Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Hijabs and Marriage in Egypt

Recently I was out with a group of women in Cairo. The discussion eventually came around to hijab when an American (who had only been in Egypt for a few weeks) asked "why aren't any of you Egyptian women wearing hijab? It seems like every woman in Egypt wears it."

Our group had three Egyptian women in it. Two who were full Egyptian and born and raised in Cairo. They were both young and unmarried and neither was veiled. The third woman was half Egyptian and half British and had spent most of her life living in the UK. She was in her mid 20's and had recently moved to Cairo on her own. She admitted to being veiled in the UK but had removed it upon moving to Cairo and was now unveiled.

We began talking about why women wear hijab and the point was raised that many women believe being veiled will help them find a husband. I mentioned the time that "G" and I were walking around in Tahrir one night in August randomly interviewing people on this very subject. We asked men: would you marry a woman who was not veiled? Surprisingly enough the overwhelming answer from men was a resounding NO. One young man, selling books on the street, said he would not even marry a woman who was wearing less than Khemar. In case you don't know what Khemar is, take a look at this photo. The two women on the left are wearing Khemar. This young man seemed to think that if his wife was only wearing hijab or not wearing it at all it would be an indication that she was "unreligious" and would not pray or fast.

"G" and I walked around Tahrir for hours that night trying to find an unveiled woman so we could ask her if she would become veiled if her husband requested her to. But we could not find any unveiled woman in Tahrir that night. So I asked the three women in my group.

Their response was all the same: No. But the one who was from the UK said that when she was previously veiled she had been proposed to by a man who told her he would marry her on the condition that she remove her veil. She refused. She did not want a man telling her what she could wear, but also did not want him telling her what she couldn't wear.


What do you think about this subject? Women, would you become veiled for your husband? Would you stop wearing it if he asked you to? I want to get opinions from Egyptian women as well as foreigners. I would also love to hear from Egyptian men. Tell me how you feel about marrying a woman who is unveiled or how you would feel if your wife chose to stop wearing hijab.


  1. I'm inclined right now to say 'no' about becoming veiled for my husband, however I would be open to arguments and if he convinces me - ok. ;) I think this is something that is personal and between you and Allah and so not something that can be 'ordered.'
    (my background- American raised, converted to Islam, Jordanian husband, live in U.S.; but not many women in husband's family covered... well, it's a mix, but no pressure there or in Jordan in general that I feel)

  2. Anyone needs to decide that for him / herself.

    Met all kinds of people so far. Even one woman who insisted on wearing a Burqa and Niqab in public when her husband didn't like it.

    I, personally, would not change my clothing only because my husband orders me to.
    Different story when common sense and surroundings make my Life easier when I wear different clothing than usual.

  3. Great blog! Great information about women's dress code concerns in Egypt. Even as a foreigner, I was unsure whether long sleeves and jeans were modest enough.

    Would you be willing to write a guest post on my site for women travelers, www.pinkpangea.com? It would be great if you could send a photo of yourself in Egypt, and write about your experience in Egypt, providing helpful information for other women who want to travel there. You can email me at rachel@pinkpangea.com.

    Can't wait to hear from you!