Is the Rise of the Burqa Threatening the Traditional Dress of Morocco: A Personal Journey. Part one:
In 2003, I saw the Burqa emerging in Morocco. It’s visibility in Casablanca, Rabat, Sale, Kasar Kabir, and in Tangier trickled down to asilah. The trend grew, and began to, as I saw it encroach on the national costume, and impact attitudes at the same time.
The Burqa seemed then, and still does now, to me, very odd and foreign to Morocco’s environment due to its unfamiliarity there. How, this strange and allian garment, the Burqa, without ever having had any previous links with Morocco, or its fashion was surfacing in the local communities, and in private wardrobes, I couldn’t quite work out, and it kept me musing, for a while.
It troubled me, to see a female covered from head to foot, in such a way, with such a horrible garment. Cloaking, totally, her face and body from view, as she moved silently through Souks and Medinas – sometimes, the fabric draping and sweeping along, on the floor .
The Burqas were black, austere, and bland. Even threatening, but were by far exceptionally distant from the vibrancy of colour, to which the Moroccans, or I, had been accustomed. And I didn’t find them attractive in the least, which by now, you’ve pretty much gathered.
Thereafter, the Burqa, with its dark accessories (gloves, socks, head-gear, eye and face masks), seemed common place, compared to the few dotted about, in the previous years. I thought of the fashion, a steady social infiltration, and it was marking its place, publicly and privatly.
It was unnatural, to me, and new to Morocco as far as I had been aware. I thought it was symptomatic of something deeper – but didn’t, quite, know what – though, it was clearly out of sync with the mainstream tradition, and the Moroccan culture, which it was beginning to effect. In my view, less than positive.
The fact was obvious that the Burqa was extending geographically. This was immediately discernible from the beginning, and it wasn’t beyond my reach of certainty. Due to the above named cities, in which I had experienced its rise, directly. And if that wasn’t enough to persuade me, the nature of trend would have dictated that it’s visibility in a few cities would have made it highly likely a ‘culture that would explode and spread to other cities, and suburbs, aswell. Exactly what hapenned in Morocco. Retrospectively speaking, it was an accurate summation. Not that it mattered.
The growth of the Burqa was a developing fashion, with a new mind-set that was pulling a sizable number of normal folk, under its fold. Tagged, with a paralleled narrative that accompanied it, with a definitive discourse, to bolster the trend. Structuring and giving the Burqa its legitimacy. It became a cultural fact, a statement and symbol, not just merely the pointed female modesty, which it purported to cover, in the public domain.
The first casualty registered, in its wake, would be the Jalaba, which was being ousted and replaced by the Burqa, and by those who’d chosen it. It’s rise was threatening, not only, the existence of the Jalaba, but also the rich, and vibrant Moroccan attire. From which one could draw the wealth of associated tradition and customs, and the memories contained therein. If not that, just the simple appreciation of beauty in the decoration and craftsmanship.
Morocco’s traditional clothing was, 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. Around which my generation, and those before, and after, grew up.
Imagine, should the majority opt for the Burqa, it would spell a grave disaster, and change Moroccan history, for ever. Markedly, pointing to the eradication of the conventional, and the established traditional costumes that were inherited from our ancestors.
The danger posed would go far beyond endangering just the Jalaba alone, but eventually cause a certain extinction, and a definitive loss of a culture that is emobodied in the Kaftan, and the rest listed above, which partly characterise Moroccan costumes, and its fashion?
Thank you for reading. To Be Continued: