Sunday (the first day of the work week here,) we went to the Maadi City Centre mall to go to Carrefour, a hypermarket – a supermarket squared – that is like the bastard child of a love triangle between Wegmans, Whole Foods and a small suq.
Since it was a mall, I walked around and checked out the stores. There was a Starbucks, two other coffee chains, and lots of typical mall clothing stores – Mango, Monsoon (which I liked automatically, because Triny and Susanah always recommended it), Zara and Aldo shoes to name a few (Top Shop and Next coming soon.)
One store stuck out among the others – the name was Arabic and the English spelling of the Arabic words Al Motahajiba (ok, it is the language of record here, but Maadi is expatistan, basically) and the window does not feature the extremely fashionable/trendy wear most of the other stores offer. Instead two walls feature full length dresses in all colors; sequined, beaded and basically bedazzled. On the other wall hangs long black burqas or gulf-style niqāb, as they are called here. To me, it was an eerie site – I had never seen a store selling these before in such a way, and frankly, I am much more used to seeing the garments floating over sidewalks as the women underneath propel them anonymously forward. To see them reduced to two dimensional ghost-like state kind of took me aback.
Very few women at the mall wore niqab, and those that did were mainly concentrated around Carrefour. This mall had been looted during the first stage of the Revolution. Lots of people around Maadi remain very excited that it has recently re-opened, and that Carrefour had been built with such structural integrity that there was no looting of the market itself.
For more on modesty and women’s coverings, check out this BBC slideshow.