Women of Cover

In our travels thus far through the Middle East, we’ve seen a variety of different styles of cover for women, and I thought that it would be interesting to compare them. Please note that this is intended to be something of a fashion post, rather than a post debating the hejab (Islamic dress code) itself. [Note: None of the individuals pictured was a source of any information for this or any post.]

Colored headscarves

Young women in Syria. In Syria, the scarf is very much a fashion accessory in addition to a religious and customary expectation. In the big cities, many women choose to go without.

Ladies’ police uniforms, Bahrain

Television personality, Bahrain

European tourists at a hotel restaurant, Iran (female tourists, like all women in Iran over the age of 8, are required to obey the hejab in public places)

Trendy mother and daughter, Iran

More trendy scarves, Iran

Black headscarves

We never confirmed this, but this style of headscarf must be required in schools and certain jobs, as they are quite common in Iran.

Getting away with showing a lot of hair, Iran

Black robes

A full black robe is fairly common in more traditional parts of the Arab world, including the Gulf.

Kuwait. Kuwaiti women all seem to wear their hair in huge buns.


A bedouin woman, looking quite stylish in Aleppo, Syria

Young ladies in Hyderabad, India, in style

A step further

The chador, the standard Iranian cover for older women

Iranian tourist in chador, Syria. There are many Iranian tourists in Damascus, on pilgrimage to Shiite sites.

The most annoying thing about wearing a chador, I think, must be the fact that it doesn’t have any clasp to stay together, forcing the wearer to constantly hold it in place, either with hands or teeth. This chador has a pattern.

A druze woman, Syria

An exotic tribal look, in Bahrain. We like to call this type of face cover a “beak.”

I’m not sure why, but one of these ladies in Aleppo, Syria has her face totally covered, not too common a look.

Burka store, Hyderabad. Burkas are sometimes seen in India and the Arab world, but not all that common in the countries we have visited (though I recall seeing quite a few in Zanzibar). Burkas are not worn in Iran, other than perhaps by the Arab minority.

A burka-style hood and face cover, in Damascus, Syria. Again, not too common.


As a reminder that head covers and veils are not uniquely Muslim, a (Hindu) Rajasthani woman from India. Of course, Christian women also often wear veils, especially in churches.

The wearing of cover in the Middle East is definitely a pre-Islamic custom. A carving at Palmyra, Syria, dating from the 1st or 2nd century AD showing women in veils.

7 thoughts on “Women of Cover

  1. Amazing pictures ๐Ÿ˜€

    Yeah, you are right about that black scarf in Iran; it’s called a “Magna’eh” it’s part of the dress code of all schools and universities and some work places.

    Thanks for posting these pics

  2. ahahaha not good how ugly some of them are by the way insyria almost most of them are without that and in iran they forced to cover up ( to add ur information)

  3. If by "pre-Islamic" you mean "pre-Muhammad", then yes, it's correct that women covering their hair predates that time period… But, as you showed with the Hindu woman in Rajasthan, it is not something confined to Muslim practice, nor the Middle East. Women worldwide traditionally covered their bodies and their hair, including "Western" women who only gradually moved away from this practice within the 20th century.

    The distinction separating Muslim practice from Christian or other religious practice in this issue, is that Islam solidified its rules in all areas, including the required Muslim dresscode– which, btw, is practiced wherever there are Muslims regardless of their cultural origins.

    Another side note… The word "burka" typically refers to the style of dress worn in Afghanistan which covers the entire body from head to toe with just a mesh screen to see through. When a woman is covering her face, it's typically referred to as the niqab. And again, you'll generally find women wearing the niqab wherever you find Muslims, but there's a continuous debate within Muslim society over whether the niqab is mandatory, preferred, or unnecessary, and this debate is reflected in the number of women choosing to wear it.

    Thank you for posting the lovely pictures… I just hope you took permission from all these women to take their pictures and post them online. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  4. This is a very interesting blog you have done, how did you manage to take the photos ? Is a mystery to me, with you taking it an running away is a 1 guess.

    Me personally being a muslim from a western background (including a western mother) i find this both interesting and rude.

    1. Being that why is it the west want to always know about the east ? They slander the east for what reason?

    (and i am talking before the time of 9/11 also)

    The highest amount of killiings, rape, drugs etc are all done in USA so why are we the terrorists if there are only a 'handful' of terrorists ?

    Why are well respected women who dedicate their lives to God (being covered) being insulted by being called ugly by some uneducated fools ?

    But when a stripper is called a hooker she gets offended by such language ?

    The west (england) once considered showing an anckle as being 'shocking'. That was not even 60 years back .

    Now just because corporations found it easy to profit of cheaper clothing and market peoples thoughts thru easy living with alcohol, stardom and music by making it look all glamorous and beautiful living doesnt make it true.

    A person who has sex with 100 women will never be satisfied, its those who are unknowing about sex and finds it thru marriage for the first time who are greatful for their wife … and not ever thinking about another woman … thus women who cover do not bring attraction to other men … making life easy to no temptation .

    I know i got off the topic an you can write alot of things against my topic (well i can also to tell you the truth!) .. but im not looking to make a point … im just trying to tell you all … before looking into somthing shouting ignorance … at least learn about it .. then talk …

    I havent said nothing but jibberish as amatter of fact … i just said things unrelated … but please ..

    Respect all women .

  5. Save a Volvo…. jeez, get your facts right. i don't even know where to begin with you. but i'll start and end by saying the original poster has done nothing rude and it's human curiosity and a sign of love to always want to know about another cultural sphere like "the east". you should be happy that this person has decided to show the english speaking part of the internet a more accurate picture of what middle eastern women might look like. how about finding opportunities to rant like this when people have ACTUALLY insulted your culture! *gasp!*

    also, your post was misogynistic, bigoted, racist, ill-informed, and ironic. maybe if you're going to complain about western people airing ignorant views about middle-eastern cultures, you should quit doing the same. or make sure a western person has actually aired an ignorant view first. duh.

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