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kentuck

(111,666 posts)
Sat Feb 29, 2020, 11:28 AM Feb 2020

A friend of mine just returned from a trip to Egypt and the Middle East... [View all]

She posted this on her FB page:

"My trip to Egypt and Jordan brought me face to face with some prejudices I didn't know I had. I think it was watching a woman in a black burka taking a selfie that made me question what I thought I knew.

The first time I saw a woman in a full burka was in the Mall of American in Minnesota about 5 years ago. She and her husband were in the ferris wheel line at the Nickelodeon Theme Park inside the mall. Not a place I would have anticipated seeing a young woman totally enshrouded in black from head to toe. I was enthralled and tried hard not to stare.

I watched her as unobtrusively as I could. She wore heavy eye make-up which surprised me, but I guess if that is the only way one has to express individuality it makes sense. It seemed to me that this couple were newlyweds as they only had eyes for each other. I wanted to take their picture, but was too shy to ask.

When I was packing for my trip to the Middle East, I included several scarves to cover my hair. I wanted to be respectful of local culture even though I wasn't sure what that might be. I also vainly thought that covering my head on a bad hair day would be just fine with me.

In my limited time in Dubai, I saw many women wearing hijabs, but just as many were bare-headed. I saw a few women in black burkas and gentleman elegantly draped in beautiful white thawbs. My friend commented about the blatant inequality of requiring women to cover themselves in black in a desert climate while the men wear white.

In Egypt, the majority of women covered their heads with beautiful and colorful hijabs. While I saw a few women in full black burkas, most women dressed casually but modestly. The women I talked to were very gracious and friendly.

It wasn't until we were having lunch in an outdoor restaurant in Amman, Jordan that I saw the bizarre sight (in my limited view) of a woman taking a selfie.

She was with a group of four other women with their children seated around a big table. All the women were wearing head-to-toe black burkas. They delicately held their face veils up with one hand so they could feed themselves with the other. They chatted and laughed among themselves as they ate.

At the end of their meal, one of the women put on a parka over her burka and took a selfie in the usual manner. I watched as she cocked her head in several positions and clicked several photos. I remembering being rather amused by that sight.

"I wonder what her FACEbook page looks like," I thought with a chuckle.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about that woman. Or more, my reaction to that woman. I'm ashamed to say that my original intent to be respectful of local culture fell flat on its face that day. I had a hard time accepting that a young woman in a burka would want to take a selfie. My American mind wondered "what's the point?"

It's hard for me to imagine the life behind the burka, but what I learned is that underneath that black garment is a person that embraces her life. I assumed every woman who donned a burka was a subjugated person with no will of their own.

There are women in every country that choose their clothing in deference to their faith. I've encountered Amish women on trains in their modest grey skirts and hair coverings. Every devote Catholic woman wears a head covering to Mass. Orthodox Jewish women also cover their hair. HIndu women wear a "third eye" and saris. If it is their choice, then so be it. Who am I to question or judge?

I have a lot to learn about "otherness." I'm grateful for the opportunity to question my assumptions by first-hand experience. World travel is the best medicine for overcoming prejudices. biases and erroneous beliefs about fellow world citizens. I highly recommended it."

(I posted this with her permission)

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