Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Women Are Women: Abayas and Hijab

One of the questions I get most often when I am back in the US is whether I have to cover, whether I have to wear an abaya, whether I have to cover my hair.

I tell them that in Kuwait, it is still a choice. Many Kuwaiti women do not cover their hair, but most dress modestly and are still traditional and conservative in behavior.

I tell them that in Saudi Arabia, I had to wear the abaya, but that the embassy instructions were to carry a scarf, but only to wear it if the muttawa / religious police made a fuss, as it was not the law of the country. The law stated that Moslem women would be covered, but not non-Muslim women. The Saudi women would tell me all the time that I didn’t have to cover, but when I mentioned the Muttawa – they all just sighed and nodded, and said that some people have a funny idea about religion, but that this was not the real Islam.

What I loved about women in Saudi Arabia is that they have a lot in common with women everywhere. When confined, they have ways to press the envelope. For example, the malls are full of stores with the sexiest shoes I have ever seen – and when feet are one of the few things that CAN be seen, guess where the money gets spent? There were also entire floors devoted to perfumes, and women would pass and you could nearly swoon from the delicious scents, an entire cloud of scents as they passed, cloaked in anonymity. There were glove shops, with the sexiest, laciest gloves you have ever seen. At the time, most of the abayas and scarves in Saudi Arabia were plain black, although occasionally you might see one with a discreet little trim, or a tiny little sparkle.

The kids told me they could tell their family members; they learned to identify posture and voices. They didn’t have any problems picking out their Moms and sisters.

Women would approach me in stores, standing next to me, pretending to examine some goods and whisper “Hi! Where are you from?” and “Do you like it here?” Many times, on planes, husbands would make their wives change places so as not to be contaminated by sitting by the likes of me, a wicked western woman with her hair showing, but the women would smile shyly when the husband was looking the other way. Women are women. We have our ways. We manage to get around restrictions.

On the other hand, I want to share with my Western readers the trend in abayas and scarves in the last few years. They are GORGEOUS, and there are times I am tempted to buy just because they are gorgeous.

On a deserted morning, I found these shop windows to share with you:

These are going-out-calling dresses, worn under abayas

These would probably be worn to an evening event like a wedding

Even the younger girls have special evening clothes

Not your old fashioned abayas

Love these details

Scarves to wear with abaya

July 7, 2008 Posted by | Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Relationships, Saudi Arabia, Social Issues, Women's Issues | 17 Comments

Things We Love About Robin’s House

We had reservationsin Nkwali, the jumping off place for most of the Robin Pope Safaris, but we had to change the reservations by a couple weeks, and that meant a total reversal of the reservation. We started off in Tena Tena, then we went to Nsefu, then we ended up in Nkwali. We have always loved Nkwali, loved the cabins there, but this time we were happier than happy – they put us in Robin’s House.

Robin’s House is where Robin and Jo Pope lived before they built a gorgeous house on the other side of the camp.

It is perfect for two couples, or two couples and children. It is perfect in so many ways that I had to make a list of all the things I loved about being there.

* Space – spacious bedrooms, spacious, private bathrooms on each side of the house with a spacious common living/sitting/dining room in the center.

* Indoor/ outdoor living – the windows have screens on them to keep out critters, but indoors or outdoors, it all feels a part of a whole.

* Wrap around windows – a view anywhere you look

* Huge walk in shower, with animal prints molded into the painted cement floor. Love the whimsy.

* High, airy ceilings, with ceiling fans

* natural materials, canvas colored curtains, a neutral palette with beam accents

* great big soft fluffy bath towels

* all our favorite drinks stocked in the refrigerator, and a liquor bar, which we barely touched, that had Amarula, which I love.

* electricity! We could recharge our own camera batteries without going to the camp itself

* being taken care of by a hostess, a cook, a dedicated guide and Thomas and Amos, who took care of us without over-taking-care of us – they gave us plenty of privacy when we needed it, and were there when we needed them.

* variety of seating for people of different heights

* Tribal Textiles accents – pillows, covers, etc – in rooms

* a book case! With books! and games!

* multiple views of hippos, and hippo sounds at night

* grand, comfy beds with good sheets, good pillows and good mattresses

* kikoys provided for our use

* shaded porch with a variety of seating options

* a hammock with a view

* insect repellant – with a good smell and nice texture, and it really seemed to work

* ditto shower gel and shampoo and conditioner provided

* a drying rack for swimming towels, washed clothes, etc.

Our last day there, LawAndOrder Man and EnviroGirl had to leave for their 32 hour return to the USA, flying Mfuwe – Lusaka – Johannisburg – Dakar – Atlanta – Pensacola – imagine. And they had to work the next day. It was such a sad parting, and we were all glad to have had the last days together in this beautiful, very private location.


This is the wing of the house where AdventureMan and I stayed

This was our room (sigh!)

And this is the shower we loved

This was the living room/sitting room where we would gather

This was the second bedroom – there were additional beds for kids

This is the pool. Other guests from the camp could use it, but no one did while we were there. It was separate from the house but very close.

These spaces for outdoor sitting were outside the other wing, where our son and his bride slept

They served our meals privately, too. What wonderful luxury privacy is

You know, the little Alaska girl is still alive and well inside me, and I am always fascinated with fishing techniques. This was right across the river from Robin’s House, and they caught quite a few fish.

Robin and Jo Pope have expertise, and also VISION. Problems, to them, are opportunities. Need to get tourists to the camps? Invest in an airline. Need to get them to the national park across a river? Build your own pontoon bridge – it gives Zambia additional park revenue, provides additional employment, and gives tourists a thrilling experience. When they solve a problem, everyone wins.

We crossed several times on this boat, and once, in pitch dark, got caught on a tree snagging us from under the water. It took about 15 minutes to maneuver us off, and to get across, but it is not like this ferry is on a schedule. It goes back and forth when vehicles are going into or coming out of the park.

How the boat is pulled across the river

We had some fabulous game drives; I will only bore you with this one. The hippo ponds are covered with nile cabbage, and I just loved this hippo with his nile cabbage blanket

July 7, 2008 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Arts & Handicrafts, Building, Community, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Holiday, Living Conditions, Lumix, Photos, Travel, Zambia | , | 2 Comments