Throwing tradition to the wind

When I first came to Libya twenty-one years ago most women wore a farashia when they ventured out into public. A farashia is part of the traditional Libyan or north African costume. Basically it is a white sheet, often woven out of silk that is worn in such a way that it covers the whole body, usually leaving only one eye peeking out. It's a useful garment that can be used as a quick cover up when a woman wants to go out and also offers protection from the hot north African sun.


Nowadays you rarely see women wearing this traditional cloak, especially in the capital Tripoli. For some reason Libyans seem to want to shed their identities and throw off their own culture, and that means getting rid of the farashia. Either they head for a western style of dress or they face east and choose the all covering black abayah and niqab.  


I suppose that there are plenty of women who think that its the Islamic thing to do. I guess there are all kinds of ways people interpret religious edicts and Islamic scripture. Who am I to tell anyone what to do or wear? But when I see women with  loads of eye make-up peeking out I think that their intention is more likely not because they are looking for that proverbial ticket to heaven. Today I came across an image that made me laugh out loud:


Now I really wonder what is under those niqabs! I guess it could be quite surprising. Ok girls... go ahead and cover your beauty... but please don't drive while you are doing it! I really hate when I see that. The roads are treacherous enough without veiled women behind the wheel. Even worse are the veiled women who are holding BABIES in their laps while they drive. I see this ALL the time now in Tripoli. What are they thinking?

Comments

  1. Salam, Khadija. Congrats on your award, and thanks for the interesting posts you write. The farashia is actually not really Libyan as it was introduced by the Ottoman Turks. Libyan women wore only the 'rida / rde' even outside their homes. This is still practised in the rural areas of Libya. Although it has been abandoned for more 'manageable' apparel, it can't be said to be throwing off one's identity as clothes all over the world have evolved a lot in the last hundred years. On a completely different note, do you know where I could buy bicarbonate of soda ?
    Thanks.

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  2. Hi, thanks for your comment. I really think they are throwing away their traditions by abondoning the farashia, which is sad in a way. I mean if they want to cover themselves up they can just cover up with a farashia... why switch to some other countrys' way of dress? Or maybe with a bit of inovation they could adapt the farashia. I like the cool white look... so much better than black which always reminds me of trash bags, especially the abayahs made out of shiny fabric (who wants to look like they're wearing a trash bag?).

    You can sometimes find bicarb of soda in the supermarket. Also those small packets of baking powder they sell in the baking section are mostly bicarbonate of soda (read the packet). You might also try the pharmacy and I've seen Arm & Hammer brand at the Ace hardware store.

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  3. hello khadija teri,

    just a quick question. is the woman that cuts your daughters' hair, sheila, an american woman? i think i met her over 20 years ago in tripoli. she had a friend named marcy, also an american. are they both in liyba still? i am also an american married to a libyan and was introduced to them by a mutal friend, jean. hope to hear from you.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Anonymous... yes Sheila is American. She's been here for over 30 years but goes home every year. I don't know anyone named Marcy. Next time I see Sheila I will ask about her.

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  5. I absolutely agree with you regarding the Farshia, it's a shame to abandon our traditions that lived for hundreds of years for another one's traditions.

    I remember seeing the Nikab for the first time in Egypt in 1997 and it felt really strange to me. and now it's kind of the norm here.

    at least the Farashia is white, not like the scary black they wear.

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  6. Salam
    I am happy 2 add that the 'traditional', or not so traditional as one reader revealed, is still worn here in Zliten/Mager by All the women over a certain age. Also the traditional stripped one is worn daily. Some young women wear this too. Sadly, it is so true about so called NIQABIS and eye makeup. Have u noticed as well how their hands & feet are often uncovered lol . Ma salama Khedegah x

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  7. salam alikom Khadija, I am one of the niqabi's who drive and wear my niqabi. :) :) :) Only at night, I flip my niqab up. No make up on my eyes! no feet showing with high heels. LOL But, I know what your saying, about the tons of make up on the eyes and wearing niqab. :D I don't understand this, either.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I too lament the abandonment of some aspects of Libya's cultural heritage.
    Some people may have abandoned the farashia because they thought abaya/jilbab is "more Islamic" but the farashia can actually be quite covering and modest if worn the way it was intended, which is to say, loosely.
    As for adapting it to make it easier to wear, back in the '90's many of the younger women did just that. In the "folded down" position (anyone who has ever worn one will know what I mean) they sewed the front in place and some even sewed a band of material to the two vertical pleat points at the front (the points that we sewed) to make a loop that you could put over your neck to hold the farashia in place. Normally you had to hold the whole thing up and together by clenching it under your arms which was very awkward but this way all you had to do was slip it on over your head, throw the loop over your neck,flip the back up, and off you went, with your arms free. The old ladies used to laugh at us for doing that but hey, it worked! So yes, it CAN be adapted.
    I read once that the farashia was actually originally a Turkish garment called "farajay" or "ferace". Not sure if that is true or not. The picture I saw of the garment in that long-ago article looked almost identical to a farashia. Interestingly, ferace means butterfly.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I too lament the abandonment of some aspects of Libya's cultural heritage.
    Some people may have abandoned the farashia because they thought abaya/jilbab is "more Islamic" but the farashia can actually be quite covering and modest if worn the way it was intended, which is to say, loosely.
    As for adapting it to make it easier to wear, back in the '90's many of the younger women did just that. In the "folded down" position (anyone who has ever worn one will know what I mean) they sewed the front in place and some even sewed a band of material to the two vertical pleat points at the front (the points that we sewed) to make a loop that you could put over your neck to hold the farashia in place. Normally you had to hold the whole thing up and together by clenching it under your arms which was very awkward but this way all you had to do was slip it on over your head, throw the loop over your neck,flip the back up, and off you went, with your arms free. The old ladies used to laugh at us for doing that but hey, it worked! So yes, it CAN be adapted.
    I read once that the farashia was actually originally a Turkish garment called "farajay" or "ferace". Not sure if that is true or not. The picture I saw of the garment in that long-ago article looked almost identical to a farashia. Interestingly, ferace means butterfly.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I too lament the abandonment of many aspects of Libya's cultural heritage.
    Once something is gone, it is usually gone forever.
    In the 1990s a lot of the women who used to wear niqab began wearing farashia when Qaddafi decreed that niqab, gloves, all-black clothing, etc., wasn't allowed. Many of these women adapted the farashia to make it easier to wear. They put it on and folded it as per usual, then while in the "folded down" position (anyone who has ever worn one will know what I mean)they sewed it in place for about 6 inches along the two vertical folds, and many also sewed on a loop or band at those folds, so the garment could be slipped on and off by stepping into/out of it, and the loop could be put over the head to hold it in place. Normally you have to fold it into place and adjust it every time you wear it and hold it up by clenching it under your arms (and sometimes in your teeth lol), but sewing it keeps it permanently folded and the loop means you no longer have to clench it or worry about it slipping off at inopportune moments.
    I read once that it originally came from a Turkish garment called farajay or ferace, which means butterfly. The picture of a ferace that accompanied the article I read looked almost identical to a farashia.

    ReplyDelete

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