‘Al Basleh’

“Al Basleh” means “The Onion” in Arabic. I thought it was appropriate since reading local media in this here Arabian peninsula is always good for a jolt. What reads as satire is actually honest-to-goodness news stories. They run from the science-defying story on the doctor who pronounced a pregnant woman as still a virgin or the idiotic escapades of drunken Brits getting arrested after having sex on the beach, in a taxi, or elsewhere.

As we wait for the returns in the U.S. election, I offer you some light reading from this week, starting with this gem: “Man walking pet monkey kills neighbor in barmaid feud.”

DUBAI // A drugged-up man walking his monkey kicked his neighbour to the ground, bit his nose and poured sand into his mouth before leaving him to die in a dispute over a barmaid, a court heard today.

This guy didn’t kill anyone.

‘Yes, I did it,’ the 31-year-old SE told the Criminal Court.

Earlier this week I learned that some facial hair-challenged Gulfies have been able to find follicle transplants in Turkey. According to the article in The National, many are there to replenish the “main hair” but others are there to fill up patchy beards and mustaches – the ultimate manly symbol in these parts. The Turkish transplant specialist in the story said the hit to the self-confidence of these men is brutal. “It’s not a macho-problem, it’s a real need,” he said. “I have had grown men in here crying.”

These men are spending more than 4,000 euros for the procedure.

“I always wanted to have a beard. It is attractive,” said one businessman, 42, who was quoted by the paper. “I also wanted to have a beard when carrying out the Haj for Islamic reasons. Going to Haj with a beard is a dream come true.”

Aww, you go girl. Whatever makes you feel pretty.

Makeover

A number of U.S. magazines have launched Middle Eastern editions based out of Dubai in the last year. The latest is publishing stalwart, Good Housekeeping, which had its debut this month. My friend Eileen Lee was doing the makeup for the premiere edition of “Look for a Lifestyle,” a monthly feature where Danielle Elmes, the magazine’s stylist, revamps hair, makeup and wardrobe. I happily volunteered to be the first guinea pig back in October. I tried Kera Straight on my hair for the first time — wow, it really does knock out the frizz — and got to rummage around GH’s trunk o’ goodies, including couture like the DVF dress I ultimately modeled. The weather had just started to cool off so we did the main photo shoot in the outdoor bar area in front of the Ibn Battuta Gate Hotel, much to the curiosity of guests and staff. (Ha! My minutes of fame!) It was definitely a pleasant afternoon.

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Hijab couture

In Texas, I hardly ever saw a women in an abaya or even a head scarf. I suppose that’s because the Muslim populations there are still small and largely from South Asia, where women don’t usually wear such clothing. But in the last couple of years as I traveled to the Levant and now that I’ve lived in the Gulf, I’ve been exposed to a variety of Islamic couture.

Glossary (based purely on my personal observations and conversations with people)

Hijab: Can refer to both the headscarf and an overall modest way of dressing.

Abaya: a loose, robe-like outer garment. It’s common in the Gulf and Emirati women, especially, tend to wear ones beautifully embroidered or covered with beads.

Burqa: Like an abaya, but at least from what I’ve observed, it’s usually used in context when describing the near total covering worn by women in Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan.

Niqab: A face veil that usually attaches to the sides of a headscarf, revealing only the eyes

I saw a lot of women in Syria wearing abayas. Less so in Jordan where I usually saw them pair a pretty scarf quite fashionably tied over their hair with a trim blazer and skinny jeans. In the Gulf, majority of Muslim women, though not all, wear abayas. (In Saudi, all women must wear them, and not drive, and not be without a male escort … But that’s a post for a different day.)

I really don’t judge other women who want to be covered like this. I actually think the Syrian/Jordanian girls’ approach is a chic look, and practical, too, in winter. (Of course, I would be able to take off the scarf once inside.) I know I would find it a special hell to be clothed in reams of black fabric from head to toe when the humidity climbs and the temperatures reach 110 degrees.

All that being said, I love clothes and find the different ways Muslim women dress themselves interesting. I’m sure there are distinctions of tribe or clan that I’ve missed completely. Beyond that, it’s just fun to learn the different ways one can wear a headscarf. Attach a fabric flower a la Carrie Bradshaw to the side. Or a scarf with rusching. Or, as pictured below, one for all the Muslim rocker grrls out there.

"Rock-n-roll" hijab