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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Preparatory Shopping

I have done it and finally made the purchase that has been looming over my head since first hearing that I had won the NCUSAR trip to Saudi Arabia.  I have purchased an abaya.

For those who may not know, an abaya is the long dress worn over what I'll just call regular clothes by Muslim women while in places men other than their husbands and immediate family members will be.  They are long-sleeved and cover everything from neck to feet.  They might be one piece to be pulled over the head, zip down the back, or button in the front.  In Saudi Arabia, abayas are almost always black.  They are worn with a hijab, a piece of fabric that covers the hair.

I searched online for places in the Maryland/DC area that sell Islamic clothing.  One was listed in Alexandria, VA, but seemed to have moved, for my directions led me to a pungent and sharply lit Thai massage parlor, and they certainly didn't know where I could get an abaya.

Having learned my lesson, I called a store I found located in Greenbelt, MD.  Lucking, I got an answer and spoke to a man with perfect English who directed me to Beltway Plaza Mall; this store also had moved from the address listed online.

The man knew I was the one who called before I even spoke, although it had been hours since our telephone conversation.  He helped his less befuddled customers first and directed me to the abayas.  Each one I chose for myself was too short.  I told him that I didn't want to cause a problem amongst the Saudi men by showing too much sexy foot skin, which he thought was maybe a little too funny.  We chose a huge abaya that dragged the floor and had these ridiculous long tapered sleeves, like the iconic gowns of Mortitia Adams.  I think I'll be able to flip and tuck the sleeves in a way to offset this drastic effect.

                                ABAYA AND HIJAB                      CRAZY SLEEVES!

I also chose a grey Amira hijab (the kind that's just a tapered tube, like a giant icing bag, that requires little skill to put on) and a little black hijab pin.  The abaya was $50, the Amira, $12, and the pin, 50 cents.  I'm sure I could have haggled the price, but I had spent a lot of his time asking questions about how to wear certain items, levels of hijab formality, and most importantly shoes.  My abaya will require a low heel, or I'm going to trip, show my forbidden legs, and get deported by the religious police my first day.

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Troy, AL, United States
I am a Political Science student at Troy University in southeastern Alabama. I have been given fantastic opportunities to travel to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, among other brief trips, to study and glimpse other cultures. I believe there is much to be learned about other people while studying, and I want to share my experiences with you.