In 2003, I saw the Burqa emerging in Morocco. It’s visibility in Casablanca, Rabat, Sale, Kasar Kabir and in Tangier, started trickling down to Asilah, a town I often visited. The trend was growing, and begun to, as I saw it, encroach on the national costumes impacting attitudes at the same time.
The Burqa seemed then, and still does, a very odd phenomenon, and foreign to Morocco’s environment due to its unfamiliarity there. How this strange and alien garment, not previously linked with Morocco, was suddenly, rapidly, surfacing in the local communities and private wardrobes. I couldn’t quite work out how, and why, it was spreading, which I kept pondering for a while.
It troubled me, to see the female covered from head to foot, in such a way, with such an undignified garment, being, totally cloaked, from face down and covering her feet, that when women moved through Souks and Medinas, the fabric draping and sweeping along the floor, seemed like dark, silent, moving, shadows extended from their objects.
The Burqa is black, austere and bland, even threatening, but was, and, is still, exceptionally distant, from the vibrancy and colours to which the Moroccans have been accustomed. I disliked the Burqa at first sight, the thing was positively hideous. With it’s dark accessories (gloves, socks, head-dress, eye and face masks) and it seemed common place by 2007, compared to the few that were dotted about in the previous years, when I had initially questioned its existence, that turned out a steady social infiltration, marking its place, publicly and privately on Moroccan soil.
Utterly unnatural and new to Morocco, this ominous garment that, was emitting negativity all around it was symptomising something deeper, but I didn’t know what, though, it was clearly out of sync with the mainstream tradition, and the Moroccan culture that it had affected. In my view, it was a terrible thing that was afflicting Morocco and its people.
The fact was that, the Burqa was extending geographically, though It was in the above named cities, that I had experienced it’s rise directly. Discerning then, it’s inevitable spread, which seemed within my reach of certainty from when I had first encountered it. I just felt it so. Later on, it would be, sadly, confirmed, by its global religious prominence and expansion. And, if that wasn’t enough to affirm my thoughts, the fleeting nature of trends would have dictated it, since they were always short-lived, unlike, the burqa which was quickly covering up the culture, since its explotion in Morocco, and simultaneously spreading to other cities, suburbs and the rural country.
The growth of the Burqa was more than a developing, warped, fashion, it had a new religious mind-set that was pulling a sizable number of normal and moderate folk under its fold. The paralleled narrative that accompanied it, was a definitive religious discourse, bolsterring the burqa’s so-called brother hood.
Semiotics, were indeed structuring and giving the Burqa legitimacy. It became a cultural fact, a statement and symbol not just merely pointing to female’s modesty, but blatantly concealing, while purporting to protect, her. It was a justification to conceal her in the public, and also in private, with the traditional Moroccan garments suffering the same fate, along with this blanketing of the women.
Tthe first casualty, was to be the Jalaba which was being ousted and replaced by the Burqa by those who’d chosen it, or, upon whom, it was enforced. It’s rise was threatening not only, the existence of the Jalaba, but the entire rich, and vibrant Moroccan attire, from which, one could draw on the wealth of associated traditions, customs, and the memories contained therein, if not, just simply appreciating the beauty of the decoration and craftsmanship that were being compromised, in the burqa’s wake.
Morocco’s traditional clothing have been, for decades, defined by the: Kaftan, Andora, Bediia, Hayyec, and Jalaba for the body; the Shede, and Sa’bnia for the head, and Al’belgha for the feet, and so on, which were familiar to many generation’s growing up around such beautiful and colorful clothes.
Imagine, should the majority opt for the Burqa, it would spell a grave disaster, changing Moroccan history, for ever. Markedly, eradicating the conventional and established traditional costumes, poising this danger that has been threatening to go far beyond just decimating the Jalaba. Eventually causing a certain extinction and a definitive loss of the culture that is embodied in the Kaftan, and the rest, which partly characterises the Moroccan costumes and fashion?
I am interested and interesting, having a vast appreciation for life and it's beauty which my writing can never reflect fully but endevours capturing just a small collection of some of my thoughts and the attempts to express them.
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