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Anne Sobel

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Know Your Veils: A Guide to Middle Eastern Head Coverings (PHOTOS)

Posted: 01/25/2011 12:23 pm

Next time you are having dinner with a Bahraini dignitary, don't embarrass yourself by confusing the Queen's abaya with a burqa. Simply print out and carry a copy of "Know Your Veils: A Quick Look Guide to Middle Eastern Head Coverings," and you too can prevent many awkward and embarrassing veil-related situations!

Certain colors and styles are more common to some regions over the others, and many of the looks are worn for cultural tradition rather than religious reasons. This slideshow doesn't go into significant details, but with a little help from Northwestern University Qatar students Yara Darwish and Dina Mutassem, "Know Your Veils" is a brief guide to preventing Westerners from shaming our entire race of people by calling every head covering a burqa.

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  • The Hijab

    A hijab is a head covering only. It can be worn many different ways including as a simple wrap around, shown here, or Al Amirah style. Regular clothes that cover the arms, shoulders and legs may be worn with the hijab. Women who wear the hijab are Muhajaba, which means they are wearing it for religious purposes.

  • Hijab in Action

  • Sheila & Abaya

    An abaya is a long black, loose fitting cloak that often zips or buttons up the front. The sheila is a rectangular scarf that covers the head. Usually made of light silk material and most often found in black, but can be as simple or elaborate as the wearer so chooses. Generally these garments are part of a region's traditional dress, and are therefore worn for cultural reasons rather than religious purposes.

  • The Niqab

    Often mistaken for a burqa, the niqab fully covers the body, but only partially covers the face, leaving a narrow opening for the eyes. Driving while veiled: now a misdemeanor in France.

  • The Batula

    The Batula is a face covering generally worn by older women in the Gulf region. This is a style that is slowly being depleted and not carried forward by younger generations.

  • The Burqa

    Burqas come in many colors and fully covers the wearer, often there is a net window over the eyes so the wearer can see out, but no one can see in.

  • Burqas & Bicycles

    This particular burqa is called the chadri, the light blue color and style is native to Afghanistan.

  • Doa Gaun

    "Doa gaun" or "dress for praying." This dress slips over the clothing of women in two pieces...the gown and the headscarf. It is very common in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. The doa gaun is usually carried with women when they are on the go. They can stop in the nearest Masjid, or suaru (a place for prayer), slip this over the clothing they are wearing, worship and take it off to continue the day.

  • The Chador

    The Chador is more common to Iran. It is a long billowing dress that leaves the face open but covers the wrists and ankles. Chador's in a more plain black color with less decorative embellishments.

  • The Birquini

    Fully covering beachwear made of lightweight swimsuit material.

  • Baywatch: Abu Dhabi

 

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