Monday, December 1, 2008

UAE National Day

Tomorrow is UAE National Day, and by good fortune, since Eid Al Adha is just around the corner, the powers that be have decided to give those of us who work in the government sector 10 days off!! Plus today we have celebrations - so basically no one is working today.

To mark the occasion, I decided to wear an abaya ( the long black robe that local women wear) to work. This is the first time I have worn one here - except for the time I wore one to the hospital because I was too ill to find something suitable to wear... The one I wore today is new, given to me by A*, he bought it himself when I was not with him, so it is only just long enough for me to wear with flat shoes. Though I don't consider myself anything other than of normal height for a Northern European Female, I guess I must be taller than the average Emirati / Muslim woman, because off-the-hanger abayas are often too short for me - one of the reasons why I didn't own any until now, except for the one given to me by Auntie S* that I wore to the hospital.

I feel very conspicuous in it, because of the design at the ends of the sleeves - which I won't even try to describe - and the fabric of the scarf is not doing a good job of staying on my head. I realize now why the Emirati women seem to make a big pile of of their hair towards the top of the back of their heads - think it must help keep such slippery scarves in place. The local ladies I work with all seemed very pleased to see me in my abaya and everyone has had a comment about my appearance today, from the driver to our Deputy Director - even HH - our chairman - whom I bumped into as he was making his escape after putting in an appearance at the festivities; he usually ignores me, but this time he greeted me and told me my abaya looks nice, and as he was walking off, either said I look pretty or I look pregnant - I couldn't quite hear, but I am really hoping it was the former, since I am not the latter. All in all it was a little disconcerting, because I am shy and try to avoid being noticed.

Anyway, paranoia and shyness aside, it was an enjoyable day. First the police marching band performed; then some little boys did a traditional dance - they looked so cute; and then a group of men performed a dance where they mostly just stand in a line waving some stick like cane thing and bob their heads and necks up and down and few of them get out in front and twirl their sticks or throw their guns into the air . The head / neck motion seem akin to the head movement that Eritrean men do in some of their traditional dances... The majority of people working here are fairly young local women, many of them single, so the last performance seemed to be the favorite one, and I couldn't help but notice glances exchanged between the dancers and some of my coworkers.

In a tent to the side, there were old ladies wearing the traditional canvas face masks, selling some local foods - my favorite were the fried balls of dough doused in honey - I have no idea what they are called, but they are yummy.

My only disappointment with today is that there were no little girls to perform the "hair dance" (as I like to call it), which I have not had the privilege of seeing live and have only seen on TV, where they toss their hair around in a kind of circular motion.


Anonymous said...

Assalam alaikum.
Thanks for the post :)

"as he was walking off, either said I look pretty or I look pregnant "

I believe you do look pretty in abaya and sheila. Being a European you probably have blue/gray eyes and pale skin thus black clothes makes a nice contrast and stresses your beauty. You know how popular is black with famous couturier - it's a very elegant color.

Regarding sheila- it slips off my head too unless I use an under scarf. You can get yourself one- then sheila stays in place the way you fix it all day long (provided you pin it also).

I hope you will wear abaya more often as it's not meant to be worn by local ladies exclusively. Abaya is a Muslima's modest dress and any Moslem woman can wear it notwithstanding ethnicity. And even a non-moslem can wear it (e.g. if she wishes to express respect to a country and it's people by wearing appropriate modest clothes)

I find abayas practical- no need to spend time in front of the mirror trying to match different pieces of clothes to look elegant, modern, smart and modest at the same time.
Abayas are also stylish and bring some grace and dignity to the woman...

desertmonsoon said...

Thanks for your contact Asel - surprisingly enough - though I am northern european in origin (Scandinavian, german and british blend) I have brown eyes :) - though not dark brown - I do have pale skin though since I gave up going to the beach several years ago...
I can see that abayas are pratical - sometimes when I am having one of those days where I am running late for work and can't find a blessed thing to wear I can see how they would come in handy as I could even go to work in my PJs and none would be the wiser. :)

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