cover their hair has made it more of a symbol of beauty. These girls know what their hair looks like
under their veils and obviously that is important to them.