What is the point of having your picture taken if your face is covered? How can they recognize each other if they are all wearing the same thing? Do the children know who there moms are if they can’t see their faces?
After the birth of my second child, as I was leaving the Corniche hospital I ran into a colleague I hadn’t seen for weeks. We greeted each other with the 3 kisses on the right cheek and a big hug – because I was so glad to see her. My Emirati coworker was on her own so I did not introduce her to my husband. My husband, also knowing the social mores, did not stick around but waited patiently in the car with our new baby. After visiting for a few moments I gave her a hug and we parted ways.
I thanked my husband for waiting. He just asked, “ I’m impressed. How did you know who that was?” “What do you mean, we work together?” It was then that I realized my coworker was completely covered. Head to toe full Abaya. It hadn’t even dawned on me that she was fully covered, nor had there been any doubt as to who she was when I saw her.
It made me start to think about all the other covered women I know. I could recognize them easily enough. But they all look the same dressed head to toe in black. Right? No. Not if you know them. You start to recognize someone by traits such as height, stance, eyes and style.
Sarah is very elegant. She is the type of person who you can smell her expensive perfume – oud combo before she walks into a room. She stands tall and always wears a hair clip that makes her Shayla rise taller than her actual head. She also only covers her face with her Shayla when she is out in public.
Fatima is always fully covered but she is tall, slender and a speedy walker. I can recognize that walk a mile away. She also has happy eyes.
Marwa is a bit older and much more modest. She will always wear a no – frills Abaya. She has poor circulation in her legs, so I can recognize her by her walk. Her eyes are always very heavily covered in kohl so you can recognize her eyes.
These are just a few examples. As you know we are all different and unique. I have been fortunate enough to live in the UAE for over 5 years. Three of those years were spent working directly with Emirati women day in and out. I just came to recognize them the same way I would recognize anyone else. Everyone has a certain appearance that if we see daily, we will be able to identify. This is a great benefit about living in the UAE. We sometimes gain knowledge that we hadn’t even realized we acquired.