I walk through the winding alleyways between market stalls. Knives, dried fruit, raisins, hats, and anything that could be sold drenching the racks. But I find myself drawn to the bolts and bolts of fabric. Bright colors, patterns, stripes, animal prints, golden thread studded with beads, beads winding into spider webs, flower petals blooming from the breadth of cloth. I reach out to touch the gossamer thin lace that is laid over thick blue fabric. It makes art of my fingers. Children play in overturned bolts of fabric, others take naps. Women haggle over one fabric.
Around the corner, clothing spun from the colors studding the fabric stalls. Longer tunics reaching the knees, trimmed in golden patterns, the bust carefully pinned with studs. Matching trousers to go underneath, the skirts swaying. Some are close to the waist, tapering. Some lack persuasion, making up for it with color. I wish I was an Arabian princess just to feel the slide of such fine fabric against my skin.
Walking around me, the women. The lucky ones who get to call this their fashion trend. I admire the women who fully cover their bodies, faces, hair, with only their eyes peeking out. But not every Muslim woman dresses like that. There are younger girls with more modern tops, leggings, fashionable skirts with pockets and laces, and leopard print headscarves. Some women only wear headscarves. My favorite look is the long swaying tunics and the matching trousers. All of them have one thing in common—showing little, but still being perhaps some of the sexiest ladies I’ve ever seen.
I think in the West we assume that covering up is akin to repression. But being here, I have to wonder. I find myself wishing I could wear such clothing, to know that my body will be much sexier with joyous colors and more left to the imagination. Women here know how to work their bodies. They seem to have more power with them than someone like me, who wrestles with pants to find the right combination of shape and cellulite. Perhaps no woman is truly free from her clothes, but at least women here can wear their clothing with justly-earned pride.